Now to tackle the Wigan Clubs' role regarding 'Professionalism'. Or I shall attempt to to the best of my endeavours.
Where to start eh? For the sport of Rugby League, 1895 was the most important event in the history of the game. Without it, we would still be eating swan and pronouncing our 'h' in words. Joking of course. I shall give some links at the end regarding professionalism in general within the rugby football game but the focus here is the role and events that Wigan played with it all.
I guess we can start the story back in March 1893. Jack Wallwork was a young wingman who made his debut for Wigan back in 1891 against Dickie Lockwoods' Heckmondwicke. Wallwork had to wait for his regular starting spot until the Great Jim Slevin retired and a spot in the three-quarter line became open. From the 1891-92 season until March 1893, Wallwork was a Wigan regular but became untrustworthy when it came to turning up for away games. The Wigan Club became unhappy with him and after a no-show for a home game against Broughton the Club and player parted ways. There is nothing unusual in this, it was common for players to up and go back then. So all was well.
Jack Wallwork then moved on to the Leigh Club. At the beginning of September 1894, the Leigh Football Club were charged with Professionalism with Wallwork being one of the players caught up in payments (along with Tom Coop, the England International fullback, Wilding, Ewan, Anderton and another old-Wigan man McMasters). Wallwork had been given money to help settle in Leigh and set up lodgings. The hearing carried on but basically Leigh were suspended from all rugby games.
It was an open secret I suppose that players were being paid in paper envelopes, or in Wallwork's case, help to find somewhere to stay primarily. The cat was out of the bag. Leigh had offered Wallwork money/aid whereas Wigan could not. He had a better offer. Other clubs were starting to fall under scrutiny and the Salford club in particular were having a hard time of it. Which brings us to Wigan. Salford had wanted to bring clubs down with them and set their sights upon the Wigan Rugby Football Club and their dealings over the summer of 1894 with their three-quarter back Miles.
The following is taken from the Friday, November 16th, 1894 edition of The Wigan Observer and District Advertiser (to give it's full name). It is as it was printed as it is the best way to tell what happened at the hearing. Another version is found in History of Wigan R.F.C. 1872-1946, J. W. Robinson and F.C. Dove (1946) of roughly the same text.
ALLEGED PROFESSIONALISM BY THE WIGAN FOOTBALL CLUB
COUNTY COMMITTEE INQUIRY.
On Tuesday evening, the County Committee governing Rugby Football in Lancashire, met at the Grand Hotel, Manchester, to consider the first of a series of charges brought by Salford against various clubs on the ground of professionalism. Mr. F. Glover presided, and the other members of the committee present were essrs, Jas. MacLaren, J. Saville (Oldham), G. Poysen (Broughton Rangers), J. Robertson (Broughton), J. E. Warren (Warrington), E. Healey (Rochdale Hornets), S. E. Wilson (Liverpool), J. H. Payne (hon. treasurer), and A. M. Crook (hon. secretary.) Mr. J. W. Clegg conducted the case on behalf of Wigan, being assisted by Mr. J. Knowles, President of the Club, and Mr. T. Aspinall. Salford were represented by Mr. Higson and Mr. Whiteley. A considerable number of Wiganers were in the hotel whilst the proceedings were taking place, and anxiously awaited the result.
The CHAIRMAN said that the charges made by Mr. Higson on behalf of the Salford Club, were that in July last Mr. E. Wardle, secretary to the Wigan Football Club, wrote to Mr. Miles, saying that he heard he was out of a situation, and asking him if it was correct. Miles said it was so. They had a meeting in Wigan, and it was arranged that Miles should have 30s. per week, and receive it weekly from July to the beginning of the football season. There was also a charge against Mr. E. H. Flowers.
