GGM 34: Norris negotiates top-flight return

Arsenal's rivalry with Tottenham Hotspur is one of geographical location and football history. One particular decision in 1919 did little to bond the two clubs.

Having finished only fifth in the Second Division in the final season before the First World War (1914/15), Arsenal were expected to remain in the second tier when the league resumed in 1919. However, this was not the case; Arsenal were elected to the top flight - at the expense of Tottenham.

The First Division was extended by two teams to 22 and tradition suggested the bottom two clubs from the previous season (1914/15) would be re-elected and joined by the top two teams from the Second Division.

However, Arsenal chairman Henry Norris, the man responsible for moving the Club to Highbury in 1913, is alleged to have engineered the Gunners' unexpected promotion. Norris, who rescued the Club from voluntary liquidation in 1910, is alleged to have 'influenced' the league chairman and owner of Liverpool, John McKenna.

McKenna made a speech to the election committee at the Football League's Annual General Meeting recommending Arsenal's promotion ahead of their arch rivals. His speech concluded that Arsenal deserved a higher standing having joined the Football League in 1893, 15 years before Spurs. The Gunners won the election by 10 votes.

Norris never moved to confirm or deny the allegations before his death in 1934 and to this day the rumour remains part of footballing folklore.

Whatever the truth, 88 years on Arsenal are the only Club with continuous First Division membership since the Football League resumed - and the only club not to have been promoted on playing merit.

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