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April 2024


An original, comprehensive and thoroughly researched account of Plymouth Argyle Football Club from its earliest roots to the present day.

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An original account of Plymouth Argyle Football Club from its earliest roots to the present day

This is a printed representation of one chapter of GoS's History of Argyle (, provided for ease of reading and personal retention. Inevitably it lacks links to associated pages, including match and player records, and its layout has been simplified to allow page breaks. Note also that Greens on Screen's online History of Argyle will be updated and new material added from time to time.

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Chapter 6: 1901-1902 Part 1

The Argyle Affair

The first of two chapters that tell the story of the season; such was the significance of events in the 1901-02 campaign. In this chapter, new tram routes boosted Home Park attendances and the team recorded big wins in the early weeks of the season, but in October, a shock communication threatened the very existence of the club.

Author: Roger Walters   [about the authors]

Version: 1.2

1.1: a missing link for the Wednesday fixtures has been added to the statistics box.

1.2: an improved photo of the Devon F.A. team.

Date: 3 Aug 2016

In this chapter: 1900-01: Exeter clubs threaten Devon F.A. ... Home Park's improved situation; Ground filmed in 1901 ... Marsh Mills ground given up; Reserves avoid Division 3 ... the first Navy league team in Devonport ... Lieutenant Windrum of the Royal Garrison Artillery ... Southern League clubs keen for a Plymouth club to join ... Argyle start off season with a goal spree ... Army versus Royal Navy - Navy men attack referee ... Argyle's rivalry with Green Waves ... heavy utilisation of Home Park; the presentation of sport ... the league champions defeated 6-0 ... Bombshell! The F.A. tell Devon F.A. to throw Argyle out ... Argyle's uneasy relationship with the Devon County F.A. ... Green Waves halt Argyle's progress in the league ... Christmas Day sports at Home Park ... the “Argyle Affair”; immediate expulsion ordered by the F.A. ... Buchan and Webb suspended ... “Argyle Affair” resolved; saved by the F.A. Secretary ... was the Argyle F.C. title ever the Argyle Athletic F.C.? ... what F.A. rule had the Argyle Athletic Club Limited broken? ... bibliography for this and other pre-1903 chapters

Return to History Contents


Stats for 1901-02: First XI - Reserve XI - Wed XI - Players

During the summer break, ill-feeling against the entrenched, Plymouth-based Devon Football Association was being whipped up by Exeter United. The club formed in November 1895, at a time when rugby’s firm grip on Exeter was loosening due to the domination that Albion R.F.C. and Plymouth R.F.C. held over the other major Devon clubs. From the mid 1890s support for the historical County leaders of Devon sport, the Exeter Rugby Club was melting away; their very existence was in danger by 1902. The County Town's other major rugby club, Exeter Oaks R.F.C., fell into debt and became defunct in 1900. The plethora of former Rugby football enthusiasts went over to Association football and many new local clubs formed in Exeter. Beyond Plymouth, the dormant interest for the Association code in Devon had sparked into life. It would spread quickly from Exeter into East Devon and on to North Devon. Far from welcoming the growth, the Devon F. A. officials ignored it, fearing that power would be rested away from them and their Plymouth stronghold. Exeter United spoke out against this dictatorship and in May 1901 were communicating with other clubs on the idea of forming an East Devon Football Association. The intention was not a breakaway, so they kept the Devon F.A. informed, expecting a positive reaction. It was a gentle nudge to the controlling body to wake up and consider the whole of Devon in organisation and competition.   


Plymouth Corporation Tramcar no. 76 on a “Football Special” at the Britannia Inn, Milehouse, in the 1920s. It is one of the original Devonport & District trams that operated from 26th June 1901.

The prospect of larger attendances at Home Park improved on Wednesday 26th June 1901 with the opening for public traffic of the whole of the delayed Devonport and District Electric Tramway. For the first time since the ground opened, it was now reachable by regular modern transport. The B.E.T. Company-owned ten-mile Devonport system connected to the Plymouth Corporation electric system via Union Street. The tramway ended at Milehouse, within site of Home Park, with an extension planned past the ground to Tor Lane, Pennycross to meet the growth of Peverell out of Plymouth. The tramway company planned to run the trams every six minutes at a cheap fare that all could afford - Fore Street to Milehouse one old penny (less than half of one decimalised penny). The Three Towns had entered a period of incredible growth and improvement. There were many major projects and modernisations going on in Plymouth and Devonport, attracting long-term and short-term workers to the area and a resultant population growth and housing boom. Some of the itinerant workers were amongst those complained of by the Argyle Athletic Club Secretary, Francis Crouch, as moving on before they had paid for their Club shares. Some did stay long enough to represent the Club.

