Luton Town FC boycotted


There was to be no competitive football in prospect for Luton Town FC in the 1915-16 season after the club was boycotted by London teams who decided that only sides within an 18-miles radius of the capital would be invited to take part in a wartime league.

That meant Watford would be included but Luton, outside the radius but within the originally proposed 40 miles radius, would not. Originally it had been proposed to invite Watford, Luton, Reading and Southend to join a London league, but the new limit excluded the last three.

So Watford would join Chelsea, Fulham, The Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Clapton Orient, West Ham, Millwall, Crystal Palace, Queen's Park Rangers, Croydon Common and Brentford in a 12-team league.

Saturday Telegraph columnist Crusader was scathing in his criticism of three teams in particular - Crystal Palace, Queen's Park Rangers and Brentford. "More unsportsmanlike treatment was never meted to any club than that by the three Southern League clubs in the opposition to the proposed grouping. They penalise Stoke for desertion [a £500 fine for joining the Football League] and forthwith themselves desert a club which has no superior for honourable striving and loyal observation and obligations.

"No club has a more honourable record than Luton, even if its successes have been comparatively obscure. Few clubs have had a greater struggle with adversity; not club ever won its way more cleanly through trial and tribulation; no club was more deserving of the hand of fellowship. None knows better than those Southern League clubs who descended to the blackballing business that Luton merited better consideration. The time may not be far distant when these clubs will require some consideration from Luton. We in Luton will not grudge them their desserts.

"As one who has had frequent opportunities of seeing many Luton Town teams figure on London grounds, the writer can say that whenever Luton were billed to appear the home supporters always rallied with the assurance of a strong and thoroughly sporting game.

"The first time I saw a Luton team play was at Millwall, on the notorious Isle of Dogs. If the spectators of either the London English League or the London Southern League clubs were given the choice of arranging fixtures between their clubs and Luton, and their clubs and Brentford or Queen's Park Rangers, I know whom they would choose and whom they would most readily reject.

"Both the revolting teams are over head and ears in debt - Queen's Park Rangers to the extent of £8,000, and £800 of that sum they still owe to their players. They are perhaps only a step from oblivion. Brentford are similarly situated. Each club has one foot in the grave, yet they are capable of influencing opinion and scaring clubs of comparative affluence into throwing over a club which has honourably striven and risen superior to circumstances."

Crusader went on: "Luton made no application to join the group. It was taken as a matter of course by several of the clubs that they would join. In the first place the resolution making the radius 40 miles was carried by six votes to five, this evidently being moved purposely to include Luton. Those supporting this inclusion were West Ham, Millwall, Croydon Common, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur and Clapton Orient. Those against were Brentford, Crystal Palace, Queen's Park Rangers, Chelsea and The Arsenal.

"Let us examine for a moment the present circumstances of some of the minority clubs. Brentford is a club only in name. They have neither players nor prospects. Crystal Palace have no ground and their representative had not even the authority of his club to join the group. He did not know whether the Palace would compete or not. Neither have Queen's Park Rangers a ground. Chelsea and The Arsenal probably supported the others from a feeling of neighbourly sympathy.

"When it was proposed that the four outside clubs should join, the Queen's Park delegate said that if that resolution was carried they would retire. They could not undertake such long journeys. Brentford supported this, and with Crystal Palace taking a similar view, the other clubs were faced with this difficulty: if they accepted the three outside clubs by sacrificing three London clubs the group would not be strengthened, they would get no more matches, and they would have more expensive journeys compared with what they were giving up.

"As it was a meeting of London clubs only, the outside clubs had no direct opportunity of replying to these objections which centred chiefly upon the supposition that the distance would necessitate an early start on the journey, and this would mean taking players from their work.

The decision by the London professional clubs was taken at an informal meeting on Monday, July 26th, 1915. The following evening a formal meeting was held to which Luton was informally invited and club secretary Mr C. Green addressed the gathering.

"Queen's Park Rangers and Brentford adhered to their previous attitude, and Luton were simply shut out by the simple expedient of cutting down the radius from 40 to 18 miles. Thus were Luton boycotted through the instigation of Brentford, Queen's Park Rangers and, perhaps in an equal degree, by Crystal Palace," wrote Crusader, who said that in fairness clubs like West Ham, Millwall and Croydon wanted Luton included.

"It is therefore apparent that Luton will get nothing in the nature of competitive football. Several of the friendly London clubs sympathised with Luton and readily offered to arrange friendly games, and this appears to be all we shall get.

"If the directors decide to accept the offer of Millwall, West Ham and others, they may also be able to fix up with one or two clubs north of Luton, and thus arrange a fairly good programme.

"On the field of battle Luton's sons have done magnificently. In the field of industry they are working with a consistency and energy that had won the highest encomiums. There is no reason why Luton's war workers should be denied a measure of recreation which districts less deserving will receive.

"There are plenty of strong amateurs remaining in Luton among the war workers, and with the professionals who are still here we should secure a strong team. Moreover, there are strong grounds for the opinion that many of the professionals who have enlisted will be permitted to assist their old clubs until they are required on the other side of the English Channel.

"In respect to quantity and quality of players we have nothing to fear. Let that be thoroughly understood. The next move is with the directors".

[Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph: July 31st, 1915]