In the 1870s and 1880s, in common with many other football clubs, of both codes, throughout England, Moseley Football Club held an annual sports meeting during the summer.
The fourth annual sports meeting, on 10th May 1879, was held at the popular sporting venue of Aston Lower Grounds where both Aston Villa and Warwickshire County Cricket Club played matches. The event was advertised as a ‘Great Athletic Meeting’ and interestingly for an amateur rugby club prizes worth £120 were on offer to the winners. These, however, took the form of cups and medals rather than cash. Admission to the sports was 6d. and an extra 1s. would allow access to the grandstand and enclosure.
The sports attracted a strong field of athletes including entrants from ‘London and the provinces’ and as a result a large crowd of 3,000 people watched the various events. Even though there was a high-class field there was still one event, the 220 yards handicap, restricted to Moseley members. W.H. Westwood won this race with the club captain, Albert Smith, in second place. It was just as well that there was a members’ race as no other event was won by a club member.
The most popular race was the one-mile flat handicap, which attracted a large field of 45 runners who ‘caused considerable amusement by their endeavours to lead.’ The nationally known local athlete W.G. George won this event in a time of 4 minutes 20 seconds.
There was also a two-mile bicycle handicap, which was run off in heats before a final of eight riders. When two thirds of this race had been completed the leader’s saddle slipped forcing him to dismount and although he resumed he was unable to regain the lead.
On the Tuesday following the sports a letter was published in the Birmingham Daily Post which complained about betting having taken place at the sports even though there was a notice which clearly stated ‘No betting allowed.’ The next day there was another letter implying that athletic sports were arranged in collusion with the gambling community.
Not surprisingly this resulted in strong letters of denial from both E.B. Holmes, the Moseley honorary secretary, and from the secretary of the company that owned the Aston Lower Grounds. There were other letters stating that betting was widespread at such meetings and others saying that while betting took place it was only carried on by a minority of the crowd.
After this flurry of correspondence nothing further was heard on the subject and the following year’s Moseley sports took place without incident or with the subject of betting being raised.
Also during the following year a meeting was held at Bingley Hall, Birmingham to form a Midland Counties Amateur Athletic Union whose purpose was to draw up rules for ‘amateur athletic festivals’ as held by various sports clubs. It is not known if Moseley was represented at the meeting.
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