Proof of the tramways asset to Home Park soon came on Monday 5th August 1901 when 6,000 turned up for the Argyle Athletic Club’s Bicycle and Foot Races. The grounds appearance had been refreshed from its abandoned decay, the enclosure looked “handsome” and the improved cycle track was in “splendid condition”. The improvements to safety, on a once very dangerous banked track, were such that not a single accident occurred. A large field of riders, attracted by the prize money, came from as far as Taunton and Bristol. The reporter later describes the crowd to be “vast” and “great” giving big ovations to the winning riders. The excitingly fast races were distanced from 100 yards to 5 miles. The five-mile race was for the 50 guineas “Argyle Challenge Vase”. It had to be won any three times, the winner received a prize valued at £10 10s, a considerable sum as the average weekly wage was less than £2. The foot races were mostly local runners including some Argyle footballers. The band of the Royal Artillery supplied a musical programme. The Royal Animated Picture Company filmed the event and their animated pictures of “Scenes at the Bank Holiday Athletic Sports at Home Park” were screened nightly at the crowded 1,200 seat St. James’s Hall in Union Street. A programme of new and clear local pictures being shown every week, proving highly popular; regular local filmed news sixty years before the advent of Westward Television in April 1961.


The Argyle Association Club held their Annual Meeting at the club rooms, Old Town Street on the evening of Monday 29th July 1901, with Clarence Spooner presiding over a large attendance. Both captains of the 1900-01 Saturday and Wednesday teams, the very popular Reg Dann, and Albert Dring, were leaving Plymouth and replaced by Percy Buchan and George Percival Holmes respectively. Anson Crouch, son of Francis Crouch, was elected captain and Secretary of Argyle Reserves. The Wednesday ‘A’ team was not reformed. The Marsh Mills ground was given up, all ‘home’ matches would be at Home Park. Nearly all last season's players were available and several good players had joined, including Tommy Haynes (Oreston Rovers), Sid Wyatt (Crownhill), and Tommy Broad (Ford). All three were ordinary working class men, unlike the Argyle players of old, and would prove to be excellent signings and continued as members of Plymouth Argyle.

After the sour ending to the 1900-01 season, it was feared Argyle would not continue in the Devon League but they did, and entered the Senior Cup. Argyle Reserves entered Devon League Division Two and the Junior Cup. Last season Division Two was split into A and B groups, the winners of each played each other to decide the League champions. This season it was set up as Division Two and Three. Argyle Reserves finished bottom of 2A at the end of last season but were saved the ignominy of playing in the lowest division, which was consigned mostly to the newcomers, but those that were not new clubs, felt slighted. The Wednesday team again took part in the Devon Wednesday League. This League existed mostly for shop workers on the early closing day, which Clarence Spooner, in particular, had championed Plymouth shop businesses to do. Exeter business had not pushed early closing, so lacked Wednesday clubs.


For the 1901-02 season, Devon League Division One was increased in size and for the first time in the Naval Port, a representative Royal Navy team was formed to play in the League. Sadly, the new Naval Alliance did not compete in the competition, being suspended by the Devon F.A. in October. At the same time, the Naval Harlequins were formed to play rugby in the new Three Towns & District (Lockie Cup) competition. The Royal Marine Light Infantry had played Devon League football but were considered part of the Army. The cup holders, Depot Royal Garrison Artillery, did not enter the League in some seasons, because many of the soldiers played for civilian clubs in the League. The Gunners and Bombardiers of the Royal Artillery were strong muscular soldiers who could handle the heavy work carried out by the R.A. Their physical presence in a civilian football team made a difference. A few had made occasional appearances for the Argyle Football Club to shore up the defence. The Western Daily Herald reports on the 10th September 1901, Lieutenant Windrum is considering the formation of a Plymouth Royal Artillery team, using the best players from the locally stationed Companies. He had done this with the very successful Portsmouth R.A.  This is the earliest Press reference that the man who was to spearhead Plymouth Argyle into the Southern League was now stationed in Plymouth. He was already training the local R.A. players for the season's start. Windrum, with his wife and two children, is listed in the April 1901 Census, at 45, Emma Place, East Stonehouse.


Frederick Hugh Windrum

taken in 1895 when he was a Sergeant-Major in the Royal Artillery, Portsmouth

Frederick Hugh Windrum was born in Dover on the 26th June 1862. He had an extraordinary career in the Royal Artillery whilst rising from the Ranks to promotion as Lieutenant on the 10th March 1900. Lieutenant Windrum then moved from Portsmouth to Plymouth to become the District Officer of the Royal Garrison Artillery. A large part of his Army career was seemingly devoted to Association football as an administrator and trainer. Sergeant-Major Windrum founded the Royal Artillery (Portsmouth) in 1894 and guided them to win the Army Cup in 1895 and 1897. They reached the final of the F.A. Amateur Cup in 1896 and joined the Southern League Division Two in 1897-98, gaining promotion to Division One by winning 19 out of 22 matches. The declared amateur Royal Artillery team struggled against their professional opposition in the higher division and won only 4 of 24 matches during 1898-99 and left the League. During the 1898-99 season, the team hit the headlines for being thrown out of the F.A. Amateur Cup. On reaching the Semi-Final, Windrum took the team to Aldeburgh, Suffolk for seven days special training. The week's expenses, paid for by the  Regiment, included wines, cigars, billiards, travel etc which was deemed a ‘professional’ life-style by the F.A., though the rule covering expenses was rather tenuous. Windrum’s appeal was not successful but the rules were soon amended to clarify it.

