by David Rowe
In the Christmas 2004 Edition of the Mold & District Society Journal, Ystrad Alun, Colin Hampson wrote an article titled ‘Early Soccer at Mold’, with the first section called B.M.A. (Before Mold Alexandria). In the article he refers to ‘Mold Town’ in the 1920s being a professional club playing their matches at Broncoed Park (now the current site of Mold Alun School). The ground was well equipped with a grandstand and changing rooms but financial difficulties led to it being disbanded in 1930.
Colin in his article then moves onto to discuss the formation of Mold Alexandra and subsequent developments up to the start of the 2000s. I want to take you back to the years 1923/24 and try to understand the organisation and costs in running a professional team at this time. We read today of the huge sums paid to players, and if the press are to be believed, Christiano Ronaldo is currently earning £3.6 million per week at the Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr. So what wages could the top professional players in the UK expect to earn in the 1920s? After World War I, top professional footballers could only earn a maximum of £10 per week which, in 1920 was reduced to £9 by the Football League Management Committee. Worse was to come, as the following year it was reduced to £8 per week during the 37 week playing season and £6 per week for the 15 week close season. The maximum wage regime continued through until the 1960s, when the Professional Players Association led by Jimmy Hill threatened to strike. In 1961 the maximum wage was finally abolished. So what of Mold Football Club? Some years ago the late Ken Corbett had the records for the club and he allowed me to take extracts from the minute books. The manager in this period was the pictured Connah’s Quay born W. Charlie Hewitt; known as the ‘Captain’ because of his days as a naval skipper.
On the 20th October 1924, he was given permission by the 15 man Management Committee to apply for the Manager’s job at Wrexham Football Club. His application was successful and, in November 1924, he was appointed as the first-ever Manager of Wrexham Football Club. Prior to this appointment the team had been chosen by a selection committee. He remained at Wrexham until the end of the 1925-26 season. During his time at Mold, Charlie Hewitt was not only responsible for team matters but also had to deal with the administration. As secretary/manager he was paid the princely weekly wage of £4 per week which did rise to £5. However, as reported in the minute book of 1st September 1924, this wasn’t the end of his duties. “Secretary/Manager, W.C. Hewitt to accompany the team home and away and to indulge in as much training as possible to keep himself fit for 1st team duties as goalkeeper.” He did have other staff to help him. In January 1924, Harry Evans had his contract as trainer terminated and he was replaced by M. McAllister at 15s (75p)per week. A player called Hart was appointed as groundsman at 25s (£1.25) per week, with this to be increased to 30s (£1.50) when a new grandstand was erected. The role of trainer and groundsman was ultimately combined and the individual was also responsible for washing and repairing the kits. Prior to this Mold Model Laundry appears to have been used to wash the kit. An office cleaner was also employed, and in September 1923, the monthly wage was increased from 3s 6d (18p) to 4s (20p). The turnstiles were manned by members of the management committee.
Mention was made earlier of the provision of a new grandstand. In October 1923, estimates were sought from contactors, including a company based in Glasgow, with the lowest bid of £950 12s 6d, coming from a Mold Company, Thomas Roberts & Co. Other bids ranged from £1,094 to £1,850, so we must assume that Roberts were awarded the contract. Among the sub-committee involved with this transaction was the renowned Mold architect, F.A. Roberts, who also acted as the Club Architect. An additional turnstile was also purchased at a cost of £10. For spectators, admission cost 1s (5p) with a further 1s if you wanted the ‘luxury’ of the stand.
Another important piece of equipment was the players bath, no individual showers in those days, and this cost 3s (28p) to transport to the ground. The secret of the communal bath was to make sure you got there first. Former players who had to endure these baths will fully understand the reason for this speedy action.
Before we consider the players, what sort of other expenses, apart from taxes & insurances, did the club have to pay. Policing even then had to provided and in September 1923 the club paid 9s (45p) for the provision, and for the match against Oswestry, four policemen were
required; the referee cost £1 8s (£1 40p); and the hire of the grass cutter from Mold Golf Club cost £1 1s (£1 5p); 30 – Advertising posters for home games cost 7s 6d (37.5p). On the plus side Pioneer Publishing Company were granted the right to print the fixtures providing they made a donation of either 2 or 3 guineas; A tender for £10 was received from the North Wales Cake Company granting them exclusive catering rights at the ground. Mind you they got some of this back in that the club had to pay for the players of both sides teas. These were in the region of 1s 9d ( 9p) – 2s (10p) per head. Generosity knew no bounds with away teams being issued with 14 tea tickets.
Transport to away fixtures was paid for by the club and in September 1923 the team played at Bangor. The accounts show that 14 train fares at 6s 7d (33p)a head and 14 teas at 2s 3d(11p) per head, were paid. Of course a major expense for the club was, before shirt advertising became the norm, the purchase of the football strip and in August 1924 the club bought the following.
5 pairs of football boots @ £1.15s (£1.75)
1 Dozen laces @ 2s (10p)
From Thurman Jackson
2 Dozen pair knickers @ £1 6s (£1.30)
2 Dozen pair stockings @ £1 4s (£1.20)
9 pairs shin pads @ £1
I pair football boots (J. Lyon) @ 7s 11d (40p)
Surprisingly no shirts are listed, so we must assume they survived the rigours of the grass (or was it mud) pitches and the leather footballs with their laces. Having played football from the 1950s, my head can vouch for the weight and impact of a wet football on a muddy pitch. Heading the lace was to be avoided at all costs.
The club obviously took its community responsibilities seriously as the proceeds from a practice game were distributed, with two thirds going to the Cottage Hospital and the balance to the Nursing Association.
At the 1924 annual general meeting the club reported a net loss of £127 15s 71/2d, with the major expenditure comprising of wages £1,484 1s 5d and travelling costs of £291 4s 9d. The major income items included, Gate receipts £1,384 7s 1d; Fund raising £196 8s 8d; Adverts £185 15s 6d; Programmes £35 11s 6d; Donations £47 17s 8d and a donation from the Supporters Club of £140 4s 2d.
So what of the players? Sham amateurism was widespread. Bishop Auckland who won the Amateur Cup a record number of 10 times between 1896 to 1957, had players travelling from different parts of the country. The quality of their players is self evident when you consider that one of their players, Chester-le-Street born Bob Hardisty, came out of retirement, to sign for Manchester United after the Munich disaster, although he didn’t play for them in the league. Mold Football Club were considered a professional club and
players were paid. Irrespective of their weekly wages, which differed between players, there was a standard bonus system with 10s (50p) for a win and 5s (25p) for a draw. Undoubtedly the star signing for Mold was the Middlewich born wing half (remember these positions?) Samuel Challinor, who made over 100 appearances for a number of Football league clubs, including Brentford, Halifax Town, New Brighton and Accrington Stanley. At 5ft 11inches (1.80m) tall he stood out on the pitch not only with his ability but also his physical size. Samuel started his career in non-league football with Middlewich and Witton Albion before signing for Everton. Sadly, World War One prevented him from making his debut and after the war he was transferred to the Third Division Club Brentford, before moving on to the other clubs. He signed for Mold in August 1924, for a signing on fee of £5 and a wage of £5 per week plus train expenses from Wallasey. The minutes note that the club had attempted ‘to beat him down’ to a weekly wage of £4, but clearly he didn’t accept the lower figure. In these days of players earning as much, or even more, from corporate sponsorship, Mold took a dim view of such additional revenue streams. The minutes of 9th January 1924 make this abundantly clear. “Players accepting any gifts in money or in kind for scoring goals will be treated as misconduct.” After signing, Samuel Challinor was clearly unhappy about some of the positions he had been told to play. This was discussed at committee and the minutes record their decision. “It was resolved that players must take up their selected positions.” Perhaps that is the reason he left Mold for Llandudno in 1925.
As we all know gifted players also need their team mates to perform, and the conduct of players was a topic of conversation for the management committee.
After a number of players were required to appear before the board, the minutes recorded their view. “Mold Football Club should always be considered as a team who always played the game.” One player, McGinlay, was released after being found to be under the influence of drink on a number of occasions. Not sure what they would have made of footballers and managers antics in today’s leagues.
What is evident from the minutes and accounts is that players were recruited from throughout the UK and the following details their wages, if known. These players from outside included:
|1924||S. Challoner||Wallasey||£5 per week|
|1924||M Davidson||Middlesborough||£3 10s per week|
|1923||H. Hardy||North Shields|
|1924||Enoch Jones||Llandudno||£1 5s per game|
|1924||A Limberg||Connah’s Quay|
|1924||J. Lyon||Prescot||£4 per week|
|1924||W. Robinson||Birkenhead (Wrexham F.C.)||£2 5s per week|
|1923||A. F. Wells||London|
|1924||H.F. Williams||£4 per week|
While we consider all the players as professional they often needed other employment to make ends meet. In 1923, Gault, (note first names are not used), advised the committee that as he was unemployed, he couldn’t live on his football wages and asked for his contract to be cancelled. This was agreed and he was placed on the transfer list. Also in 1923, A.G. Maclaren was paid 14s (70p) as he was unable to follow his outside employment due to injury. It appears that such expenses were paid by the Supporters Club. The Football Club wasn’t past advertising for players either and an advert appeared in the July 1925 edition of the Athletic News, for a ‘Centre Half Back’.
Sadly in the following years the Club’s fortunes declined and, on the 19th March 1928, the clubs assets were sold under distraint, for non-payment of the field rent owned by W.E. Bellis. W.E. Bellis incidentally was a club director in 1924 and perhaps beyond. The assets comprised of ‘Excellent Turnstiles; Small Shed; large quantity of Timber Railings and Gate; Duckboards; Wood Forms; Goal Posts and Nets; Excellent Stove and Piping; 6ft. Bath; Football Requisies, Etc.,’ The auction went ahead as advertised. All the items were purchased by a Mr. Morgan of Nannerch, but then the story takes a strange turn. Mr. Bellis persuaded the purchaser to leave the equipment on the field until the end of the season. This enabled the club to fulfil its fixtures that season before the club was finally dissolved.
However in December, 1929 a new club called Mold Alexandra came into being and the team still plays on its Alyn Park, Maes y Dre ground today.
If you can add anything to the story of the 1920s side or have any photographs of the team, ground etc. I would love to hear from you.
David Rowe 2nd April 2023
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