Grievances of Players
Proposed Amateur Combination
Considerable talk was occasioned in Dundee yesterday by the decision come to by the Executive of the Dundee Football Club to wind up its affairs. The football public have during the season been keenly alive to the non-success of the club, but it was hardly expected the Directors would not continue the club till the end of the season. Not only were the devotees of football in the city taken aback by the information, but several of the players, more especially Leckie, Davidson and Lyon, who were recent importations to the club, have been practically thrown on their own resources by the hurried intimation they received of the result of the meeting, notice to attend which they only received that day.
In 1898, Dundee FC found itself on the verge of financial meltdown and much of what was reported at the time sounds eerily familiar. The above article from the Courier on Saturday 10th December 1898 goes on to say the named players stated that for the remainder of the season they would have difficulty in finding new employment and would happily leave the city should they receive the £3 to £4 they are each owed. These players seem to be the exception, however, as Keillor and the others all had employment and were only paid 5s per week “retainer” by the club. Keillor himself was asked to join Rangers. The article finishes by saying there is a keen interest in establishing an amateur team in the city – “a team such as existed at one time in Dundee, vix., Our Boys...no doubt the lovers of the game in Dundee, as well as some of the best amateur players, would at once come forward and help to keep alive what was at one time the principal game in the city”.
A few days later on the 13th the paper reported on a meeting of the SFL:
The League’s Sympathy
A special meeting of the Scottish Football League was held last night in Glasgow to consider the position of Dundee. Mr J. H. McLaughlan presided, and there was a full attendance. For some unaccountable reason the Dundee Club failed to send a representative. The opinion of the representatives was that Dundee was too valuable a centre for football to allow its club to fall out. The club representatives present all promised full assistance, especially those involved in Dundee’s debt. It was ultimately agreed to wire the League’s sympathy with the Dundee Directors, and to ask them to send representatives to an adjourned meeting in Glasgow on Wednesday evening first. Meantime Dundee was instructed not to part with its players.
Yesterday two of the Dundee Club players secured situations, both Leckie and McDonald having agreed to transfer their services to Derby County. The suggestion to hold a meeting next week of all those interested in the game in Dundee has been well received, several prominent football enthusiasts doing all they can to have a representative gathering.
The following day’s edition reported that the Dundee directors met and decided to send a deputation to Glasgow to see what assistance would be obtained. Thursday’s paper reported that two directors and “two local gentlemen, who have come forward with an offer of assistance to the Dundee Club” met with the Scottish League in private. Offer of help to the end of the season was arranged- “It is understood the League clubs will liberally aid the Dundee”. Dundee were due to play at Ibrox that Saturday and Rangers offered to pay the expenses and wages of the Dundee men if they fulfilled the fixture. However, the directors themselves stated that sending a retinue of players to Ibrox was out of the question given the Directors’ decision to wind up the club. Furthermore the Directors stated they had not been approached with a view to send a squad to Glasgow and permission to use the name of the Dundee Club. They add that they are fighting to keep the club alive by handing the whole concern over to interested parties for a “certain sum of money”. A meeting with interested parties was to be held that day.
The “Dundee Football Fiasco” moved the former captain of Dundee Strathmore FC, who was then living in Edinburgh, to write a letter to the editor of what he called the “valuable and enterprising Courier”. “Many thousands like myself are vexed at the present crisis of the Dundee, and sympathy, I am sure, is next to world-wide. As one of the first Association players in Juteopolis, I only wish the public should see and realise the present predicament, and if not remedied first-class football will be conspicuous by its absence in Bonnie Dundee.”
Back to the Rangers game and the Courier on Sat 17th December indicated there was no movement on finding a buyer for the club or the formation of a new team. A shareholder meeting was to be held to determine whether to go into liquidation. There were many in the city prepared to travel to Ibrox as part of a new team made up of mainly amateurs. The Courier itself queries if this is in breach of League rules as the current Directors would have to give permission for players to take the field. As it was though “there was good reason for doubting the fixture being fulfilled.”
An ominous headline followed on 19th December- “Company to be Wound Up”. The Chairman is quoted at the shareholders meeting- “That it has been proved to the satisfaction of the meeting that the Company cannot, by reason of its liabilities, continue its business, and that it is advisable to wind up the same, and accordingly that the Company be wound up voluntarily, and that John Mess, chartered accountant, Dundee, be, and he is hereby, appointed liquidator for the purposes of such winding up”.
The Chairman was seconded by Mr Wm. Ruxton. “He remarked that their action might be the means of keeping the League in Dundee. If the Directors of the Company had not had to take over the old debts about two years ago- which he understood were contracted in 1895- the position that day would have been different (Applause). It was hard lines that the present Directors had been saddled with such an incubus.”
The Courier article continues by giving a resolution to the Ibrox affair by saying- “the team’s appearance at Ibrox on Saturday was gratifying not only to footballers in the North, but also to the enthusiasts in the West.” We also learn of the “curious situation” that the players ran a risk of playing at Ibrox as they weren’t registered seeing as DFC were liquidated and they were now representing the “new club”. However, the Scottish League and Scottish Football Association kindly decided to look upon the new club as the same entity as the previous one “simply under different management”. This was dependant on the actions of the liquidator however- “Should he decide that the club must cease to exist, then naturally all connection with the Association is at an end…If he thinks the club should be reconstructed, and if gentlemen are found willing to do so…then matters are all right. Meantime the situation is very curious, and should afford plenty of talk for the meeting which is to be held in the Gilfillan Hall tomorrow night of those who wish to assist in the reorganisation of the club.” Curious indeed.
The steps to get the “new club” organised were reported on the 22nd and the Harbour Board were approached with a view to securing Carolina Port until after the end of the season. “so far as can be learned the gentlemen approached have expressed themselves in thorough sympathy with the movement to keep alive football.” The rest of that season’s fixtures were also guaranteed. Perhaps most interestingly, Leckie and McDonald, who left for Derby County were reported as being interested in a return as the Committee sought to assemble a strong a team as possible.
Dundee fans were given a Christmas present in the form of the headline from the Courier on Boxing Day 1898- it simply said “Dundee Reviving”. It is a far departure from the horror headlines of the previous days and the article itself described how Dundee went about a hard fought draw and a much needed point. Here’s hoping that Dundee fans of 112 years later can wake up one December Day to a similarly headlined sports article in the local paper.