Portsmouth, unlike rivals Southampton, did not have a major League civilian football club, so local businessmen called on the expertise of Sergeant Major Windrum to help form one from scratch. He is credited for the founding of the Portsmouth Football Club and quickly engineering their smooth journey straight into Southern League Division One for the 1899-00 season. He chose Frank Brettell to be the new club's manager, who then guided the team into second place in their very first season. Windrum was a Director of Portsmouth F.C. until he departed for Plymouth. He had become a well-known celebrity in higher Association football circles. The Western Evening Herald of the 10th September 1901 thought that Windrum could give a great fillip to local football and should be given a position of the Devon F.A. Executive. Clarence Spooner was soon to befriend him.


Considering the excitement of the Devon League last season and the spread of interest in Association football to all parts of the county, the Devon F.A. seemed as if their heads were stuck in the sand. The Honorary Treasurer, Fred Axworthy, in his report of the past season, thought there was a decreasing interest in the sport by both public and players and declining levels of skill.

‘Observer’ writing in the Football Herald, 14th September 1901, seems to agree but says that if the critical British public “..have the menu served up properly…their appetite will increase to such an extent that there regular custom will be assured”. He says teams had enough grit a few seasons ago to bring better teams from elsewhere to the district, which resulted in improving local play by “leaps and boundsthe spectators were delighted, and chancellors of the exchequer wore beaming expressions. This one-time enterprise has now ceased to exist “. ‘Observer’ writes that he had gone as far as to have chats with the Southampton and Portsmouth clubs who both “…are most anxious that a good professional team should be formed in Plymouth. This is the opinion of Mr. Sam Hollis, manager and Secretary of Bristol City, who has promised every possible assistance in its formation and existence afterwards”. Further to this, clubs in the South generally would be delighted to see a Plymouth combination in the Southern League.

In the same edition, a letter from ‘Lover of Soccer’ suggests that continual, systematic training, combined with teaching a knowledge of the game is needed to improve standards, win games and attract the public. For clubs with a decent following, the letter writer suggests “a  mild form of professionalism, that of payment by results” and suggests that the Devon F.A. should arrange visits of English League Division One clubs, as they had in the past and made a £50 profit to boot. This is what Argyle F.C. did in the 1901-02 and 1902-03 seasons, so again the informed prophet, as in 1892-93 with Home Park A.F.C., may well have been Argyle Athletic Club Sports Committee member and trainer, Jack Jaques?

The Hon. Senior Secretary of the Devon F.A., George Jones answered the letter, pointing out the problems Plymouth was saddled with, lack of grounds and geographical isolation. He said the cost of bringing a First Division Club to Plymouth had escalated since they last did so; it was out of the question they could afford a set guarantee sum required. They might be able to induce a Southern League club to travel West with a reasonable offer. Mr. Jones also thought that no local player of any note would care to become under the bane of professionalism for so little money that local clubs could pay. He says, “If a professional team is to be formed, it should be worked by a company on strictly business principles, and one in a position to offer players the average rate paid by our Southern League clubs”. Mr. Jones was ruling out the likelihood of professional football in Plymouth. In the April 1901 Census he lived at 26, Emma Place, East Stonehouse, just a few doors from Lieutenant Windrum at number 45.


Argyle’s season kicked off with three friendly match victories, the first on Saturday 14th September 1901 at Home Park was won 8-0 versus Plymouth F.C. who turned up an hour late. Tommy Broad, in his first appearance for Argyle, was the ‘man of the match’. He played the first half extremely well in the left-half position; after the break, he moved to centre forward where he excelled himself to score a hat-trick and Tommy Haynes scored a goal on his first appearance.

Plymouth F.C. was in terminal decline, homeless since vacating Home Park and even had no ground for practice. They had been the town's leading football club for many years but their public school lifeblood was drying up. Mannamead School had gone, absorbed by Plymouth College in December 1895. The amalgamated middle-class school, once the hotbed of Association football in Devon was losing interest in the sport and considering a change to rugby and hockey. The local Association game had been deserted by the middle-classes who turned to rugby and particularly hockey with its strict amateur principles; the Devon County Hockey Association was formed at this time. The reason for the change and echoed nationally, was the increasing consuming passion of the working class for Association football and their desire for professional League competition. Plymouth Football Club, pioneers of both codes of football in Devon, and the Devon Football Association instigators, sank into oblivion at the end of 1901-02. Nobody mourned the demise of the once illustrious Plymouth Football Club. The only club Argyle had played in every one of its competing seasons since 1886 was Plymouth F.C. The match on the 14th September ended a passing era.

