The primary cause of the rivalry between the two arose out of their decision to move from Woolwich to Highbury in 1913. Their club had been formed in 1886 in Woolwich and we had first played them in 1887, leading 2-1 when the game was abandoned by the referee because of poor light. We did not play Arsenal competitively before season 1909-10 following our promotion to Division 1. They had joined the Football League in 1893 whilst we remained members of the Southern League from 1896 until 1908.
Their financial position became so dire that Sir Henry Norris, their chairman, decided to move the club to London. They purchased land from the Church Commissioners and built their present ground on it. Tottenham and Clapton Orient made loud protests to both the FA and Football League to no avail.
During the First World War, Arsenal and Tottenham shared Highbury as White Hart Lane had been commandeered by the Government. At the end of hostilities, the Football League announced an extension from 20 to 22 clubs in each Division. They declared Derby County and Preston North End promoted as the top two clubs in Division 2 at the end of the 1914-15 season.
They then announced that a match between Liverpool and Manchester United had been fixed in order to help both clubs avoid relegation. Both clubs were fined, I believe, and a number of players suspended. The Football League then announced that as Chelsea had been affected by the result of that match, Chelsea were declared re-elected to Division 1 without having to face an election.
The remaining place was then thrown open for election. Tottenham’s representatives made furious protests when the Football League then announced their preferred candidate for promotion was Arsenal, ahead of Barnsley, Wolves and Birmingham City, who were all thought to have a better case. Tottenham only received 8 votes, Arsenal receiving 18 and were thus declared elected to Division 1.
Exactly how Sir Henry Norris nobbled the Football League Management Committee has never been revealed but it is suspected that some of them were bribed in some way. Certainly in later life Sir Henry Norris was caught out in some unsavoury business and disappeared from public life.
Unsurprisingly for many years between the wars, there was a long history of trouble when the two clubs met. It was only when the two clubs shared White Hart Lane during the war that things were patched up.
By Brian Judson.