There has been much talk about the new changes to the offside rule. Here MARK GODFREY discovers how, in the mid-1920s, another recent amendment to the laws of the game sparked an incident that would cause quite a stir.
What began as a £2 wager between a local sports reporter and an international winger soon turned into a full blown uproar that eventually led to a rule change that exists to this day.
Liverpool Echo sports editor Ernest Edwards spotted a potential issue in the rewriting of Law 10. The new Law 11 stated that ‘a goal may be scored from a corner kick or from a free kick’. Edwards’ let his mischievous side get the better of him; he approached the Everton winger Sam Chedgzoy and asked him for his help to highlight the flaw in the new directive.
Previously, a goal could not be deemed as legal if the ball had not been touched by another player after the man who had taken the corner kick, and the laws were very clear about that until the change was made in June 1924. But the rewording, which tried to convey that a goal was now permissible if scored directly from a corner, was vague and left open to interpretation. Edwards and Chedgzoy chose the game with Arsenal at Goodison Park on November 15th 1924 to openly exploit the ambiguity.
Ever the journalist, Edwards was insistent that Chedgzoy put their plan into action in the first 20 minutes of the game so his report on the incident could make it on time to be sent by wire to the nationals.
The plan, in fact, was pretty straightforward. The Everton man was to take a corner, when the opportunity arose, and simply dribble the ball towards the Arsenal box and shoot for goal. According to the club’s chairman of the time William Cuff, who knew of the bet and the confusion over the new law, Chedgzoy did his utmost to win a corner early on, repeatedly ignoring his team mates and hogging the ball near the opposition byline. Eventually, he succeeded.
As instructed, he put the ball down for the corner and then headed directly for the Arsenal goal, much to the bewilderment of the Gunners players and those on the terraces. The referee and linesmen, obviously caught up in the confusion, initially allowed Chedgzoy to advance unchecked as he attempted to give Everton the lead. But once their heads cleared, they admonished the cunning winger who responded by quoting the new law back to them, pointing out that what he was doing was perfectly legitimate. Contrary to some accounts of events, the subsequent shot did not result in a goal; it hit the side-netting. Everton went on to lose the game 3-2, with Arsenal’s winner, ironically, coming from a traditionally worked corner.
To prevent a spate of copycat incidents, the FA called an emergency meeting to discuss the problem. The law was changed to ensure that the corner taker could only strike the ball once, meaning Chedgzoy’s (and Edwards’) well-intentioned stunt had achieved what they set out to do, to embarrass the governing body enough into taking swift action to close the loophole they had made in the first place.
This incident made Chedgzoy famous, although he was already renowned in his day as one of the leading wingers in English football having spent 16 years with Everton, winning one Championship medal and eight England caps in the process. Just two years later, aged 37, he emigrated to the United States to see out his playing days into his early forties. From there he moved to Canada, successfully managing in Montreal where he died in 1967, aged 77.