Mr HIGSON said that in the first place although he had been accused of having vindictive motives, that was the furthest though in his head, and considering the trouble and the whole of the labour of getting together the evidence one could hardly accuse him of having personal motives. There was nothing personal against the Wigan club so far as he was concerned, nor was there anything vindictive. But as long as that matter had come to the front and they had got so far into it, he wanted to say that the time had come when they must either have one thing or the other. Either they must get rid of the veiled professional - the bastard amateur - and be fair and above board, or they must declare for professionalism and do the thing in an open manner. He did not wish to say anything of the comments which had appeared in the papers either for or against him, because he did not think they were worth taking notice of in a case of this kind. He had already explained the difficulties, and now he wished to say something of a matter that had been mentioned in the press, and that was a meeting of representatives of certain clubs in the first division. He wished to make a statement as to what occurred. At that meeting he put forward that in all probability they would be suspended, and he told them straightforwardly, "You are all as guilty as we are. Now what are you going to do? Are you prepared to say that you will have professionalism, or go on in the old sweet way of taking players from one club to another and offering them money?".
Mr CLEGG objected to this on the ground that it was a mere report of a meeting, and was not pertinent to the case then before them.
The CHAIRMAN held that as Mr. Higson had been attacked and defended in the press, it was only fair that he should be allowed an explanation.
Mr CLEGG: But we have not seen that in the press.
The CHAIRMAN: I must conduct this business as I think best, but I hope Mr. Higson will make it as short as possible.
Mr. HIGSON repeated that he had not come there with any vindictive purpose, and said he would go on with the evidence.
Mr. CLEGG said he would like to raise a technical objection under the rules of professionalism. The laws of the union required that in a charge of professionalism that the person concerned should be a member of the club affected. Miles might have been in negotiation for a place in the Wigan team, still his transfer was never applied for, and he was never a member of the Wigan Club.
The CHAIRMAN said that a note would be taken of the objection, but it seemed to him that if the committee thought there was anything approaching veiled or open professionalism they were bound to investigate it. There was no doubt in that there was a prima facie case made out, and he thought they ought to go on with the inquiry.
~ THE ACCUSATION ~
Mr. HIGSON said that in July last Mr. E. Wardle wrote to Miles saying that he had heard that Miles was not going to play with the Salford club and was out of a situation, and he asked him to write and let him know if that was the case.
Mr. CLEGG took it that Mr. Higson was going to produce letters.
Mr. HIGSON said he could not produce them because he had not got them.
The CHAIRMAN: We want to get at the root of the matter
Mr. CLEGG: In a proper way.
The CHAIRMAN: If. Mr. Higson is prepared to prove what he says, then it will have some weight. If not, of course we shall take it as a mere statement, and we shall take it is worthy of credence or not.
Mr. HIGSON: I will not state anything which I believe to be incorrect or untruthful.
Mr. PAYNE understand that Mr. Higson was simply giving an outline of the case which he proposed to prove.
Mr. HIGSON, continuing, said that Miles replied to Mr. Wardle's letter that that was so. The latter then asked Miles to go over and meet him. That he did with a second person, and a few days afterwards Miles went again to Wigan and appeared before the Finance Committee of the club. They agreed to give him 30s. per week, which sum was sent every week from July to the beginning of the football season, when Miles decided to play for Salford.
The Chairman here read the letter sent from the Wigan secretary to Mr. Higson for consent to Miles' transfer.
Mr. HIGSON read his reply, in which he said that he would let the application lie over until the next committee meeting. He concluded by these words: "If rumour is true, I would advise you to be careful".
The CHAIRMAN read the reply of Mr. Wardle, which contained these words: "As far as rumours are concerned, my club has nothing to fear".
Mr. HIGSON said his reply to that was that as iles had intimated his intention to play with Salford this season there would be no need for the Wigan secretary to apply for his transfer. At this point he would like to ask whether the Wigan Club admitted they were guilty or not?
Mr. CLEGG: I want you to prove your case.
Mr. HIGSON: You want me to go on?
Mr. CLEGG: Certainly.
Mr. HIGSON: I want to explain the difficulties that have cropped up. Until Friday last I was not aware that Miles had any intention of not turing up here, but I have received this letter from him. (pic)
Mr. KNOWLES asked if Mr. Higson had read the letter through?
