Arthur Gibbs

Arthur Gibbs contributed to football in three countries, Australia, New Zealand the United Kingdom. If any one individual can be singled out as a prime mover in the development of Association football in Melbourne and Victoria in the 1880s it is Arthur Gibbs.

Gibbs was born in 1860 in Penkridge, Staffordshire and educated at Malvern College, Worcestershire. Before migrating to Victoria, he was a member and player of Birmingham’s Calthorpe FC and played against West Bromwich Albion in the latter’s first season of FA Cup competition. Arriving in Melbourne in November 1883 he was appointed secretary of the Anglo-Australian FA in Melbourne 1884-1887, urging New South Wales and Queensland to join Victoria in establishing a joint colonial team to tour England. He captained Victoria in inter-colonial matches against NSW in 1884, 1885 and 1886. He was a member of the Prahran club and also refereed games, including the George and George Cup final in 1884. Gibbs played and scored for a combined Prahran/South Melbourne team against NSW in 1887.

Arthur E Gibbs
A stately Arthur Gibbs, the first mover and shaker in Victorian football.

Gibbs moved to New Zealand in late 1887 where he immediately helped the game to flourish in Dunedin and in Wellington from 1890. Over time he served as treasurer, secretary, vice-president and president of the Wellington FA, helping to guarantee the tour by a NSW team in 1904. The tour was so successful his guarantee was not required and the following year New Zealand toured NSW. Upon leaving New Zealand for the UK in 1906 he was made a life vice-president of the Wellington FA.

Gibbs had circularised 600 clubs in the UK seeking their interest in matches against Australian and New Zealand teams. Though aware of the difficulties involved, he had visited England in 1901 to try to arrange for a tour by a representative team to Australasia.

Appointed general manager of the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society’s London office in 1906, Gibbs became the Australian representative on the Football Association Council from 1912 until 1928, paying the country’s membership out of his own pocket. At that time, Australia’s membership of FIFA was indirectly through its membership of the Football Association. When the Commonwealth Football Association was founded in December 1911 his tireless efforts on behalf of the game were commended, but it was not till 1925 that the first tour by an English professional side occurred.

He was inducted posthumously as a member of the Hall of Honour of Football Australia's Hall of Fame in 1999.