Punch, October 29, 1913


Although Mr. Punch has watched with sympathy the spirited policy of one of his contemporaries in employing such authorities on the winter game as Lady Helen Forbes and Mr. Pett Ridge to report football matches, he feels that the scheme is capable of development. There are others able and willing to let the public have pen-pictures of the game they love so well. Graphic accounts of last Saturday’s matches by some of his own corps of special reporters are appended:—

Bermondsey Hornets
Hanley Wolves.

D-v-d Ll-yd G--rge.
Hornets 2. Wolves 0.

I am a comparatively poor man, but, if I were half as poor as the work in front of goal of the Hanley Wolves, I should be tempted to give up the Stock Exchange altogether as too risky. It was this, combined with the spectacle of that great track of uncultivated land (land which might have been congested with happy and prosperous agriculturists), that spoiled my Saturday afternoon. And this is going on all over the country, while British labourers emigrate to America. I spoke to a Bermondsey farmer after the match and he gave me some figures which appalled me. Every footballer destroys twenty turnips a day. You cannot have half-backs and agricultural prosperity. You must choose between outside rights and inside wrongs. I looked into the housing of the spectators. In many cases whole families were packed into a space which a sardine would have considered inadequate. I saw ten reporters huddled together in a single room. I have no remedy to suggest. I merely mention the facts.

Plymouth Tigers
Newcastle Corporals.

W-nst-n Ch-rch-ll.
Tigers 2. Newcastle 2.

The pointless struggle between these two great teams, the third in three successive matches, encourages me to think that the time is now ripe for some arrangement for the reduction of excessive armaments. For years team-building has gone on between these two football-centres with ever-increasing activity. In 1909, the Tigers spent £3,501 19s. 3d. on their front line. Newcastle replied by purchasing Scotsmen to the value of £4,002 18s. 5d. In 1910, Newcastle paid over six thousand pounds for backs of the Dreadnought class. The Tigers responded by laying down a new goal-keeper at a cost of well into the seventh thousand. And so it has gone on ever since. Now, the proposal which I put forward in the name of His Majesty’s Government is simply this. Let Plymouth say to Newcastle: “If you will put off buying centre-forwards for twelve months from the ordinary date when you would have opened negotiations with the slave-dealers, we will put off buying half-backs in absolutely good faith for exactly the same period.” That would mean that there would be a complete holiday for one year between Plymouth and Newcastle. The relative strength of the two teams would be absolutely unchanged.

Sheffield Tuesday Afternoon
Leytonstone Hotstuffs.

S-lv-a P-nkh-rst.
Tuesday Afternoons 0. Hotstuffs 0.

The crude exhibition of masculine fatuity which attracted 30,000 prejudiced males to Leytonstone on Saturday ended, as one might have foreseen, in a result—a result as negative and fruitless as the Government’s opposition to the Cause. A pointless draw, I heard it called by one man. Another, a moment later, stated that each side had secured a point. Can anything better illustrate the futilities and contradictions of this man-made sport? As long as football is confined to one sex, as long as Man guards it jealously as his special preserve, so long will this inane state of things continue. Women are not permitted to become members of First League teams. What is the result? Idiotic and ineffectual struggles like Saturday’s at Leytonstone. These footballers do not know the rudiments of warfare. Not a single member of either eleven carried with him on to the field a bomb, a horse-whip or even a hat-pin. There was an autocratic official who, I believe, is known as the referee. I saw this man blow his whistle and refuse to allow one burly player a goal which he had scored. What did the player, the craven, do? Did he hunger-strike, like a man of spirit? No, he took it lying down. For the rest, the Hotstuffs wear rather sweet shirts, pink relieved with a green insertion; and the Tuesday Afternoons’ goal-keeper has a nice face.




Unsigned article as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 145 of Punch.


Editor’s notes:
Lady Helen Forbes (1874–1926) was a novelist and the daughter of the third Earl of Craven.
William Pett Ridge (1859–1930) was a novelist and writer of humorous sketches, concerned with the less fortunate both in his writings and in charitable acts.
At this time, David Lloyd George was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Asquith government. His introduction of higher taxes on land, incomes, and luxuries to support social welfare programs began the growth of the British welfare state.
At this time, Winston Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty in the Asquith government. He is credited with calming the Anglo-German arms race before the Great War by using a tit-for-tat strategy to persuade the Germans that both sides would benefit from mutual restraint in shipbuilding. See this academic article; the first page (with abstract) is available to everyone online, but further reading requires a subscription (many large libraries give access to JSTOR to their patrons).
Sylvia Pankhurst was one of the most militant of England’s suffragettes. The fighting tactics advocated here were used to draw attention to her Cause in real life.
   —Neil Midkiff