The CHAIRMAN said he would read it through to the committee. It was the same as read by Mr. Higson, except that one of the sentences read, "I think if you considered me at all you would have brought the other club first and given Barrett and Rangeley a chance."
Mr. HIGSON said that on Oct. 12th, the day before the Swinton match, they had a committee meeting at which most of the members were present along with Miles, Barrett ad Smith. Having an idea that the worst might happen he naturally asked those men to give their statements before the committee that they had before given to him personally. He would prove the statement he had made by calling committee-men who would say that what he told them was what he (Mr. Higson) had told the County Committee that night.
Mr. CLEGG asked Mr. Higson what steps he had taken to get Miles there that night.
Mr. HIGSON said he had written this letter to him - "I need hardly tell you that the Wigan inquiry will take place on Tuesday next at the Grand Hotel. I trust you will be present to give evidence. I am told that you are doubtful whether to turn up or not. This would be suicidal on your part as no doubt the Wigan people will swear all sorts of things in your absence, and it is to your personal interest to be present."
Mr. CLEGG: That is not vindictive.
Mr. WALMESLEY, the first witness called, said he was present at the meeting at the duke if Edinburgh Hotel on October 12th. It was put to Miles whether he was prepared to give the Wigan club away. He said yes, that he had received 30s. a week during the summer, and that he had met Mr. Wardle and several other men in Wigan.
Mr. CLEGG: What do you mean by saying that he was asked to give the Wigan club away? - He was asked by the secretary?
Was it Mr. Higson who asked him? - Yes
In those words? - I could not say. I could not give you the words he used, but they were words to that effect.
You swear that he said 30s. a week, neither more nor less? - I do.
By Mr. HIGSON: He had met Miles on many occasions, and he had expressed himself in a confidential manner to him, and he would rather not say as to whether Miles had told him on any other occasion that he was getting 30s. a week. But it was commonly known in Salford and Wigan as well.
Mr. GREENHALGH, ground secretary to the club, said he was also present at the meeting in question, and he corroborated the last witness.
By Mr. HIGSON: Miles said he got the money in postal orders from Mr. Wardle.
By Mr. CLEGG: Mr. Higson asked Miles whether he had anything to say respecting his connection with the Wigan Club. It was a meeting to consider the subject of professionalism, and to consider the course of action they should take. Miles was a member of the committee. He could not say whether Mr. Higson said to Miles "Are you prepared to give Wigan away."
Mr. HIGSON said he distinctly denied that he asked Miles to give Wigan away. Mr Walmesley had misunderstood him.
Mr. ROWSE, a member of the committee, also gave corroborative evidence.
By Mr. PAYNE: The rumour that money wa being paid to Miles by Wigan was in everyone's mouth. About July it assumed definite shape. They got to know the specific sum on October 12th.
ROBERT HOARE COLLIER said he was not a member of the Salford Club, and had only seen them play once. About July last he was playing bowls with Miles at the Waggon and Horses, Patricroft, and he asked him if he would go to Wigan that afternoon. Miles first went to Pendleton where he drew some "divi" out of the Co-operative Stores. They went together, and he could not say whether they got off at Ince or Wigan. They had some refreshments and then went to meet Ellis Wardle. They met him and also another person, and then they went to head quarters. Miles was then taken away from witness, and he was left by himself. When he came back he told witness that they had offered him 30s. a week during the close season, and in the winter they were either to give him the money or its equivalent, which he understood to mean finding him a situation.
By the CHAIRMAN: Miles paid for his railway fare, tea, and everything.
By Mr. HIGSON: Witness and Miles were taken to the station, and i the train Miles said that he (Miles) must not forget to go on Thursday to Wigan to appear before the Financ Committee. Witness did not go with him on Thursday, but when he came home he said it was all right, and that he would play for Wigan next season. On the Saturday morning following he received a letter, and there was money inside it, but the amount he could not tell exactly.