A week later, on the 21st September 1901, Broad started the away match at Crownhill in the centre-forward position. Again, he scored a hat-trick in the 6-1 victory, and again Haynes chipped in with a goal. There were other big scores that day; also in a friendly match, Green Waves defeated the 5th Provisional Battalion 11-4, and at Tottenham, England beat Germany 12-0. In Argyle’s third victory, 6-2, on the 28th September, Broad and Haynes both bagged a pair of goals in the defeat of Lieutenant Windrum’s Royal Garrison Artillery at Home Park. At half time, a half-mile (2 laps) bicycle race was staged for the 'Albion Challenge Bowl'. The United Association Club of Torquay, the club formed in May 1899 and became Devon’s third professional League club as Torquay United, received an early mention in the Football Herald of the 28th September 1901. They had changed their shirts to Oxford and Cambridge blue squares for this season after last season's Red and White squares were rejected because, in the laundry, the darker colour bled into the other. Argyle’s shirts this season were Dark Green and Black halves.


The Devon F.A. held a meeting on the evening of the 9th October 1901 at the Borough Arms during which the case was heard of an attack on official referee Tom Pawley. He refereed the match between the new Naval Alliance team and the 30th Company Royal Artillery at Maker on the 5th October. During the (less than) friendly match, Mr. Pawley sent off one of the Naval Alliance players for using bad language. After the game had ended, he was making his way to the Cremyll ferry when he was charged from behind, knocked to the ground by four or five players from the team, and kicked. His mackintosh was lost (stolen?) in the scuffle. Charlie Thompson, captain of the 30th Company, corroborated Mr. Pawley’s statement. It has to be said, Tom Pawley was no shrinking violet and courted trouble. He was one of the players who violently attacked Jimmy Lynes during a match on 23rd March 1892! (See Chapter 2, 1892-93, under the heading “CLARENCE SPOONER AND VEILED PROFESSIONALISM”). It was also Mr. Pawley who abandoned Argyle’s match versus Oreston Rovers last season after only 35 minutes, thus contributing to the nervous decline of their League title prospects.

Though the Naval Alliance had joined the Devon League, the recently formed club had yet to affiliate to the Devon F.A. and had not paid their fee. The County committee wanted to prosecute but, in the circumstance, decided the best they could do was to make an example of them and ban affiliated clubs from meeting them. The proposal to make the ban to the 25th December was defeated in favour of “until the end of this month” (only three weeks). The Devon F.A.’s leniency did not save the Naval Alliance League fixtures. They did not take part in any Devon League matches. Argyle had arranged a fixture with them on the 4th January 1902 but it was not fulfilled. It seems the team formed to represent the whole of the Royal Navy in Devonport did not acquit itself very well.


S.S. Argyle pouring oil on the angry Green Waves.

This is how the Football Herald on the 18th April 1903 portrayed the rivalry.

There was an evolving and intensifying rivalry between Argyle and the Green Waves Football Club. They were to meet six times this season and Argyle’s rivals would be the fly in this season’s ointment. The growth and prospects of the Argyle Football Club, boosted by the Athletic Club, grated against the fact that the Green Waves were probably the most popular Association team in Plymouth. As Argyle were formulating plans, it was still perfectly possible that they could have been eclipsed by Green Waves to become Plymouth’s first professional League club, if they had the necessary funds. They became tenants at the proper football stadium environment of South Devon Place during the 1902-03 season, often commanding larger sized crowds than Argyle.

The club, which did not form until 1896, was founded by fishermen of the Barbican meeting at the “Fisherman’s Arms” Public House in Lambhay Street. It was not easy for fishermen to fulfil pre-arranged fixtures due to their occupation, the wind and the tides, but they completed their inaugural 1896-97 season in the Devon Junior League and Cup without letting opponents down. Despite some heavy losses, the club’s enthusiasm for the game grew. The rising club attracted a membership beyond the trawler fishermen and, like Argyle, they gained business patrons. The club had worn green shirts in its first 1896-97 season, and in 1902-03 wore green and maroon. Green Waves had difficulty finding ‘home’ grounds, as most clubs in the district. Of the grounds they had used since foundation, most were reachable via the River Plym – Mount Batten (1896/7), Pomphlett (1897/8, 1898/9), Marsh Mills (1900/1), Oreston (1901/2). The Plymouth localised centres of support for the Green Waves were the waterside districts – Barbican, Cattedown, Laira. Whilst for Argyle, their origin and support centred on inland districts – Mutley, Mannamead, Lipson. The first meeting of 1901/2 was at Oreston on the 5th October when the Green Waves ended Argyle’s three-match friendly goal spree by winning 3-1. 


Home Park had become increasingly busy since Argyle gave up the additional use of Marsh Mills. There were four fixtures all arranged to be played on the afternoon of Saturday 12th October 1901. Argyle Association “Chiefs” played Defiance in a friendly fixture, followed by Argyle Rugby “Chiefs” versus Totnes. The other two matches were on the Higher Home Park pitch, Argyle Association Reserves versus Osborne, and Argyle Rugby Reserves versus Russell. Over 104 players were crammed into the dressing room, which had to be extended into numerous other rooms under the main stand. The price of admission to see the four games was three old pence (not much more than one decimalised penny). The only one of the four matches lost was Argyle 2-3 Defiance.

