Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Sport - Football

Of all the athletic revivals . . . that of football is one of the most marked and we might say of the least expected. It had for so many generations been given up by men, and relegated almost entirely to our public schools, that is adoption by athletes of maturer age was hardly to have been anticipated . . . Now almost every College [at Oxford and Cambridge] has its club, and football matches are nearly as common in the winter as cricket matches in the summer . . . Hardly a provincial town is without its club.

from The Graphic, April 1875

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Football is by far the most popular out-door game of the winter months, and there are few open spaces in or near London where matches may not be seen in progress on any open Saturday afternoon, between the be ginning of October and the end of March. The most important scenes of action are Kennington Oval — where the international matches are played in February and March — Battersea-park, Blackheath, Richmond, Wimbledon, Wormwood Scrubbs, and Woolwich. Both the Rugby Football Union and the Football Association have their head-quarters in London. The Union is the stronger body, and under its laws which permit the ball being carried, quite five times as many matches are played under the Association laws, which do not allow of the ball being run with. [To the lay mind it is probable that the Association game would be more likely to answer the idea conveyed by the word football. The Rugby game is excellent in its way, but the hand has as much to do with the business as the foot. The president of the Union is A. G. Guillemard, Eltham; the honorary secretary, W. Wallace, 4, St. Leonard’s, East Sheen. Of the Association, Major Marindin, R.E., Chatham, is president; and C. W. Allcock, Kennington Oval, honorary secretary; of whom all particulars of the two societies can be obtained. The principal matches played under the auspices of the two societies are - Union North v. South, played in alternate years in London and Manchester; England v. Scotland for the Calcutta Challenge Cup in London and Edinburgh; and England v. Ireland, in London and Dublin. Association: England v. Scotland, played alternately in Glasgow and London; London v. Sheffield; and the matches for the Association Challenge Cup, competed for by Association clubs. The Association matches have 11 players, the Union 15 players on each side The leading Union clubs in London and the suburbs are Blackheath, head-quarters, Richardson’s field, Blackheath; Richmond, Richmond Old Deer-pk; Royal Military Academy, Woolwich; Royal Naval College, Greenwich-park; Wimbledon, Wimbledon-common; Clapham Rovers, Wandsworth; West Kent, Chislehurst; Queen’s House, and Clevedon, Blackheath; Flamingoes, Battersea-park; Gipsies, Peckham; Guys Hospital, Blackheath; King’s College, Battersea-park; Lausanne, Dulwich; Old Cheltonians, Mitcham; Old Marlburians, Blackheath; Walthamstow, Walthamstow; Wasps Putney. The leading Association clubs are the Wanderers, Old Etonians, and Old Harrovians the majority of whose matches are played at Kennington Oval five minutes’ walk from Vauxhall station on the London and South Western line; Barnes, Barnes Civil Service, Battersea-park Clapham Rovers, Wandsworth South Norwood, Norwood Upton-park, Upton; Westminster School, Vincent-square. The subscriptions to these clubs vary from 2s. 6d. to 10s. per annum, and the number of members from 30 to 200. The dash and pluck necessary to earn distinction at both games render football matches very popular with Londoners, an as many as 4,000 spectators have been seen at the Oval on the occasion of an international match. Football is no exception to the rule, that every trade and sport in London has its recognised organ and the Cricket and Football Times, published at St. Bride’s street, appeals specially to football players.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879