By Mr. PAYNE: He knew the letter was from Wigan, because he saw "WIGAN FOOTBALL CLUB" at the top.
By Mr. KNOWLES: Miles showed him the letter.
By Mr. PAYNE: He believed there were postal orders in the letter. Miles owed him some money, and said, "This will straighten up when I get it changed."
Mr. WARREN: Who has asked you to come and give evidence? - Mr. Higson asked me.
What is your object in coming here to split on a "pal"? - I had no object.
Then why did you com? - Because I was asked.
Miles was a great friend of yours? - Your cannot call him a friend. He was not a bosom friend.
It seems to me that you were knocking about with him altogether, and allowing him to pay your expenses to Wigan? - You infer something wrong.
You might have some object? - I have no object. I do it for the honour of the game.
Nothing else? - No.
Witness was further asked whether he was friendly with Miles now. He said he was not as he had left that part, and he had not seen him since. Miles did not owe him any money.
This closed the Salford case.
~ THE DEFENCE ~
Mr. CLEGG asked whether it was necessary on the evidence called by Mr. Higson to produce any for the defence.
The CHAIRMAN: I think it is very necessary.
Mr. CLEGG, in defence, said it was perfectly true that Miles was written to and asked whether he had severed his connection with the Salford club, and if so would he join Wigan. He wrote back saying that was so and that if he could get a place in the Wigan team he would quickly take it. Miles came over to Wigan and saw Wardle, and the latter would say what took place. He (Mr. Clegg) thought it was perhaps true what Collier said about going to Wigan, because he believed that several of the players met together that night and two or three of the committee. Miles was then asked whether he would play for igan, and he replied that he would, but wanted to know whether there was any chance of his being found a situation. He was distinctly told that to promise him a situation would be against the laws o the game and that they could not make any such terms with him. If he liked to look out for himself he would be at perfect liberty to do so, and probably when he got known he would easily find a situation. The Wigan committee offered no inducement to Miles to leave the Salford club. As soon as they heard that Salford had an objection, and that Miles had decided to stay with them, they dropped the matter and made no further application for his transfer. The present case was not brought from any vindictiveness on the part of Mr. Higson. He was a sort of football Juds who went about betraying everyone.
The CHAIRMAN: Order, I cannot allow anything of that sort.
Mr. CLEGG said it was only after the Radcliffe case was brought up, and Salford found themselves in a hole that they decided to pull everyone down with them. If there was any truth in Mr. Higson's statement he would be willing to lie low, because they got Miles back, and it was all they wanted. But according to a witness he asked Miles straight whether he was prepared to give Wigan away. Did they think that proper conduct on the part of a club secretary who wished to get at the truth, and do nothing but justice? To him it showed that there was nothing in Mr. Higson's desire that justice should be done to everybody. He thought the best thing the County Committee could do was to dismiss the charge, as he was certain that there was no evidence proved against Wigan. He would also ask for their consideration of his technical objection.
Mr. WALMESLEY said he wished to make an explanation. He could not tie himself to the words used by Mr. Higson. He did not carry the exact words in his head.
Mr. PAYNE said he would like to call upon Salford to explain what the intercourse was between them and Miles in August; also what interviews took place between Miles and the Salford Committee at the time the application of Wigan was withdrawn.
Mr. WALMESLEY said that of course rumours were flying about Salford that Miles was running away to Wigan, and naturally, being a committee man and an old player of the club, he (Mr. Walmesley) felt very anxious on the point. He went to Patricroft to see Miles, and the latter made a similar statement to the one he made to the committee. He talked to Miles, and told him that if he went it would mean that they would get him into trouble. Of course, other conversation passed.
Mr. PAYNE: That is what I want to know.
Mr. WALMESLEY: I will not state it. You are not trying Salford, but Wigan. I will not say what we promised him unless I am forced. I do not say we promied him anything.
Mr. PAYNE: You cannot expect us to believe that if he was receiving 30s. a week from Wigan he would abandon all possible chance of getting his transfer, unless you had first said, "We suspect something is going on between you and Wigan, and we are going to do something better?" - He told me as a friend. I don't know whether it is a breach of confidence, but he told me this confidentially.
