Leeds United Part 2: The Beginning

Part two of a four-part series exploring the history of Leeds United, as told through books and other materials held at the Central Library. You can find all of the parts in our dedicated Sport page and all the books mentioned here can be accessed by contacting us on 0113 37 86982 or via localandfamilyhistory@leeds.gov.uk

Part 1 can be found here: the first 100 years

Leeds City F.C was the first major Leeds-based football team. Created in 1904 and playing at Elland Road, Leeds City had relative success in the Second Division over the next decade, before falling into financial difficulties during World War One after many key staff left the club to assist the war effort.

Early in the 1919-1920 season, Charlie Copeland, a fullback embroiled in a bitter pay dispute with the club, brought allegations to the Football Association that Leeds City had made illegal payments to players during the War, breaching a ruling that professional players were to be paid as amateurs during the conflict. On October 13 1919, a Commission announced the penalty for violating these financial regulations, as well as a failure to produce valuable evidence: expulsion from the Football League. Leeds City fans, unaware of the serious trouble the club was in, were shell-shocked by the announcement. City’s final game was on October 4 1919, away at Wolverhampton, with Leeds winning 4-2 following a Billy McLeod hat-trick.

Expulsion from the League meant the club’s players would be auctioned to the highest bidders. The auction was held at the Metropole Hotel in Leeds on 17 October 1919. Thirty clubs turned up at the event to bid for the Leeds City players; sold for a total of £10,150, with star player Billy McLeod moving to Notts County for £1,250.

Hours after the humiliating auction, over one-thousand supporters met at Salem Hall to discuss how to save the club. Alf Masser, a former Vice- Chairman of Leeds City, was the driving force behind the new football club. The following day a meeting at Masser’s house in Roundhay decided the seven man committee to run the new club: Leeds United. United placed advertisements in local newspapers asking for local players to join the team.

Leeds United subsequently accepted an invitation to join the Midland League, effectively taking the place of Leeds City Reserves. Yorkshire Amateurs had been renting Elland Road after Leeds City’s expulsion, but ended their tenancy to allow Leeds United to play there. The new club’s first friendly fixture was against Yorkshire Amateurs at Elland Road on 15 November 1919, with the first competitive match following a week later: an entertaining goalless draw against Barnsley Reserves on the 22 November 1919.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Patricia Pack says:

    My grandfather played for Leeds FC in it’s early days He had played for Leeds steelworks His name was Walter Butler

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