The new football is a far more effectual arouser of the unregenerate passions of mankind than either a political gathering or a race meeting. No doubt at Epsom or Newmarket it is vexatious in the extreme when the favourite loses five times in succession in one afternoon. But the British public controls itself fairly well under these trying circumstances. At a modern football match between, let us say, two League teams, it is a distinct point that the players are human beings, with sensibilities much on a par with the sensibilities of the spectators. These latter are well aware of the fact. And it is by playing loudly upon their sensibilities that the spectators endeavour to incite their darlings to strain every nerve to win. However, the gain of one side is the loss of the other. You are jubilant, while your neighbour uses language not to be found in grammars for the use of schools. It all depends upon the measure of civilisation in your locality whether there is or is not a good deal of fighting after the match. Of drinking it may be taken for granted that there is abundance. In all our large towns, and most of the small ones, north of Birmingham to the Tweed, from September to April, Saturday is consecrated to football. Saturday evenings are devoted to football symposia, and the news-papers issue special editions one after the other, with from three to four columns of reports and gossip about the results of the days games and the players.
    There is no mistake about it the exercise is a passion nowadays and not merely a recreation. It is much on a par with the bull fight in Spain or the ballet in France. A spirit of adamantine intention pervades it. No matter what the weather, a League fixture must be fulfilled. And no matter what the weather, there will always be found a number of spectators enthusiastic enough to be present at the game. Thrice during the last season, the writer witnessed matches in violent snowstorms ; and on one of these occasions, with snow and slush ankle deep on the ground. the downfall was so severe that a layer of more than an inch of snow accumulated on the shoulders and hats of the enthusiasts, who were packed so closely together that they could not move to disencumber themselves. You would have thought they were all possessed of some sovereign preventive of the many diseases that proceed from simple catarrhs. Yet, of course, such was not the case. Probably more than one of them was fast asleep in his grave ere the match of the ensuing Saturday.
    It is something else as well as a passion. It is a profession. This of itself would be enough to explain the very remarkable energy of modern football. In other professions, if a man is bent on preeminence, with its various rewards of lucre and public estimation, he must strive hard to attain it. I will not add that he must not be too scrupulous about the means he employs for his purpose, though this is a common belief. Nor is it different in football. It depends upon the vigour, craft and strength of the player whether he is worth 2l., 3l.. or 4l. a week during eight months of the year. To the old-fashioned votary of amateur football this will seem a very lamentable state of affairs. Yet it is not thought so in the North, though in the far North (Scot land) professionalism as it now exists in England is still under taboo. Nor do the players themselves consider that they are degraded by their vocation of making sport for the British Saturday afternoon. Indeed, no. It is quite otherwise. In their respective neighbourhoods they are the objects of the popular adoration. They go to the wars in saloon carriages. Their supporters attend them to the railway station to wish them 'God speed,' and later in the evening meet them on their return, and either cheer them with affectionate heartiness, or condole with them and solace them with as much beer as their principles (that is, their trainer) will allow them to accommodate. They are better known than the local members of Parliament. Their photographs are in several shops, individually and grouped. The newspaper gives woodcuts of them and brief appreciative biographical sketches. Even in their workaday dress they cannot move in their native streets without receiving ovations enough to turn the head of a Prime Minister. But their honest heads are not easily turned. They go their way and survive their banquets of hebdomadal applause and flattery with a stolidity that argues them well-knit mentally and of excellent tough digestions.
    They are marketable goods amid they are not ashamed. Why it may be asked, need they be ashamed of it ? Every man has his price, we are told by a great authority. Nor can the fell innuendo which attended this saying when it was uttered be applied to the modern professional football player. Whatever he may not be, he is bound to he thorough. The Club Committee who have bought him will stand no shillv-shallying, no trimming about the ball in merely dilettante fashion. As for the spectators. they would come within a hairs-breadth of assassinating him if they got an inkling that he was playing them false . Modern football may not be an immaculate form of 'sport,' but, in spite of one or two rumours, it seems irreproachably 'straight.'
    If it be an advantage to see ourselves as others see us, the accomplished professional football player will not be expected to resent being catalogued and described on the agent's list much as if he were a bull of highly reputable lineage. It is the agent's aim to minister to the young man's self-esteem. Not directly, of course. He may not be very sound of wind, or lie may have a small varicose vein, but the agent will not be bound to mention these slight defects any more than the auctioneer, who sells a fine piece of Dresden china, is compelled to whisper his suspicion that it sounds a bit cracked somewhere.
    The football agent numbers his clients and advertises them. This is how he portrays them:

