Red Devils’ delight in Manchester

With the end of another football season, I have to grudgingly admit the Red Devils from Manchester are the best team again. To win 20 top tier titles, compared to my team’s record, is certainly worth a mention. Football has also lost a great character and manager with the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

So after watching another dreary performance from my team, I thought: What can the Archives tell you about football? A fair amount, judging by a search of our catalogue, Discovery. It is a wonder what a quick random search of a catalogue can find.

the Manchester United Football Team, leaving the Central Station, Manchester, with the English Cup

Photograph of the Manchester United Football Team, leaving the Central Station, Manchester, with the English Cup (catalogue ref: COPY 1/532/135)

Munich air disaster

The 1958 Munich Air disaster is well recorded in files from PREM 13, FCO 14, TS 58BT 248 and AVIA 101. These include reports into the disaster. The re-opened inquiry files in BT 248 give a far more vivid explanation of the disaster – but don’t panic if you are unable to read German, they are in English as well.

Transfer fees

When it comes to transfer fees, even the Treasury have been involved. They have a file on the transfer of Dennis Law from Torino to Manchester United in 1962. The file in T 231/1366 contains a letter from a disgruntled fan. He threatens to change his vote unless the government relax the tax on transfer fees.

Letter on the transfer of Denis Law from Torino to Manchester United, 1962

Transfer of Denis Law from Torino to Manchester United, 1962 (catalogue ref: T 231/1366)

Another notable transfer was Jimmy Greaves on his move to Tottenham Hotspur from Milan in 1961 (see T 231/1365).

The dissolved company records may also be a mine of information for the football historian. The records include many clubs such as Manchester Central Football Club in 1948 (BT 31/32959/231870), Manchester Rugby Football Club (BT 31/40648/166529) and Stoke Football Company Ltd (BT 31/6191/43869). Search BT 31 for ‘football club’ and one document is for Accrington Stanley (BT 31/18192/94656).

Fighting fans, the ‘Peril of the Pools’ and ticket touts

We also hold documents on English fans abroad, (see FCO 47/685). In 1974, Manchester United were to play a friendly in Belgium. A large group of fans travelled by ferry and, on realising that the Belgian drinking laws were slightly more relaxed than England, they headed for a bar. Six were charged with causing damage to cars and windows following a fight. This published letter (below) claims the Belgians should release them immediately and apologise for arresting them. A note at the bottom presumes a reply straightaway to this supposed MP?

Extract of a letter regarding the detainment of football fans in Belgium (catalogue ref: FCO 47/685)

The National Archives holds records from a number of sources on football matters. How about a little flutter? In 1936 the ‘Peril of the Pools’ was raised in a Cabinet meeting (CAB 24/261/20). In 1978, a report was written on the possible beneficaries from the proceeds of gambling (BS 3/163), although a further search identifies these as Scottish clubs.

The Customs Office’s suggestion when it came to ticket touts at Arsenal Football Club was to tax them:

Suggestion to tax the ticket touts

Suggestion to tax the ticket touts (catalogue ref: CUST 49/3791)

My team

For those historians of our great game: which football club has changed grounds the most? A clue is found here in RAIL 252/1508.

Lease of Park Royal Land for Queens Park Rangers FC

Lease of Park Royal Land for Queens Park Rangers FC (catalogue ref: RAIL 252/1508)

Answer: Queens Park Rangers, with 16 different grounds since their formation in 1882.

Here are my team in their their pride in 1906.

Queen's Park Rangers football team, Park Royal 8th Sept 1906

Photograph of Queen's Park Rangers football team, Park Royal 8th Sept 1906 (catalogue ref: COPY 1/501/383)

And finally…

How better to finish than to remember England’s greatest ever footballing achievement?

Permission for use of Royal Arms by Football Association

Permission for use of Royal Arms by Football Association (catalogue ref: HO 290/37)


  1. David Matthew says:

    Thanks. The issue over Jimmy Greaves was that he was transferred from Chelsea to A.C. Milan for £99,999 and then to Tottenham at a cost of £110,000 and the cost to the Exchequer and an individual suggested whether the costs should be recouped, there was a file on John Charles (see the inside of the file cover) but that has not survived.

    Have I missed something but is it not the F.A.Cup rather than the caption describing it as the ‘English Cup’. There are quite a few teams that went into liquidation including Charlton Athletic that have files at TNA and include the pay of the footballers in the days before players’ wages were changed and I understand that the current Accrington Stanley is different from the one that folded in the 1960s. The other set of files that TNA has are the Ibrox Park disaster when 66 fans died when the barriers collapsed and the resultant Safety at Sports Grounds Act.

  2. Keith Mitchell says:

    David, thank you as ever. Unfortunately, as you are aware, we cannot change an original document, and it does state English Cup, not FA Cup, although it is most likely to be the Football Association Challenge Cup.
    The original Accrington Stanley Football Club, formed in 1891, was dissolved in 1966, and in 1968 the club was revived. They regained their League status in 2006.
    There are plenty of dissolved companies files relating to football clubs in BT 31, as I mentioned just restrict a search to football and BT 31.
    There are plenty of other files relating to football in the Archives, I only chose a selection to illustrate the types of documents we hold.

  3. Mark Chapman says:

    It was common to refer to The FA Cup as the English Cup in those times. The practise died out shortly after the First World War.

Leave a comment

Visit this page for family history and other research enquiries. Please do not post personal information. All comments are pre-moderated. See our moderation policy for more details.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *