What To Wear To A College Homecoming Football Game Football Clubs’ Religious Roots

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Football Clubs’ Religious Roots

In some ways, football has become akin to religion.

Every weekend for nine months, large groups of people make the pilgrimage to stadiums across the country to support their team. They often wear replica shirts or team colors to identify themselves.

However, like religion, rivalries caused conflict, often resulting in violence between the two sides. Of course, hooligans aren’t really thinking about religion when they beat up rival fans, but they still go around thinking they’re being followed by the real faith.

With the amount of money involved now, it is often forgotten that several of the big clubs in the UK were actually formed by church groups. And, ironically, curbing violence was one of their goals when they were set up.

Even today there are many plans to get young people off the streets and into sports, but religion doesn’t play as big a role in society as it once did.

Back in the 19th century the church was more influential and in a few cases, clubs founded by parishes developed into multi-million pound companies.

Bhois brother Walfrid

North of the border there is one such club that still has links to religion: Celtic.

Irish Catholic communities founded several clubs, the first of which was the Hibernian of Edinburgh

(their name is Latin for Ireland).

However, unlike the others, the ties between the Bhoys and their roots remain strong to this day.

They were first thought of on 6 November 1887 by Marist Brother Walfrid (aka Andrew Cairns) in the hall of St Mary’s Church, Calton, Glasgow.

The club was founded with the intention of alleviating poverty in the eastern part of the city. The name Celtic was immediately adopted and reflects the club’s Scottish and Irish roots. Incredibly, the club’s first official match was played against Rangers on 6 November 1888 in what is probably the only ‘friendly’ between the two teams.

The Bhoys became the first to claim bragging rights as they won 5-2, with several players in the starting XI on loan from Hibernian.

Brother Walfrid himself wanted the club to remain amateur and had only charitable intentions for the club. However, he did not get his wish, as local builder John Glass was to sign eight Hibs players without the committee’s knowledge in August 1888, offering them huge financial incentives.

With the club now professional, they soon established themselves as one of the best teams in Scotland, winning their first trophy (the Scottish Cup) in 1892, with their first league title coming the following year. Since then, together with Rangers (formed by rowers) they have dominated Scottish football for over a century.

The second team to play at Anfield

Today, Everton play their home games at Goodison Park.

But it is often forgotten that they used to play on the other side of Stanley Park, where their mortal rivals Liverpool now call home.

In fact, the Toffees can claim to be indirectly responsible for the formation of their neighbour.

Everton became the first of Liverpool’s major clubs to be founded in 1878.

Minister of the Methodist Church of St. Domingo, Rev. BS Chambers, started a football club to give members of the church cricket team something to do during the winter.

The club was originally called St Domingo FC but this was changed to Everton in November the following year after men from outside the parish wanted to come and join.

Everton became one of the 12 founding members of the Football League in 1888 and until then the club was renting Anfield, owned by John Eagle with his friend John Holding as tenant.

In the end, Houlding was to buy the ground from the Eagles and quickly raise the rent, which Everton refused to do.

So they left Anfield in 1892 and moved to the other side of Stanley Park and their current home of Goodison Park, resulting in Houlding forming Liverpool.

But the religious ties with Everton do not end here, because Goodison Park is the only Premier League stadium with a church in its complex – St. Luke the Evangelist.

The church is located between the three-tiered main tribune and Gvladys Street, and its walls are located a few meters from these two tribunes.

He even has a role on match days, as he sells refreshments.

Blue faith

While their more famous neighbors were formed by employees of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, the team from the blue half of Manchester was thought of by the rector’s daughter.

Two years after Manchester United was formed, Anna Connell, whose

Father Arthur was rector of St Mark’s Church in Gorton, in the north-west of the city, he sought to provide activities for men who had nothing to do in winter.

Like Everton, the cricket club already existed and more activity was needed to tackle the levels of violence and alcoholism in the local area.

Ironic, given that these are the things now associated with football fandom.

Fierce feuds often took place between different religious and racial groups, and the problems were exacerbated by the high level of unemployment in the area.

With the help of two churchwardens, William Bistow and Thomas Goodbicher, Connell founded West Gorton (St. Mark’s) – the club that eventually became Manchester City.