    Nos. 154 and 155 - Goalkeepers, two champions, second to none in England; the name of either is a sufficient record; both are respectable, steady young men. One is 6 feet high, 13 stone weight, 23 years of age, and smart as a bee; fears nothing; is a regular stone wall against a charge, and a most consistent and earnest player. The other is a League player in one of the very best teams, and his superior cannot be fond; he has played in nearly all the principal matches of his club during the present and last seasons. Both these men have decided to change . . . Terms 3l. per week and 40l.bonus each.


    No. 163 - Right of left full back. This is one of the most likely youngsters I have ever booked. He gives reference to a well-known pressman, who has repeatedly seen him play, and knows what he can do, and has a high opinion of his abilities and future prospects. Just note - height 5 feet 11 inches; weight, 12 stone; aged, 20. There's a young giant for you . . . this is a colt worth training. * (*From the Athletic News, 1891)

The above may suffice. Considering the hundreds of good teams of football which are, nowadays, throughout the hand, there seems really a lucrative opening for the smart mediator between players and committees. The business is, however, in its babyhood as yet. Some think the wages of professional players, though to gentlemen in other professions already they do not seem much amiss, will rise much higher than they are at present. It really is to be hoped they will not, or else football matches will be as expensive a pleasure as an international 'box.' But if they do, it will be a great temptation for the sons of middle and upper class families to try the career. Existing professionals do not describe themselves as gentlemen.
    When we find paid teams of the most promising graduates of out Universities touring the land like the trained players of the lower classes, then professional football may claim to be at its zenith. But we are not at present within a calculable distance of such proceedings.
    As yet another phase of the new football, it many be noticed that certain of the leading association chubs have turned themselves into limited liability companies. The players are worked by the company as if they were the machinery of the mine. It is, of course, all one to them, so they reap honour and their weekly wages. Indeed, a company, existing under the fierce light of public criticism, is much less likely to stop payment in this latter respect than were the two or three ardent votaries of the game who, previous to the company's establishment, were the foundation and mainspring of the club. As financial property, football stock cannot be said to be very valuable. This is due to two reasons. First, because of the expense of the team; and secondly, because in some cases the shareholders take their shares on the understanding in black and white 'that the income and profits of the company shall be devoted exclusively to the promotion of the objects of the company, and no portion thereof shall be paid or distributed by way of dividend, bonus, &c., &c' A cynic may cavil at the wording of this sentence, and his cavil may seem justified when he sees the balance-sheet of the company marking a deficiency of about a fourth of the subscribed capital in a single season. But though they may err in the liberality of their expenditure upon saloon cars, special trains, and salaries, the directors of these companies themselves must not be charged with dishonesty.
    It is significant and stimulating to observe that the more matches a team wins, the better its financial position at the end of the season is likely to be. The Aston Villa Club, which competed in the final for the English Cup, is solvent; and the West Bromwich Albion Club, its victorious opponent, is nearer solvency than it has been for years. Indeed, the former chub made a profit of 870l. on the season 1891-2. On the other hand, several League teams have lost hundreds of pounds; notably Notts County, whose deficiency is the really handsome sum of 1,400l. Everton, who did so well during 1890-1, when they were at the head of time League, lost more than 900l. on the season of 1891-2, when their play was much less brilliant. They still, however, carried forward to the new season of 1892-3 a balance in hand of 875l. If the exchequer of the Sunderland Club, which headed the League for 1891-2, does not show to advantage, it is because of the extraordinary lavishness of the committee in giving bonuses to their men after victories and also in the matter of wages. These bonuses are indeed very agreeable little additions to the weekly wage of the professional football player. A Sheffield Club gives one of its men a benefit annually, the last two of which were worth to their recipients about 200l. each. The Sunderland players are believed to have received 15l. apiece, as a gratuity, after their Christmas double victory over Everton and Wolverhampton on successive days. At West Bromwich, at a banquet