Tottenham On This Day – Spurs Faced The Wrath Of The Authorities


A cheap pair of boots for Ernie Payne [Photo: Logan Holmes]1st November, 1893

On this day, 1st November, 1893 Tottenham heard the judgement and received the punishment handed out by the authorities in what became known as the Ernie Payne Affair. For those of you who know your Spurs history you’ll know that as a consequence of this Tottenham would soon turn professional.

The Ernie Payne Affair

Even in the earliest days Spurs found themselves facing the wrath and judgement of the football authorities. At this time they were still an amateur club but had been reported by Fulham for poaching a player and for alleged infringements of the amateur laws.

Ernie Payne set Spurs on the road to professionalism. [Photo: Logan Holmes]Ernie Payne is regarded as the catalyst which brought Spurs into the world of professional football to which Stanley Briggs, the club captain at the time was so opposed. Briggs was one of the best known amateur footballers in London at that time and helped to establish Spurs as a top amateur club.

In 1893, eleven years after their formation Spurs drew 0-0 in a 1st Round London Senior Cup tie against Old St Marks. For that game, a new name, ‘Burton’, appeared on the team sheet, to play on the left wing for Spurs. This was in fact, Ernie Payne who was on Fulham’s books but being unable to get into their team, he had accepted an invitation to play for Spurs. When he arrived at Tottenham, however, he had no kit. Spurs provided him with shirt, shorts and socks but were unable to find boots to fit him. They gave him a loan of ten shillings (50p) to buy a pair of boots on the understanding that they would belong to Spurs.

When Fulham heard about this they accused Spurs of ‘poaching’ their player and ‘professionalism’. Spurs were immediately called before the London Football Association to answer the charges.

London Football Association

The Commission of the London FA reported on their findings on this day 120 years ago. The charge of poaching was dismissed because while Payne was on the Fulham books he had not played for some time.

Having given Payne ten shillings to buy a pair of boots when his went missing, Spurs were found guilty of a breach of the rules as it was regarded as an unfair inducement to the player to play for the club. The charge of inducing a player and professionalism was upheld.

The penalty imposed on Spurs was harsh – their ground at Northumberland Park was closed for two weeks, Spurs were suspended for a similar period and Ernie Payne was suspended for a week even though he had repaid the money to Spurs.

An appeal was lodged but it was unsuccessful, the London F.A. being strongly opposed to anything suggesting of professionalism, a view that was holding back the development of football in London. The matter became known as the ‘Ernie Payne Boots Affair’ and while Payne continued to play for Spurs, he is best remembered for the longer term consequence of the matter in that Spurs within a short period of time decided to turn professional.

Briggs was so opposed to Tottenham turning professional in December, 1895, that he did not play as often for the club and and preferring to retain his amateur status, went to play for other amateur clubs in London.