Crisis In The Committee Room 

On 24th October 1889, at a committee meeting of Moseley Football Club, which was held at the Midland Hotel,  and a sub-committee was elected to arrange fixtures for the 1890/91 season. This sub-committee was made up of G.F. Jackson (president 1905/06-1909/10), J.H. Rogers (captain 1889/90-1891/92 and the club’s first international), A. Smith (captain 1879/80-1888/89) and J.L. Ash (honorary secretary) and was instructed by the main committee to limit long distance matches to about five or six.

At a further committee meeting, on 28th November, Mr. Ash read out a list of matches that had been arranged which included Swinton[1], Salford[1], Rochdale Hornets[1], Newport and Cardiff. The committee then decided that, with the exception of Gloucester, no further long distance matches should be arranged, and proceeded to cross some fixtures off the proposed list. The committee also instructed Mr. Ash to notify the sub-committee of its decision. It was subsequently stated that he failed to carry out this instruction.

In a subsequent letter to The Birmingham Daily Post, publishedon 3rd January 1890, Mr. Ash stated that the club committee had given him a list of about 30 clubs to contact about the possibility of a fixture during the following season. His understanding of the sub-committee’s role was that it would arrange dates with those clubs that agreed to play Moseley during 1890/91. It then appears that, on 4th December, Mr. Ash arranged matches with the Mossley[1] and York[1] clubs. This action, thus, appeared to be contrary to the decision of the committee made on 28th November although he later contended that he consulted G.F. Jackson and J.H. Rogers, which the latter subsequently denied. 

 On 19th December, at a committee meeting, Mr. Ash was requested to write to York and Mossley cancelling the fixtures because it would be difficult to raise sides for an extra two long distance games. This he refused to do because he saw no reason for cancelling the fixtures and because the committee had previously given the fixture sub-committee authority to arrange games. He later denied refusing to write to the two clubs and stated that the discussion of the fixtures was informal and took place after the meeting. Mr. Ash also stated that he considered that ‘it was a most contemptible thing to do’ because the games had been arranged several weeks previously. He therefore tendered his resignation but was ruled out of order by the chairman.

One week later, at the next committee meeting, Mr. Ash stated that he had not written to the two clubs to cancel the fixtures. The club chairman, Mr. E.B. Holmes, observed that it was useless having a secretary who would not carry out the instructions of the committee, at which point Mr. Ash resigned both his position as honorary secretary and his membership of the club. This was accepted and Messers. P. Lea and F. Fowler were appointed as temporary secretaries.

Mr. Ash then felt compelled to write to The Birmingham Daily Post in order to inform club members of the situation and because of ‘the mean and untruthful letters’ that Messers. Lea and Fowler had sent to the York and Mossley clubs regarding his resignation. The Post had obtained copies of these letters and that to Mossley ran as follows: -

Dear Sir,

Our late secretary having resigned, we have been going over his papers and books, and we find that he has arranged two matches with you for next season. We are very sorry, but we must request you to cross them off, as it will be quite impossible for us to play you. We regret this very much, and if we possibly can, we should hope to arrange matches with you for the season after.’

This letter elicited an indignant reply from the secretary of the Mossley club refusing to cancel the fixture so long after ‘a duly-authorised official of the Moseley club’ had arranged it and because all of his club’s arrangements for 1890/91 had been made. He also stated his intention of referring the matter to the secretary of the Rugby Football Union (R.F.U.).

Rather than respond to Mr. Ash’s letter to the newspaper a special meeting of the members of Moseley Football Club was held at the Midland Hotel on 9th January 1890. Mr. L. Lea, club president, chaired the meeting and explained that it had been called in order for the committee to report and deny ‘the dishonourable charge’ made against the club. Following some discussion and statements from the various parties involved including Mr. Ash the meeting accepted the committee’s explanation.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the dispute, like so many others in similar situations, it was probably the result of misunderstandings as to roles and responsibilities, but unfortunately high-horses were mounted and the affair degenerated into a regrettable ‘he said’ ‘they said’ series of accusations and counter-accusations.

This, however, seems to have been the end of the dispute and The Birmingham Daily Post, on 13th January 1890, commented that ‘The dispute in the Moseley Club is scarcely worth notice’ and continued ‘It is curious that either party should have laboured under the hallucination that the public would be interested in a purely domestic and personal matter’ and ‘not a person outside the club cares twopence about the merits of the dispute.’

Nothing seems to have happened regarding the threatened reference to the R.F.U. by the Mossley club.


[1] This was prior to the formation of the Northern Union, later Rugby League, in 1895.