given to the local team by the borough member of Parliament, each player was handed a five-pound note; and  an amiable alderman promised to collect an additional ten pounds apiece for the men, in honour of their triumph at the Oval. Add to these respectable perquisites such trifles as new hats, jerseys, and boots, with which ardent tradesmen promise to fit out the team if they win particular matchs, and occasional banquets like the one mentioned above, within torch-light processions and the excited plaudits of an entire town, and it will be seen that a player's income and gratification, all told, may be considerable. Members of Parliament and mayors quite frequently nowadays set the ball moving at a match, to show their sympathy with the popular ferment, and gentlemen of title do not disdain to entertain the teams and be photographed within them afterwards.
    `The political economist cannot afford to neglect the football clubs of our day. The sum they distribute jointly in wages throughout the year is very large. Everton alone, during the season of 1891-2, spent 4,038l. on this head, and no team of consequence can be worked for less than 1,000l. The expenditure on lint and liniments, such as Anti-stiff and Friar's Balsam, is also not slight. One team last season got through a mile of bandages. Toothsome stimulants are also doled out to the players before important matches. It seems a pity that these should be required, though of course their consumption benefits some one.
    The secretaries of the important clubs do not find their position a sinecure. It is no joke to trim dexterously between players and the temptations that surround players and the laity alike. If Longshanks, the centre forward, is discovered by some one in a state of open intoxication, more blame will attach to the secretary than to Longshanks himself who may be supposed to be like a caged thrush that suddenly sees its gilded prison-door ajar. The secretary has also the handling of much money, which is acknowledged to be a moral danger of the first magnitude.
    But perhaps the most singular of this gentleman's duties is the quest for 'new blood' that he has to make periodically into the far north. A team is like the human body itself - ever changing and shifting its parts. The waste must be neutralised as much as possible, or else the team suffers. And so the club secretary makes expensive journeys to Scotland to smell out promising players from the village greens and smaller football teams of the 'land o' cakes,' which is famous for endowing its sons within stout calves to their legs. A genius in football is of course nearly as rare as a unique orchid. Nor are the dangers to be confronted ere he can be secured and tied fast by a two years' agreement much less than those Mr. Sander's agents face in the forests of Brazil or Borneo ere their choice specimens can be bagged and encouraged to blossom in the glass-houses of St. Albans. Three-volumed romances are sometimes unfolded by these secretarial raids into the Scotch lowlands. The stranger offers his golden lure to the ingenuous stripling, and indulges him with costly food and drink at the best hotel. The youth may be the only son of his widowed mother, and affianced to a local damsel whose attachment to him is of the demonstratively passionate kind; he may also be a valued Sunday-school teacher, and loved and admired by all who know him. Imagine then the situation of the alien who tempts him to give up his home and his natal ties and to journey south two or three hundred miles to practise a profession which a fond mother and an impulsive sweetheart cannot fail to think as dangerous as a battlefield, though unattended by the glamour of pride that belongs to the certificated blood-shedder. An authority on this subject, after telling how at different times he was beaten, tarred and feathered, and pelted with mud and large stones, adds expressively, 'I have been chased for miles by the relatives of young men I have endeavoured to persuade to leave their homes.' Uncommon qualities are therefore distinctly needful in the average secretary to the modern professional football team. He must be a strategist like Von Moltke, and he must be a practised logician, to prove to his victim how paltry are the silken fetters of domesticity compared to that self-advancement which it is the chief aim and object of every proper man to seek, and especially a young Scotchman. He must also use the club's money on these occasions with a certain restraint as if it were his own, though conscious all the while that he will cut but a poor figure before the committee if he have nothing to show for his journey north and his four days' unstinted hotel bill, with a swollen item for innumerable whiskies.