A Plymouth Argyle match at Home Park in the early 1900s

On the gable of the grandstand are the words “Argyle Athletic Club”

The presentation of sport at Home Park was as if it were a Victorian Theatre of Varieties. The audience/spectators could comfortably arrive by electric tram and have a good view from the modern grandstand. In September 1901 the West of England Whippet Club, who held regular races at Home Park on Wednesday afternoons, started to combine their dates with the bicycle races of the Whitworth Cycling Club. This was to increase crowds and “make it a nice afternoon’s sport…as it breaks up the monotony”, explained one of the West of England Whippet Club committee. From the mid 1890s local theatre impresarios became involved in the local game. They presented pantomime type fancy dress matches for charity causes; sometimes including actors from their current theatre production.  

Arthur Carlton

The entertainment value of sport and theatre were combined. The first to do so was Charles F. Williams of the Theatre Royal, Plymouth. Arthur Carlton of the Theatre Metropole, Devonport, followed him. He took over the Theatre Royal in 1903. Carlton attended Argyle Athletic Club events and became vice president of the Crownhill Football Club. In the 1902-03 season, he was to help stage the ‘Fairy Tale’ fixture, Crownhill versus Southampton, one of the best clubs in the South of England. The sporting equivalent of “Jack and the Bean Stalk” or “David and Goliath”. Of course, his theatre for the match was not in the “Villagers” lumpy tussock field in open countryside near Bowden Cross; Carlton chose Home Park.


The Devon League matches for 1901-02 started much later than usual. Winters in the South West were particularly cold in the years since Argyle first formed and, besides the usual heavy wind and rain, there had been heavy bouts of frost and snow. A late start, shorter daylight hours and poor weather could prevent the season finishing before cricket took over the limited number of venues. Argyle played their first Devon League match on the 19th October 1901 at Home Park where Clarence Spooner, in particular, must have felt vindicated as they defeated the current League champions Tavistock, 6–0, with Tommy Haynes scoring four goals. The result was not as conclusive as it sounds because two of the Tavistock players did not turn up; nine played, with the forwards reduced to three. Tavistock’s problems continued and they had a poor season. A noticeable absentee for Argyle was their captain and regular goalkeeper Percy Buchan. He had a reoccurring knee injury picked up whilst playing for the Argyle Cricket Club. George P. Holmes, captain of Argyle Wednesday, was also injured and did not play until March 1902.


At the end of October and beginning of November 1901, two letters to the Devon F.A. unexpectedly arrived from F. J. Wall, the Secretary of the Football Association, 61, Chancery Lane, London reference the Argyle Athletic Club. The first was written: -

Re Argyle Athletic F.C.

The club has applied for direct affiliation to this Association. I note from their application that it is a limited liability company. As, however, the memorandum and articles of association have not been approved by this Association, and our regulations with regard to club companies are not observed, we cannot of course  recognise the club.

Yours faithfully, F. J. Wall, Secretary.

The second letter was received as follows: -

1st, November 1901

Argyle Athletic Club

I have this morning heard from the Secretary that his Directors can do nothing whatever as regards revising or amending the articles of association. In the circumstances, therefore, the club should not be recognised or affiliated to your Association.

Will you please bring the matter before your Council?

Yours faithfully, F. J. Wall.

In response to F. J. Wall’s instruction, the committee of the Devon Football Association arranged a special meeting, held at the Newmarket Hotel, Cornwall Street, Plymouth on Monday 4th November 1901. Called before them was the Argyle Football Club Secretary, Tom Floyd, to explain what had happened. Floyd said his club wanted to bring some of the Southern League clubs onto the district, and their committee thought if they were directly affiliated to the English Football Association, it would add more weight to their applications. The Devon F.A. thought Argyle would have been just as successful as a football club affiliated to the County. On questioning, the Argyle F.C. Secretary refused to say what it was in the Argyle Athletic Club Limited ‘articles of association’ that was objected to, only that it was impossible to make any alteration and that there was nothing to object to, as it also applied to the other clubs: Rugby, Cricket, Tennis and other athletic organisations that they ran. Mr. Floyd said he would produce all the correspondence at the next meeting of the County Association. It was pointed out to him that the Football Association was ordering the Devon F.A. to immediately terminate Argyle’s membership. Mr. Floyd declared again, “…we cannot do what they want”.  The matter was then deferred to the next meeting.

A meeting at the same venue was held at the end of that week, Friday 8th November 1901. This time Francis Crouch, the Secretary of the Argyle Athletic Club Limited appeared before the Devon F.A. committee to explain what had happened, which Tom Floyd had failed to do. Mr. Crouch said that it was the Argyle Athletic Club Limited that applied for direct affiliation to the English F.A., not the Argyle Association Football Club, now playing in the Devon League. The Chairman for the evening, Fred Axworthy, said it was absurd for the Argyle Athletic Club to apply to the Football Association if it had no football club. Mr. Crouch answered that it was the Argyle Athletic Club that owned Home Park and they intended to bring first-class teams to Plymouth, not for the Argyle Football Club to take part in them. This statement was not true by the evidence of the matches that were played at the end of 1901-02, and by the earlier reference in 1901-02 of George Jones reporting the heavy cost of bringing one club to the district, let alone two at the same time. Argyle could be given benefit of the doubt but it looked like they were trying to wriggle out of the embarrassment and wrath of the Devon F.A. whose support they needed.

