FA Cup preview: looking back to 1966-67 season: Peterborough United were left to lick their wounds after their humbling FA Cup experience at the hands of Sunderland.
They limped along to the end of a poor season which culminated in a 15th place finish, but worse, much worse, was to follow in the summer.
The Football Association announced that they were to investigate claims of illegal payments being offered and made to Posh players, ahead of the FA Cup tie in Sunderland.
There was genuine shock from inside the club and from the fan base, not least because if bonuses were offered, they had little effect given the final scoreline.
In those days playing contracts signed at the start of a season could not be altered. The problems surfaced when the club’s annual accounts were submitted to the football authorities, minus vouchers which covered payments made to players from the 1965-66 season.
Further investigations uncovered minuted records of those illegal win bonus offers the following season.
The charges laid at the club’s door were:
1) That Peterborough, having failed to produce vouchers for season 1965-66, had contravened rule 44 (d)
2) That vouchers in respect of certain players omitted details of amounts received as required by FA rule 25 (a)
3) That extra bonuses were offered to players. in contravention of League Regulation 41, to beat Sunderland in the fourth round of the FA Cup in season 1966-67 which was recorded in the minutes at a board meeting.
4) That signing-on bonuses were paid to players, in contravention of League Rule 42, from funds made available by their supporters club which was recorded in the statement of accounts of the company for the year ended May 31, 1996.
THERE was little doubt that Posh were guilty, but they hoped to receive a financial punishment only. Incredibly the affair rumbled on into the 1967-68 season and it wasn’t until November 1967 that the FA and the Football League met to make a final decision.
The case made front pages headlines in The Evening Telegraph for days leading up to the case. Confidence was high that Posh would be fined as Sunderland and Manchester United had been for similar offences, but fears lurked in the background that Posh could suffer the same fate as Leeds City who had been expelled from the Football League in 1920 for their dodgy accounting practices.
Finally, on Friday, November 19 the FA verdict was announced. It wasn’t good news.
Posh received an instant fine of £500 in respect of the two breaches involving a lack of vouchers. In addition the disciplinary hearing concluded that there had been gross negligence in the management of the club and that the members of the board, the manager and the secretaries who held office during seasons 1965-66 and 1966-67 would be severely censured.
The Posh secretary at the time of the hearing was the legendary Arnold Blades, but he inherited a mess made by others.
Most worryingly the FA recommended that the Football League imposed the ‘severest sanctions possible’ for the breaches of rules involving bonus payments.
The gravest sanction would be expulsion from the Football League.
THE Football League met to discuss the case five days later and demotion to the Fourth Division at the end of the season was the verdict.
It seemed a compromise decision and one that Posh could not appeal against. Posh were eighth in the Third Division at the time, but were now effectively faced with 27 ‘friendlies’ rather than Football League fixtures.
Posh fans rallied in a time of crisis and the biggest crowd of the season witnessed a 3-1 win over Walsall four days after demotion was confirmed.
Norman Rigby was promoted from caretaker-manager to permanent boss and vowed to bring the club straight back up the following season.
As Posh still finished the campaign in ninth place it seemed far from an ideal boast, but it was to be seven long years until the arrival of Noel Cantwell as manager before the club did grab back the place they claimed had been stolen.
What they said at the time:
Peterborough United Supporters Club chairman Tom Sharp: “We intend to question the right of the Football League to act in this way.
“In the meantime the shareholders will demand the resignation of the men who brought Peterborough into this deplorable position.”
Peterborough MP Sir Harmer Nicholls: “Posh must make every effort to clear their name by showing the rest of the country that there is a lot of good at the club and that Peterborough will in no way become a ghost town for the sport.”
Posh manager Norman Rigby: “The Second Division will remain my aim as long as I’m in charge.
“My team will show the necessary fght and determination and if they don’t I will break up the team and fnd the men who will fght for me.”
Long-serving Posh player Ron Cooper: “As long as the club want me I will play in any division for them.
“I have never played in the Fourth Division, but I’m sure we will be out of it within a season.”
Peterborough City Council leader Walter Setchfeld: “This is a sentence not just on the football club, but on the city.”