    It is quite odd to see how strongly the people in League districts are smitten by the football fever. Many old people and women are so caught by it that they would not, on any ordinary account, miss a local match. They may be seen, too, wedged in the crowd of youths and young men who patronise the excursion trains to fields of combat fifty or a hundred miles from home. There must be a special Providence for them, or else they become extraordinarily hardened by exposure. I know a blind man who is regularly conducted to the football field, and works himself up into as hot a state of eagerness as his neighbours.
    This poor gentleman follows the game within his ears. To some of the rest of the spectators in certain parts of the country it would be a positive convenience if they could, on the other hand, during the match, suspend their faculty of hearing, as well as their sense of smell. The multitude flock to the field in their workaday dirt, and with their workaday adjectives very loose on their tongues. In Lancashire and the Black Country it is really surprising what a number of emphatic and even mysterious expletives may be heard on these Saturday afternoons. Some of them are, however, remarkably unpleasant and not fit for a lady's ears, even to the remotest echo.
    The players themselves may be supposed largely deaf to the shouts and even abuse which they excite. They are not wholly so; but they have a knack of discriminating between the flippant and the earnest. Their supporters often forget themselves in the ferocity of their cries. 'Down him!' 'Sit on his chest!' 'Knock their ribs in!' are invitations often addressed to them, and in no playful mode be it understood.
    But as a rule, they keep their tempers wonderfully well. They know that the referee has extensive powers to punish any deeds done on the field 'of malice prepense' and modern football legislation is a very real thing indeed. A player who is suspended for intentional rough play is wounded in the pocket, and he feels it.
    It is ludicrous to see how boys of a very tender age get possessed of a frenzy at some of these matches. Their cries to the players are not a whit less turbulent that those of their elders, though they do not carry so far; and certain of them forget themselves in a way that would bring upon them the high displeasure of their nurses at home. At Bolton, last October, a youngster was observed to burst into tears because the referee gave a decision against the home term. It was at Bolton, too, that a worthy town councillor , who chanced to die during the football season, was, at his dying request, carried to the grave by four of the team. Like many other of the Lancashire manufacturing towns, Bolton is not at all a pretty place. But it has a talent for football, and a particularly 'soft' field, which in wet weather almost engulfs players who are not used to it.
    I have mentioned the fair sex among the patrons of modern football. After considerable experience I find myself compelled to believe it is not the game that attracts them. Their remarks - by way of criticism - are much to much for the patience of the commonalty who hear them. In the manufacturing districts their presence is tolerated only when their hats and bonnets are of moderate height. They must, too, take their chance in the crush which often precedes entrance into the field; and, to do them justice, they do not seem to mind these crushes. The lady frequenters of the grand stands are not much more serious participants at a match than their humbler sisters who have to stand through the afternoon. The observations made by one of them may fairly be ascribed to the rest: 'What fine young men! What are they going to do?' she exclaimed, as the two-and-twenty players ranged themselves in order of battle and awaited the referee's whistle.
    The referee in professional football demands a paragraph to himself. Doubtless ere the game had grown to a mania among the people his position was a sufficiently responsible one. But is is now tenfold so. His relationship towards the players and the thousands of highly strung spectators somewhat resembles that of the Speaker in the House of Commons towards the members of Parliament. But he does no arouse feelings of unanimous respect like Mr. Peel in the Senate House. For his services during the hour and a half of an Association match he receives a guinea, and oftentimes he is offered an amount of insult that no self-respecting man would suffer for considerably more than a guinea. I have seen him retreat from the field after the match surrounded by the players themselves, who had the greatest difficulty to keep the yelling and blaspheming mob from getting hold of him and maltreating him much as if he were a notorious welsher. Even a brave man does not like this sort of thing. Though he may smile and affect composure, he feels to the full that the calling of referee in modern football is not wholly delightful.
