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Arthur MacPherson : MacPherson’s tireless efforts to promote Russian sport earned him a unique Imperial honour, and the enmity of the Communists.
Arthur MacPherson

With grateful acknowledgments to Vladimir Putin honours the Scot who helped bring football to Russia (Daily Record).

Arthur Davidovitch MacPherson was born in St Petersburg in 1870. He played a key part in establishing both Association football and tennis in his native land, helping Tsar Nicholas II to send a clear signal that Imperial Russia was becoming a modern and liberal society – the last thing the Communists wanted to see.

ARTHUR MacPherson’s grandfather, Murdoch, had moved from Perth to St Petersburg in the 1830s. But where Murdoch’s business was shipyards, Arthur was an investor, timber merchant, and sports promoter.

Arthur was chairman of St Petersburg’s pioneering football league from 1903 to 1905.* In 1912, he was elected founding President of the All-Russian Football Union, and served on the Empire’s Olympic Committee; by 1913 Russia’s tennis championship (which he had established in 1907) was an international event. The following year, Tsar Nicholas II conferred on him the Order of St Stanislaus. No Imperial honour had been given for sport before.

After the revolution of 1917 such favour drew suspicion, and two years later Arthur died in a typhoid-riddled Communist jail.* How proud Arthur would have been, though, of his sons, Robert and Arthur. Both served with Imperial Russia’s ally Britain in the Great War (Robert was killed in action in 1916),* and Arthur went on to play competitive tennis at the US Open and Wimbledon.*

* The league ran from 1901 to 1917. See our post The Aspden Cup.

* Arthur had received no medical attention, and his body was discovered in a pile of forty corpses.

* Among the other casualties of the sinking of the HMS Hampshire on June 5th, 1916, was Lord Kitchener, who was on the way to Russia to strengthen co-operation between Britain and the Tsar. See Truth behind the sinking of HMS Hampshire revealed (Scotsman).

* See our post on Arthur’s extraordinary football and tennis contemporary, Max Woosnam.

With grateful acknowledgments to Vladimir Putin honours the Scot who helped bring football to Russia (Daily Record).

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Picture: Via Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. View original
Russian Emperor Tsar Nicholas II (r. 1894-1917), with his thirteen-year-old daughter Tatiana to his left, and two members of his Imperial household, posing for the camera in 1910 after a game of tennis. MacPherson took Russian tennis from the groundbreaking St Petersburg city championships in 1903, which he organised, to the international tour within just ten years, and after the Great War his son Arthur junior combined working for the British secret service with competing at the US Open and at Wimbledon.

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