Mr. PAYNE: I don't care anything about confidence. Salford have got their gruel now. You did something? - Yes.
You went one better? - Perhaps equalled the sum. I could not guarantee him anything.
Mr. SAVILLE said it would be better if Mr. Walmesley would speak out. He must remember that that committee had full power to increase Salford's sentence. It would save a lot of time in future if he would speak out.
Mr. WALMESLEY: What do you mean to insinuate?
The CHAIRMAN: According to what you say Wiga were paying this man 30s. a week. You must have offered him something better there is no doubt? - I do not say I did.
Or as good as then? - I do not say so.
Mr. PAYNE: If you do not, we cannot believe your story as true. What did you offer him? - I have told you that I was not representing the Salford Club.
You put it to him that if you were prepared to give him a certain sum would he stay? - Yes.
Mr. WHITELEY, the treasurer of the football club, said that personally he was against Miles coming back to the club, and Miles knew his feeling on the matter. Miles told the committee that he was very sorry that he had had to leave Salford, but if they were willing to give him money to refund Wigan he would sooner play with Salford. It was decided that they should pay that money to Miles to refund it to Wigan. They did that in self-defence.
The CHAIRMAN: Did he refund it to Wigan? - I believe he did. I did not give him money out of the funds of the club, but I lent him money because he came to me and told me that he was in serious difficulties.
Mr. E. WARDLE, the Wigan secretary, was then called, and denied that they had paid any money to Miles.
By Mr. HIGSON: He had no private conversation with Miles whilst Collier was present. Miles said he would come to Wigan if they would give him a place in the team. He gave Miles 5s. in expenses. He did not promise to find him a situation. He denied sending any postal orders to Miles.
The Wigan secretary also produced his books for the inspection of the committee.
Mr. HIGSON asked if one of the Wigan backs did not work for Messrs. Munro and Sons, spirit merchants, Wigan? - Witness: No.
The CHAIRMAN (to Mr. Higson): Do I understand that you drop the charge against Flowers?
Mr. HIGSON: I should only ask him questions, Flowers is an old friend of mine, and I do not want to ask him anything that would be detrimental to his character, although I know more than I would like to say.
Mr. CLEGG: You ought not to use expressions like tat.
Mr. HIGSON intimated that in the absence of Roberts he did not wish to proceed in the case of Flowers.
Mr. JOHN ARMSTRONG, the Wigan treasurer, was called, and denied that he had ever sent money to Miles, nor had he any knowledge of money being sent.
Mr. KNOWLES: Did you ever pay anyone else money? - No.
Mr. S. SWIFT, the chairman of the Wigan Committee, said he was not aware of any inducements being held out to Miles to play for Wigan, and no money had ever been paid to him.
Mr. HIGSON: Miles cae to a meeting and asked if they could find him a place in the team, as he was not playing with Salford any more. It was not a finance meeting, but a meeting of players. Miles asked that they should alo find him a place of work, but they told him if it was a case of his having work for football they could not entertain the idea.
Mr. HIGSON made a few final remarks on the Wigan evidence, and said that concerning the remarks of Mr. Clegg - judas, and all those ridiculous things - he was afraid he was rather too thick-skinned to take any notice of them, and they were after all only the run of Mr. Clegg's remarks.
The CHAIRMAN: Order.
Mr. CLEGG said that he spoke to Mr. Whiteley on the day of the Salford match at Wigan, and Mr. Whiteley said that the reason Miles did not play was that he was afraid to come to Wigan. He replied that it was the first time he knew that Miles was not a favourite with the Wigan crowd, and he was sure if Miles had come he would have bee treated with every respect, as all other players were who came on the Wigan ground.
Mr. WHITELEY: It does not alter the fact that he refused to come.
Mr. CLEGG: Did he not refuse to come before? - Certainly not, because the Wigan Club did not approach him then.