    Here is the tale of a referee's experiences a few months ago during a Shropshire match. 'He was hooted and cursed every time he gave a decision, and one of the spectators went as far as to threaten to throw him into a pond. Immediately after the match, he was snowballed, in addition to which mud was thrown at him, and he had to seek protection from the violence of the spectators. He took refuge in the pavilion for some time, but when he went towards the public-house where the teams dressed, he found that there was a large crowd waiting for him, and he was again roughly handled, his hat being knocked off, and he received a blow on the back of the neck.'
    This was the penalty of doing his duty to the best of his ability. No wonder the situation is looked at askant by those who fancy themselves intellectually qualified for it. Among the League clubs, however, things are not likely in future to touch this pitch of iniquity. The referee has been taken under the protection of the authorities, and by making complaint of the insults offered to him, he can bring condign punishment upon the club on whose field he was humiliated. At Everton, moreover, special quarters have lately been prepared for him in the building around the field. Here he may rest in safe seclusion, and indefinitely laugh to scorn the contumelious remarks of discontented persons outside.
    On the subject of accidents, it is gratifying to be able to say emphatically that with the progress of scientific Association football injuries to players are becoming more and more rare. This is one of the best features of the new football. Bruises and mild sprains and strains are of course sure to be abundant. For these Anti-stiff and embrocations of many kinds are ready to do effective service. But fatal accidents are so unfrequent that no League team regards them as in the least degree likely. The 'Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant' of the Roman athletes has no parallel with the modern professional football player.
    I have been present at considerably more than a hundred League matches, and only once on these occasions was there a somewhat serious accident. A player's leg was broken midway between the ankle and the knee-cap. The snap of the bone was audible  fifty yards away. But though it was an unfortunate affair, the sufferer was comforted by the sympathies of the public. He had a benefit for one thing, which put 50l. in his pocket. And the next season he was again a player, not much the worse for the shock.
    In the old days there was much roughness in the play of even leading teams. Virgil's description of the wounded Dares, after his tussle with Entellus, might not inaptly have applied to many a discomfited player:
        His mouth and nostrils poured a purple flood;
        And pounded teeth came rushing with his blood.
        Faintly he staggered through the hissing throng,
        And hung his head, and trailed his legs along.
    To do the British crowd justice, however, the hissing in such a case was a tribute offered to the doer of time deed. The charging was often particularly murderous. But those phases of the game have been largely reformed away. By a very late decision of the Football Association, the referee has been empowered to give a penalty kick for playing in a manner likely to cause injury. This seems the last straw of protective administration. Henceforward the anxious mothers of Scotland need fear nothing when they learn that their children have evaded the home nest and enlisted as professional football players in England. Nowadays more spectators than players die of football.
    It is hard to prophesy about the future development of the game. Already professional football is in full swing for eight months out of the twelve. Nor is this enough for some people. They grumble loudly when the milder, yet equally national, game of cricket asserts itself. Cricket is slighted as tame and flat compared to football. The interest is too attenuated. Better a furious thrill for an hour or so than the protracted gentle pleasure of the bats and stumps.
    This, however, seems unreasonable. During the dog days one does not require furious thrills. They are a deal too inflammatory. 
    There are plenty of Timons abroad who regard the existing football mania among the people as a very bad symptom. 'It's ruining the country. The young men talk of nothing else. Their intellect all goes into football. They can't do their work properly for thinking of it. Never saw such a state of affairs in my life. The lower middle and the working classes may he divided into two sets: Fabians and Footballers, and, pun my word, it's difficult to say which is the greater nuisance to the other members of society.' These words from one antipathetic to excitement in any form may not carry much force, but they are typical.
    At present, however, the tide is with the game :  every September proves it. Our mob politicians have a very fine catch-word in the phrase 'A free breakfast table and football gratis,' if they like to use it in our provincial manufacturing towns. The Government audacious enough to promise serious consideration to such a programme would meet with an astonishing amount of support.
    Who knows? The incidents of civilisation may repeat themselves in this particular, as in so many others.

