The second post of the day, or if you are visiting the site for the first time today, the first. This morning’s post can be found here.
Twenty-five years on from their last trip to the USA, Arsenal are set to return as the squad departs for the weekend’s match against New York Red Bulls. I initially used ‘touring party’ but for one match, that seemed a bit grandiose. The next few days will focus on the club’s previous trips across the pond beginning with The Tour That Never Was. Or at least, there doesn’t seem to be any trace or record of it taking place.
At the time this was arranged, Arsenal had yet to win their first major trophy. Their only trip to Wembley ended in defeat at the hands of Cardiff in the 1927 FA Cup semi-final. The club’s highest league finish had been second place in 1925/26 which coupled with two FA Cup semi-final defeats did not suggest the imminent arrival of a footballing superpower. That changed in 1930 when the club won the FA Cup for the first time. By the time lucrative offers to play exhibition matches in Europe were received, Arsenal had already committed to travelling to the United States of America to play a match in New York against Scottish champions, Glasgow Rangers, for an unofficial British Championship. It would be some sixty years before the idea was resurrected. A second game between the two would then be held shortly afterwards in Toronto. With less travelling involved in terms of cost and time, it is little wonder that the prospect of playing in Europe was so appealing. Arsenal was a club which had experienced severe financial difficulties which threatened its existence twenty years before.
On 18th March 1930, The Guardian reported that Rangers had all but agreed their contract, with “a few unimportant details [remaining] for settlement“. Interestingly, that short article talks about Arsenal’s visit in the most certain of terms with the unofficial British championship matches practical because the club “will be on tour” in New York at the time and “who are to visit Toronto” after that. A curious turn of phrase since Arsenal’s sole reason for being in New York was to play the Scottish club. Was it the case that the club had received and agreed the contracts or had wires been exchanged and become crossed?
A month later and whatever the deal was, it had turned sour. Once again, The Guardian took up the story, reporting that the United States Football Association had declined Arsenal’s attempt to pull out of their obligations. A Press Association piece was also picked up in the same day’s Daily Mirror. It seemed a head of steam might be building but then came silence; nothing. As far as can be found, there is no further coverage in the national press of whether Arsenal paid any compensation to the organisers. We do know that unusually that season there was no tour so did the club accede to the request from but the reason remains supposition. It isn’t unrealistic however, to tie the two issues together. Records show that only one post-season match was played. On 5th May 1930, Cliff Bastin scored his first hat-trick in an Arsenal shirt in the 7 – 0 win at Northampton.
Complaining to FIFA would not have achieved anything as far as the Football Association were concerned. Their hubris had yet to fully subside over the governing body’s formation twenty-five years previously and they sat on the outside of international football. The World Cup of that year would take place without England or any of the Home Nations participating. It might however, have had an effect on the clubs wishing to play Arsenal at the time. Many of continental Europe’s national associations had joined the world body and as such, it would be no surprise if pressure had been exerted through that route.
What we do know is that no tour in that year took place. Bob Wall’s book, Arsenal From The Heart, devotes a chapter to the international tours undertaken during his time at the club and nothing for 1930 is committed to paper. Interestingly, there is no mention of this proposed tour either. An error of omission or were the USFA duped by unscrupulous persons posing as Arsenal officials? It seems unlikely if a cable was sent to the club.
Given that, as far as can be ascertained, the club never made it to the USA in 1930, perhaps “Arsenal Not In The USA” might be a more apposite title?