In answer to the Chairman, Mr. SWIFT said he was certain that they had never received any money from Miles for the purposes which were alleged.
This concluded the defence.
~ THE VERDICT ~
The CHAIRMAN, after the committee had deliberated in private upon the evidence, announced their decision in the following terms:-
"The Committee declare Miles a professional;
(2) the committee are satisfied that Wigan paid Miles money as an inducement to transfer his services to Wigan, and are guilty of professionalism, and they are suspended till February 1st;
and (3) that Wigan be struck our of the Cup Competition under Rule 21."
~ REACTION ~
"CROSSBAR" ("Offsides" arch-rival) writing in the local paper the Friday immediately after proceedings. His words are just. It is immediately clear that based on the evidence given by Salford, that in the grander scheme of things, the idea of 'professionalism' was getting all too messy. He continued...
It wasn't surprised to anyone that after the hearing, J.W. Clegg tendered his resignation to the Lancashire County Committee, where he represented the Wigan club.
Reading through events leading up to November 1894, what with Leigh being banned a month earlier and Salford willing to take other down with them, it was clear that things were changing in the game. indeed, most clubs at this time had voted themselves to remain strictly amateur, Wigan included. But over the next couple of months things were changing.
Were Wigan guilty? Based on the evidence given, and as "Crossbar" states, one couldn't possibly ban Wigan based on the facts of the hearing. In reality... of course Wigan were guilty. Which rugby club wasn't guilty? Salford got the rough end of the stick as they seemed to be the club with many fingers in many professional pies and they weren't that well equipped to mask it all, so they sang like canaries. Of course Wigan were guilty. We were. One could ask why, in the summer of 1894, did Percy Jago travel north from South Wales to Wigan? not just to play rugby! He could have gone closer to home, to Cardiff or Neath or an hour more on the train to Gloucester. There was a reason this Welshman, and others, suddenly came North. It was money.
On Wednesday 21st November, 1894, a week after the Wigan inquiry, there was a meeting of Yorkshire and Lancashire representatives at the George Hotel, Huddersfield to consider the manifesto of the rugby Union with regard to professionalism. Al the big, leading clubs were there such as Brighouse Rangers, Warrington, Leeds, Batley, Hull. Wigan were represented by Ellis Wardle (Wigans secretary). It was unanimously resolved: - "That, in the opinion of this meeting, the resolutions passed by the Rugby Committee on November 1st, 1894, re professionalism, are not reasonable and just interpretation of the existing bye-laws of the Rugby Union, and cannot as such be accepted by us." It was also unanimously resolved: "That a requisition for a special general meeting of the Rugby Union be signed by the secretaries of the clubs here represented, and forwarded to the secretary of the Rugby Union, for the purpose of discussing the manifesto issued by the Union Committee re professionalism." It was understood that the gentleman present at that meeting will attend the special meeting in London, and subsequently will meet again in Huddersfield.
The following Friday (23rd), another meeting was held in Leeds to consider the recent manifesto of the Rugby Union Committee on professionalism. Only one member out of around 60 clubs representing Yorkshire and Lancashire dissented. They rest agreed that, whilst in favour of the principle of amateurism, they could not sign the circular owing to its illegal and unfair provisions.
The Wigan Inquiry came at a tipping point in the game. The tides were turning, and can be seen in another section here on professionalism (1895 and all that when I get round to it). Everyone knew players were being paid. Clubs tried to hide it. Now there were enough clubs who had a similar thought in that players had to start to be compensated for 'broken time' as it were. Miles would not be paid in full just to play rugby for Wigan. The issue was paying him a bit to get him by and to find him employment, which was against the rules of professionalism. If Wigan got Miles a job, and Miles was happy, would this have happened? No... but it would have done to any other club whose player was unhappy at the terms given to them.
Now, Wigan were suspended, thrown out of the Lancashire League competition (to which Wigan were doing perfectly fine until suspension) and had to wait all winter.
Of course, 1895 was a glorious year.