1911 AFPU Sport Day
Charlie Roberts & the Playes' Union


In April 1907 the death of Tommy Blackstock whilst playing for United Reserves provided the impetus for the formation of the Association of Football Players Union (forerunner to the PFA). Charlie Roberts, who had acted as a pall bearer at Blackstoc's funeral, was instrumental in the Union's creation and remained an active participant during his playing career.

The Union soon found themselves in conflict with the footballing authorities and the threat of strike action led to many Union members being suspended by the League at the start of the 1909/10 season. Charlie Roberts, and almost all of the United first team, trained at the Manchester Athletics Club and were nicknamed 'The Outcasts FC'.

By the end of the First World War memebership in the Players Union had fallen dramatically. In response to the League's declaration that clubs could not be expected to honour pre-war contracts, a rival Union, the Professional Football Players' and Trainers' Union, was formed. The two Unions merged largely due to the efforts of Roberts and won an immediate concession from the League; the maximum wage was doubled to £2 per week.

Roberts was the Union Chairman between 1919 and 1922.

We have discovered a photograph of Roberts, wearing the kit featured on the right, standing alongside Oldham's Jimmy Fay. We had originally thought the kit had been worn in a benefit game played at St James' Park between United and Newcastle in April 1908. However in his history of the PFA 'For The Good Of The Game' (Breedon Books, 1991), John Harding identifies the photograph as having been taken at a Union Sports Day in 1911.