September 6, 1913.
A date that will forever be etched in the history books of Arsenal Football Club.
One hundred years ago, Woolwich Arsenal took to the field having recently moved from their former home south of the river, to play their first ever competitive match in the Borough of Islington - a game against Leicester Fosse (now Leicester City) that they won 2-1.
The matchday programme from that afternoon prophetically declared “Rest assured you will get good football in return for your generous patronage” – a statement that has well and truly stood the test of time.
From humble beginnings as Woolwich Arsenal, the move to north London laid the foundations for the Club to become one of the biggest in the game with millions of passionate followers around the world.
The move to Highbury in 1913 was borne out of necessity. With finances in a perilous state, Woolwich Arsenal set about identifying alternative sites across London, eventually settling on the Islington location due to the nearby rail and tube links which offered the potential to attract large crowds from the local area and beyond.
In the 100 years since the move north, Arsenal has become an essential part of Islington life not just on the pitch, but off it as well.
Since its earliest days, Islington benefited from Arsenal’s move – immediately following the First World War, the Club made a financial contribution to the Islington War Memorial Fund and gifted one thousand guineas to the Great Northern Hospital on Holloway Road for the endowment of a bed.
This level of generosity continued right through the decades until Arsenal in the Community was established in the early 1980s, responding to the social unrest of the time, to encourage more young people to take part in recreational and competitive sport.
In that past quarter of a century, the Club has developed community programmes across a range of areas, delivering consistent results in programmes that range from sport and education, to health and social inclusion.
During any given week, more than 2,000 individuals are engaged in Arsenal in the Community initiatives across more than 40 different projects, delivered throughout the borough of Islington across 55 separate venues. In the 28 years since the department was set up, it is estimated that more than six million hours have been delivered by dedicated community staff. The launch of The Arsenal Foundation, meanwhile, has taken the Club’s community and charitable giving to new levels.
Arsenal’s presence in the Borough has also resulted in widespread regeneration in the area.
The move to Emirates Stadium in 2006 was the catalyst for substantial inward investment and urban regeneration across more than 60 acres of land.
As one of the largest regeneration schemes in Europe, the Emirates Stadium project has provided a number of benefits, including the creation of more than 2,600 jobs, 2,500 new and refurbished homes and significant investment in local businesses, public space and infrastructure. The Queensland Road development, meanwhile, which is nearing completion, will deliver yet more affordable homes to the Borough.
This new chapter in the Club’s history also saw Arsenal in the Community benefit from a significant investment from the Highbury section 106 agreement, which has been used to help upgrade a number of pitches on estates and parks around the Borough.
Emirates Stadium itself continues to rank among the very best stadia in the world, drawing increasing numbers of visitors from around the globe in its quest to become one of the leading destinations in London.
As we celebrate this milestone, Arsenal’s position at the heart of the local community is as strong as ever. Here’s to the next 100 years.
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