Mr Crouch said they were unaware of the Association rule that “All clubs before being affiliated to the Association shall satisfy the Council that they are properly constituted clubs and playing football according to the laws of the Association”. Fred Axworthy thought this was a surprising oversight considering the body of businessmen directors behind the club. George Jones asked him, if direct affiliation to the Football Association was granted would you have kept Argyle Association Football Club affiliated to the Devon Football Association. Mr. Crouch maintained that the Argyle Association Football Club, affiliated to the Devon F.A., and the Argyle Athletic Club were two distinct organisations. Committee member William E. Baines, to clarify the point said, “You consider Argyle F.C. separate from the Athletic Club?” Mr. Crouch answered, “Yes”. He confirmed the Football Club had nothing to do with the Directors of the Athletic Club and sorted out their own problems internally. As if in a law court, the questioning was unsettling Mr. Crouch. Mr. Jones pointed out that all the correspondence from the Argyle Football Club, was on paper headed “Argyle Athletic Club Limited – Football Secretary”. This suggested the Football Club was a branch of the Athletic Club. There was no reply from the Argyle Athletic Club Secretary.

The reason for the rejection in the Articles of Association remained unrevealed, but a beaten Mr. Crouch admitted that the Argyle Football Club Secretary, Tom Floyd, did not make the application nor was he aware of it at any time. Mr. Crouch said they had taken advice from a solicitor about the Articles of the Athletic Club and been told they could be altered at small expense. Delving deeper to reveal the problem Mr. Jones asked, “Have any registered players of the Argyle Club any shares in the Company?” Crouch avoiding an answer said, “I don’t think I can answer the question. I can’t remember all the shareholders”. Mr. Jones remarked it was important he did know. On the business records of the Argyle Athletic Club Limited, the shareholder lists are compiled by, and signed by Francis Crouch at the bottom. The Chairman, Fred Axworthy who had played a couple of times for Argyle ten years ago, rescued the beleaguered Argyle representative by bringing the questioning to an end. He said it was a matter for the Football Association to settle but the Devon committee would use all legitimate means to keep Argyle in the county. They would send a letter of support for Argyle to F. J. Wall with all the correspondence. As in all things involving Devon football, the matter would not be settled easily or quickly.

Argyle Athletic Club Ltd. Memorandum, signed by Francis Crouch (Secretary) June 1901.


Whether or not related to the on-going problem, the only Argyle player chosen through the season to represent Devon was left-back Sid Wyatt. Whilst a Crownhill player he was capped five times last season and received another four this season as an Argyle player. The goal scoring exploits of Argyle’s Tommy Broad and Tommy Haynes were ignored.  Even the long time Devon goalkeeper Percy Buchan was over-looked until the very last county match in March 1902. Devon were not choosing their best players as the 6-0 ‘home’ defeat to Gloucestershire indicated on the 4th December 1901. After the match, the teams were entertained to high tea at the new chosen Devon F.A. headquarters, the Newmarket Hotel, Plymouth. The Devon F.A. County Secretary, Charles W. Bickle in a speech to the gathering, which included Argyle’s Sid Wyatt, took a swipe at Argyle, saying he was totally opposed and would never be a supporter of professionalism should it be introduced into the district. He was disparaging of the unsettled problem, which he called “The Argyle Affair”. Most of the Devon officials knew the County needed Argyle, though they were reluctant to acknowledge it.

Devon County 1901-02 (circa December 1901 to January 1902, possibly at the Rectory).

The team is lined up in their 5-3-2-1 playing formation. The only Argyle F.C. player is Sid Wyatt at left back.  Next to him, on his right, is Jack Coaker (Defiance F.C.) right back. In the front row (first left) is Archie Wheaton (Crownhill F.C.) at outside right.  Both Coaker and Wheaton made guest appearances for Argyle in 1901-02, and Wheaton joined the club in 1902-03.

The Rectory was still favoured as ‘home’ ground for County matches instead of Home Park. Anxious to curry favour with the Devon F.A., Argyle moved their fixture on 21st December against the Old Plymothians & Mannameadians to Ford Park so they could offer Home Park for a Devon Senior League XI versus United Services match in aid of charities; this was accepted. Argyle’s Buchan, Wyatt and William T. Dyer played for the League XI in the 2-0 victory. After expenses £6 16s 3d went to charities. A number of letters were published in the local newspapers, during the season, questioning the Devon F.A. for continuing to use a Rugby Union ground when there was a fine Association ground at Home Park.


After fives games in the Devon League Division One Argyle were unbeaten with four wins and a draw. Two more signings augmented the team in November, Reg Mortimer (Essa), and Jack Vivian (Green Waves). The team were scoring a lot of goals and letting in few. Up until the 14th December 1901, after 13 matches, 55 goals had been scored with only 12 against. On the 14th December 1901, Argyle had a League fixture against Green Waves. Considering the enormity of the match the attendance at Home Park was small; perhaps caused by the adverse publicity Argyle were receiving. For a second time this season, Green Waves were victors, ending a decent Argyle run, by winning 3-1. This was Argyle’s first League defeat of the 1901-02 season. The League table at the start of 1902 showed Green Waves top (Played 9, Points 15), followed by Defiance (P 9, Pts 13), and Argyle (P 7, Pts 11) third. The Reserves had greatly improved under the captaincy of Anson Crouch. The Argyle Wednesday had won all four of their Devon Wednesday League games, scoring 26 goals with only 1 against, up to the New Year.

