1947 was a mammoth year for football in Sydney.
It began with a tram strike which, if continued into the season, would have created havoc with fans and players getting to games.
The weather was not kind with several weekends suffering terrible downpours throughout the year, starting with a very damaging hail storm in January.
The league participated in eight interstate matches. Five of these were in Sydney, one in Queensland and another in Broken Hill. Then the NSW side travelled to Hobart where they played in the All States Carnival, competing in a further four games, under very wet and boggy conditions.
The most damning feature of the season, which for the most part went unreported, was the issue of charging admission at games on a Sunday.
Australian football was the first sport to play on a Sunday. This first occurred in 1943, when, mainly because of the lack of grounds where an admission fee could be applied, one of their three Saturday matches was shifted to the Sunday, played mostly at Trumper Park. Rugby League soon followed but Rugby Union, forever the traditionalists, never deviated from their conventional Saturday fixtures.
In May, the Sunday Sun newspaper, ran a series of articles on sports which charged a gate of a Sunday – copy attached. This convened a little known section of the Police Offences Act of 1901 which was almost never applied.
There is no doubt the church lobby would have had a great influence on this Sunday sport issue.
For many years, these Sunday games were the biggest revenue stream for the league, the proceeds of which it very much relied upon and to see the possibility of this being suddenly removed sent shock waves through the administration. In those days, the league conducted the gate at each game. It took the proceeds, paid the gatemen but also paid the rental on all grounds used in the competition.
The league secretary, Ken Ferguson, wrote to the Chief Secretary’s Department seeking clarification on its ability to apply a charge. Click here to see their answer, said charging admission to Sunday sport would most likely be seen as contravening the Act and the League would have to accept full responsibility for their actions. In fact the Department forwarded the league a list of conditions which would have to apply should they continue with Sunday games. We have also attached a copy of these conditions for your edification – click to read.
The police from the Paddington station attended some games in this period to observe the nature of admission. By this stage the league had resorted to requesting patrons to donate the 1/11 (one and eleven pence or 19¢) admission fee. The local licensing sergeant stated that this still amounted to a definite breach of the law.
Other sporting bodies had taken to providing free admission but charged an appropriate increased amount for their match programme (Football Record). The league pondered this position but questioned if it would make them subject to paying further taxation. All sporting bodies were subject to paying tax on the amount received for admission charges in those days.
Eventually, following legal advice, the league advised the Chief Secretary’s Department that no charge would be made to any of their games they staged of a Sunday.
This prompted a letter to the League’s legal advisor – click to read.
A further inspection of the situation by the police, the president and secretary of the League found themselves in front of Inspector Magney of Paddington Police.
In no uncertain terms he stated that in his opinion, the league was violating the law in calling for a donation of a certain amount for admission, although underneath the donation sign it was advertised that a free gate existed at Hart Street, which we believe was a street at the eastern end of the ground, on the hill and adjacent to a rubbish tip. At the time this was a very difficult location to get to. Inspector Magney said this practice would have to cease or otherwise the league would face the consequences.
As a result the league altered their admission system by increasing the price of a programme from 3d (three pence or three cents) to 1/6 (one and six pence or fifteen cents), plus the erection of a sign at the Glenmore Road gate stating: ADMISSION BY PROGRAMME, 1/6d., FREE GATE AT HART STREET”
We can’t see how this change fitted the requirements of the law, given that, according to the documents and what we have written above, we believe the league was previously almost doing the same thing as the police inspector intimated. Even so, the price of Football Records increased and nothing further was heard of the matter.
The Free Gate though, lasted at Trumper Park until well into the 1970s and became somewhat of a joke to those who knew it existed.