Fast food and football rivalry

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By | Digital Developments, From the Collections

Arsenal vs Spurs soccer match

Arsenal against rivals Tottenham Hotspurs in the North London derby, in November 2010. Image credit: Ronnie Macdonald.

On Sunday 16 March, not too far from the Wellcome Library’s location in North London, rival football clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal face each other in what local fans know as “the North London Derby”.

What links this to the Library? Well, London’s Pulse, our online resource of digitised medical officer of health reports,  gives an interesting food hygiene perspective to the clubs, back in 1971.

In their respective histories, 1971 was a memorable year for both clubs. Arsenal completed their first League and FA Cup double, beating Spurs at White Heat Lane in the final game of the season to win the League and then going on to clinch the double by beating Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup final.

This was especially irritating for Spurs fans, as they had been the last football club to win the domestic ‘double’ in 1961, and very much enjoyed their bragging rights. The year wasn’t all misery for Spurs however, they won the Football League Cup, beating Aston Villa 2-0 in the final.

The 1971 Medical Officer Health report for Haringey, states that “..itinerant hawkers of hot dogs, hamburgers etc, in the vicinity of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club on match days continues to receive the attention of the department.” According to the report, summonses were issued against 7 offenders, with fines of between £7 and £169 imposed. See the full account in the report below:

Before any Arsenal fans get too smug, it’s worth looking at the report  from the Medical Officer of Health for Islington Borough for the same year. It seems Arsenal had a similar problem:

“Following complaints from members of the public and in conjunction with the police, inspections were made of the hotdog stalls trading in the vicinity of Arsenal Stadium. The itinerant traders need constant attention and the difficulties of inspection are considerable. However, this concerted action improved the general standard of hygiene although further inspection will be required at intervals”. Here’s the full account in the report:

Nor was this the only brush with food hygiene problems for the two clubs. In the ‘lasagne-gate’ incident of 2006, Spurs played its other London rivals West Ham United on the final day of the season.

Whilst staying in a hotel the night before this important match a number of players developed suspected food poisoning. Spurs lost the game, and their hated rivals Arsenal took the coveted – and extremely lucrative fourth spot in the Premier League, after coming from 2-1 down, to beat Wigan Athletic 4-2.

Tottenham appealed to the Premier League, asking for the game to be replayed, but their appeal was rejected. They then threatened to sue the hotel chain as well as the Premier League, but after tests by the Health Protection Agency, the players were identified as having the norovirus and the hotel was absolved of any responsibility.

As these Medical Officer of Health reports from 1971 show, concerns over food hygiene issues linked Spurs and Arsenal well before the days of ‘lasagne-gate’.

Author: Ed Bishop is a Library Assistant at the Wellcome Library.

Ross Macfarlane

Ross Macfarlane is the Research Engagement Officer at the Wellcome Library.

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