The sudden and unexpected success of the Argyle Rugby Football Club continued unabated. Only formed last season and promoted to the senior level for 1901-02. At the end of 1901 captain Ernie Clark had inspired the XV to ten victories and only two defeats in 14 matches against seasoned senior clubs from Devon and Cornwall. The poorly reported Argyle Rugby Reserves were not doing well.


The Argyle Athletic Club’s confidence and desire to cash in and, perhaps, to be popular, occasionally led them a little astray. On Christmas Day, they staged a programme of sports at Home Park involving local football club entrants in races and six-a-side matches. A surprising number did enter; as usual, no Argyle team won any of their own financed gold medals. Predictably for the time of year, wind and rain interfered with the attendance, which was a less than expected 800.


Considering the seriousness of the Football Association instruction to expel Argyle from affiliation, little or nothing appears to have been done to resolve it in over two months since. The Devon F.A. committee meeting on Friday 17th January 1902 started with considering the numerous recent disputes concerning players and errant teams. League points were deducted or dished out in the manner that so confused the final standings. With this business out of the way matters turned to the Argyle problem. County Secretary, Charles Bickle, read the latest letter received from the Secretary of the F.A., F. J. Wall, with reference to the Argyle Athletic Club’s application to become directly affiliated:

We have had an opportunity of inspecting the memorandum and articles of association of this club company and the agreements referred to therein. It would appear that the agreement with Mr. Crouch is a promotion agreement, and is contrary to the spirit of our regulations. We are, therefore, unable to give the required consent.

You will, therefore, at once recognise that you cannot accept the Argyle Athletic Club Company as members of your association.

Yours faithfully, F. J. Wall.

On the motion of Fred Axworthy (Devon F.A. Treasurer), seconded by Tom Pawley (Executive committee), it was decided to postpone consideration of the order until Tuesday 21st January 1902. In the meantime, the Secretary would communicate with Mr. Wall to ask for a definite ruling as to whether the Argyle Football Club and the Argyle Athletic Club Company were considered as one.

The meeting held on the 21st January heard that a letter had been sent to Mr. Wall but the reply had yet to arrive. Fred Axworthy, who was presiding, remarked that the letter had been written “…a little in favour of Argyle. They would all agree that the Argyle Club had done a great deal for Association Football in Devon; all regretted the position the Argyle Club now found itself in.” The matter was postponed, awaiting reply from Mr. Wall. The meeting did not end there; they had another matter to consider involving Argyle players.


The Devon F.A.’s declared support of Argyle came in the face of an unpleasant on-the-pitch incident during Argyle’s Devon League 3-1 victory over Essa at Home Park, three days earlier on the 18th January 1902. The referee, Mr. Dunstan, reported he had to send off Argyle’s Charlie Webb for swearing, after repeated cautions failed to stop him. When the match ended the referee was approached by the Argyle captain, Percy Buchan, who threatened to punch his ****** nose. Buchan appeared before the Devon F.A. committee to explain his outburst of threatened violence and bad language towards a match official. They were very surprised that such a well-respected personality of the Devon game as Buchan was before them. The Public school educated player, far from repentant, accused the referee of being incompetent and a cheat. He said he was justified in threatening to punch Mr. Dunstan and would have done so had he also been sent off. The committee declared they had to come down heavily on such serious incidents; otherwise, there would be no referees left. The Devon F.A. suspension handed out was unanimously agreed yet seems very lenient in the circumstances. Middle-class Buchan was suspended for fourteen days, and working-class Webb for a comparatively harsher three weeks. 


A special meeting of the Devon County F.A. was held at the Newmarket Hotel, Plymouth on the evening of Friday 24th January 1902 to receive communications from the English Football Association concerning the position of the Argyle Athletic Club. The County Secretary, Charles Bickle, read the following letter:-

61, Chancery-lane, London, W.C.

January 21, 1902.

(Argyle Athletic Club)

I have received and considered your letter. Upon the facts as I know them I have no doubt that the Argyle Athletic Football Club and the Argyle Athletic Club are one and the same club. I share the views of your committee in their hesitancy to enforce the retirement from the game of a club that has done a deal to further our game in your district. Under the circumstances I suggest that you agree to the affiliation of the Argyle Athletic Club upon the conditions that the title of the club company is omitted.

F. J. Wall

A similar communication addressed to the Argyle Athletic Club Company’s solicitor, Mr. G. L. Spooner, was also read.

