Action Replay: Colin Veitch – Pioneer Football Trade Unionist

In July Bobby Moore was honoured with an English Heritage blue plaque, but he is not the first footballer to be recognised in this way. In 2013, Heaton History Group ran a successful campaign to have Colin Veitch awarded a Newcastle City Council black plaque on his house.

Colin Veitch was born in Heaton in Newcastle in 1881. He captained Newcastle Schools in 1895. At Rutherford College, where he studied after leaving school, he played for their football team, then regarded as one of the finest amateur sides in the North East, attracting the attention of Newcastle United for whom he played as an amateur before turning professional in 1899. 

He was a versatile and talented football player who captained Newcastle United during their Edwardian heyday when the team won three Football League Championships (1905, 1907 and1909), the FA Cup in 1910 and finalists five times between 1905 -1912. A one-time schoolteacher, he introduced the idea of using a blackboard to illustrate and develop tactics diagrams in pre-match planning and post match analyses.

He was an activist in the Association Football Players Union (AFPU) set up in 1907. In November 1908 Thompson’s Weekly News announced that several leaders of AFPU including Colin Veitch would write regular articles for the paper, providing a forum for the union’s views. The AFPU began negotiations with the Football Association but in April 1909 these ended without agreement. The union threatened a strike and in June the FA ordered all players to leave the AFPU, and warned that if they did not by 1 July, their registrations as professionals would be cancelled.

Veitch resigned from the AFPU in order to carry on negotiations with the FA and led the struggle to have players reinstated. In August 1909, the FA agreed that professional players could be members of the AFPU and the dispute ended. Veitch was later the chairman of the AFPU, now the Professional Footballers Association, for a number of years. In politics he was a leftwinger and had once been asked to stand as a Labour candidate but turned this down.

He died in 1938 after contracting pneumonia while recuperating on holiday in Bern in Switzerland at the age of only 57. He is still remembered in Newcastle as one of their greatest players.


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