Charles Edwards writing in, The Nineteenth Century, October 1892

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - Football at the Crystal Palace

Football at the Crystal Palace -  photograph


Football has become so popular with all classes of the community that the Crystal Palace authorities were well advised in laying out a part of the fine gardens at Sydenham as a football ground. The lake was filled in for this purpose and, from the spectators' point of view, there is not a finer ground in the country. It is estimated that sixty thousand persons can obtain an uninterrupted view of the game; and the accommodation in the covered stands and on the rising ground is all that could be desired. Our picture shows in progress the final tie for the Football Association Cup in the 1894-5 season. This match, the most exciting of the year under the Association rules, was won by Aston Villa, who defeated the West Bromwich Albion eleven by a goal to nothing

FOOTBALL is by far the most popular outdoor game of the winter months, and now that the South has caught the infection of the Northern and Midland counties in a very malignant form, many first-class professional clubs have sprung up all round London, and the enthusiastic onlooker has a wealth of talent to choose from, good enough to appease the most insatiable appetite. It is, however, only of recent years that Southern teams have challenged the superiority of the North, and those that have done so, to wit, Woolwich Arsenal and Chelsea, both having won their way into the golden circle of the First Division of the English League, have done much to earn the respect of their older rivals; and Fulham only just missed promotion during the past season. The ground of the first-named may be reached by train to Woolwich Arsenal station (S.E. & C. Ry.), and the two latter by Underground Electric and tram or motor bus. Other attractive matches are to be seen at Tottenham, where Tottenham Hotspur, the winners Of the Association Cup of 1901, play (trains from Liverpool-st to White Hart-la, G.E. Ry., or tram all the way from the City); Queen's-pk Rangers at Park Royal (Dist. to Park Royal Station, or bus).
    Crystal Palace at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham (by rail from London-br or Cannon-st (SE. & C. Ry.); Millwall, West Hans at Boleyn Castle (Underground Electric, Upton-pk Station) ; Leyton (train Liverpool-st or Fenchurch-st to Leyton); Clapton Orient at Clapton (train Liverpool-st to Clapton, or tram) Brentford, at Brentford (train Brentford, Dist. Ry., or Underground Electric to Shepherd's Bush, thence by electric tram). These are the principal professional clubs round London, and a fair average estimate for a Saturday gate is about 15,000, although on special occasions, when two very popular clubs meet, it is no uncommon thing to see anything up to 50,000.
    The "tit-bit" of the season is the final of the Association Cup, which is played off at the Crystal Palace, and usually attracts a crowd of anything between 80,000 and 100,000 spectators, the record being over 101,000 when Tottenham Hotspur drew with Sheffield United, and subsequently won in the replay. As regards amateur clubs, there are many of first-class rank, of which the Corinthians, Casuals, Caledonians, and Clapton stand first, and their engagements attract good attendances. In spite of their quarrel with the Football Association (for the amateurs have now formed an association of their own, of which many had grave doubts as to its success), amateurism has been placed on a firmer basis than it has been for many years past; and to those who like to see sport as a sport and not a scientific display where fouling has unfortunately too great a predominance, will wish the newly-formed A.F.A. every success. Of Rugby football there is also a wealth of talent to chose from for those who like to see football where the hand has far more to do than the foot in its transit from one part of the field to another. The most famous of the London clubs are Blackheath, -who play in the Rector's Field, Blackheath (Ry. Stn., Blackheath S.E. & C. Ry.), Richmond, The Harlequins, London Scottish, London Welsh, Guy's Hospital, London Hospital, and many others, full details of whose matches are to be found in the daily papers. Of football publications there are several, and the doings of the football world are well reported in the Athletic World, 1d. weekly, the Sportsman, and the Sporting Life, both dailies; and during the season the evening papers issue full reports of all matches in their "football editions," usually on sale at about six o'clock or a little after.

Charles Dickens Jr. et al, Dickens Dictionary of London, c.1908 edition
(no date; based on internal evidence)

see also A.R.Bennett in London and Londoners - click here