Frederick J. Wall, Secretary of the Football Association

Problem solved, though F. J. Wall in his confirmation that the Argyle Football Club and Argyle Athletic Club Limited are the same organisation, has named the club affiliated to the Devon F.A. as the Argyle Athletic Football Club. Of course Argyle could have done without this problematic episode during its build up to be a professional League club, but the important words of the leading Association football official in England, Frederick J. Wall, show he appreciated Argyle’s work “to further our game in your district”. The F.A. were looking to expand the professional game into all areas now that the powerful hindering influence of Devon-born Nicholas Lane Jackson was now gone. Thanks to the “Argyle Affair” Frederick J. Wall was now aware of the aspiring club and he would be a positive force in helping to ease the difficulties and further the cause for their inclusion in the expansion of the professional game.


The blurred and confused historical name of Plymouth Argyle’s amateur predecessor, as a football organisation, should never be shown as the Argyle Athletic Club. History demands to recognise that the club was formed as the Argyle Football Club in 1886, reformed as the Argyle Football Club in 1897, it remained as the Argyle Football Club within the Argyle Athletic Club, and the Secretary of the English Football Association officially separated the short-term ambiguity whilst confirming the two were one. The Argyle Football Club had never inserted “Athletic” into their title. They were rarely referred to as ‘Argyle Athletic F.C.’, and only by distant opponents who, reading the headed paperwork, did not know any better. Even when it became necessary to indicate which Argyle football team, under the Argyle Athletic Club blanket, was being reported, it was the Argyle (Association) Football Club.

In company law, the enforced separation from the Argyle Athletic Club Limited was not legally completed until the 17th April 1903. This is the date of the “Certificate of Incorporation” of the Plymouth Argyle Football Company Limited with its own registered ‘Memorandum’ and ‘Articles of Association’. Even then, as the Football Club rented Home Park from the owners (Argyle Athletic Club Limited), mentally, emotionally and spiritually the two were still one.

The other Argyle Athletic Club sport branches also did not use the “Athletic” word in their titles. Three days after the resolve, on Monday 27th January 1902, at the Argyle Athletic Club, Old Town Street, a meeting was held to present the 1901 report of the cricket matches and elect officers for 1902. It is done so under the name of the Argyle Cricket Club. The Rugby branch formed in 1900, causing difficulty to the ownership of the Argyle Football Club title, is the Argyle Rugby Club or Argyle Rugby Football Club.


The Press did not reveal what rule the Argyle Athletic Club Limited had broken. The short published letters from F. J. Wall and the questioning of Francis Crouch by George Jones, suggests it to be more general than one reason. The ‘Memorandum’ and ‘Articles of Association’ of the Argyle Athletic Club Limited were acceptable under the Companies Act of 1900 for it to receive its Certificate of Incorporation yet, was not acceptable to the Football Association. Without the luxury of being told what the problem is, it is difficult to pinpoint. During the 1890s the F.A. tightened its control to cover every aspect of the game including the ever-increasing number of clubs that became limited liability companies.

Volume 3 of “Association Football” by Caxton (published 1960), page 242, explains this area of F.A. Jurisdiction:

By rule, it deems “every director, official, member or player of any association or club” directly or indirectly under its control to be within its jurisdiction and thereby subject to and bound by its rules, regulations and byelaws.

The Association also lays down certain clauses which must be inserted in the articles of association of any football club which becomes a limited company.

The effecting clauses in question are those formulated by the Football Association on 29th May 1896:

1. No larger dividend to be declared than the maximum dividend allowed from time to time by the Football Association.

3. No Director shall be entitled to receive any remuneration in respect of his office as Director.

The Argyle Athletic Club Limited had applied for direct affiliation to the Football Association without considering these clauses. Some of their Articles of Association conflicted with the F.A. clauses. Namely, number ‘35’ said that the Directors shall be paid out of the funds such sums as the Company may from time to time determine. A wordy Number ‘37’ seems to say Directors can, without disqualification, make a profit whilst acting on behalf of the Company without declaring it. Numbers ‘49’ and ‘50’ are related to the Directors declaring a Dividend to be paid and determining discretional payments in the interests of the Company.

The Football Association objection to the Memorandum of the Argyle Athletic Club Limited appears to relate to F.A. Rule ‘31’. “Any Club or player competing for money or prizes or in any competition, the proceeds of which are not devoted to a recognised football club or football association or some charitable institution approved of by this or by an affiliated  Association shall be liable to suspension by the Committee for as such time as they think fit”. This conflicted with Argyle Athletic Club Limited Memorandum ‘3 (d)’, which was “To promote Football, Cricket, Lawn Tennis, and all other Athletic sports and pastimes”.

Further to the given objections, George Jones, in the questioning of Francis Crouch, implies that it was against F.A. rules for club-registered players to hold shares in that club. Even the 800 shares awarded to Francis Crouch as Secretary, is described by F. J. Wall as “contrary to the spirit of our regulations”. Summing up there was a conflict of interest between the Association football controlling body having the right to interfere in the Club's participation of other sports, whilst the Argyle Athletic Club Limited was set up as a multi-sport organisation that was, seemingly, interfering in Association football. On discovering that Argyle and the Football Association did have a common interest in furthering the game in the South West, F. J. Wall let them off the hook and encouraged their Association football development.


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