The club’s first game was against Macclesfield Baptist Church on 13 November 1880.

The initiative was so successful that it led to the Archdeacon of Manchester commenting to Connell: “No man could have done it – it required a woman’s tact and skill to do it so successfully.”

Eventually, the club was to move away from its roots.

It dropped St Mark’s from its name and became Gorton AFC in 1884, and three years later moved across town to Ardwick and turned professional.

It adopted the name of its new home before finally becoming Manchester City in 1894.

Pit of uncertainty

Not only the most famous clubs are indebted to the Church, and in this case the man of the cloth even got involved in the action himself.

It has long been debated as to when Swindon Town was formed, with the club changing sides between the 1879 and 1881 foundation dates.

For a long time the later date was considered official as on 12 November that year Swindon, under their previous guise of Spartan Club, joined St Mark’s Young Mens after a match between the two teams.

But last year, significant evidence led the Robbins to accept 1879 as the correct date.

It is now accepted that the Reverend William Pitt, curate of Christ Church in the city centre, formed the club in an attempt to unite the communities of workers on the Great Western Railway and those there before the GVR arrived.

There are two main lines of evidence suggesting that this was the case.

One of these is a local report, discovered by former club statistician Paul Plowman, of a match between Swindon and Rovers on 29 November 1879.

The report included a team photo with Pete himself.

Pete severed his links with the club in 1881, when he was appointed rector of Lidington Church.

However, he provided another proof during a speech in 1911 during which he

said the name was changed to the Spartan Club because members felt the original name was too much of a mouthful.

He also mentioned that his removal from Swindon led to his departure.

Two years after his departure, Spartan Club became Swindon Town.

The clue is in the name

When Southampton moved from Dela to St Mary’s Stadium in 2001, it was a bit of a homecoming.

The club returned to the part of the city where it was originally founded in 1885.

The name of the stadium is a welcome change from the current trend of selling off naming rights, as it referred to a nearby church.

The club was founded by members of St Mary’s Church of England Youth Association, meaning its first name was quite telling – leading to the local press referring to them as St Mary’s IMA.

St. Marie’s played at various venues around Southampton, one of the first being Southampton Common.

Or at least they tried to play there – Saints’ games were often interrupted by pedestrians wandering the pitch!

The club changed its name to Southampton St Mary’s by the time it became a limited company in 1897 and severed its connection with the church.

In 1898, Saints, now called Southampton FC, moved across town to Dell before returning 103 years later.

More fabric clubs

There are many other football clubs that have their roots in the church – some more successful than others.

This season’s FA Cup semi-finalists Barnsley were originally a club trying to give football a foothold in an area dominated by rugby.

The Tykes were founded in 1887 by the Reverend Tiverton Preedy of St Peters, whose church gave the club its name as Barnsley St Peters.

He wanted to create ‘a football club that rugby players won’t break.’

The club moved to Oakwell soon after, but by 1897 Priddy had left the area and their fan base now included those outside the local parish, leading to a name change to Barnsley FC.

Aston Villa also had to contend with other sports when they were created.

They were formed by the members of Villa Wesleyan Cross Chapel in 1874 who are like a few

of the other clubs mentioned were cricketers looking for something else to do during the winter.

It took them a year to find opponents in an area where rugby was more popular, and they were in fact a rugby team.

In March 1875 they faced Aston Brooks St Mary’s in which the first half was to be played according to the rules of rugby and the second half football.

Villa won this encounter, keeping the first half goalless and scoring an own goal after half-time.

Tottenham Hotspur’s Jewish connections are well known, but they were actually founded by a Bible class.

‘Football Club Hotspur’ was founded in 1882 thanks to a group of high school students in All Hallow’s Church.

These boys then appointed their teacher, John Ripser, as the club’s first president – a position he held until 1894.

Ripscher died in poverty in 1907 and was buried in an unmarked grave in Dover – until Tottenham presented him with a proper headstone a century later.

The Church of England Church in Star Road, West Kensington can be attributed to the formation of Fulham in 1879.

The Cottagers were originally a Sunday School team and began their existence, like Southampton, with a long-standing name – Fulham St Andrews Sunday School.

The church still stands and a plaque in front of it recognizes its place in the club’s history.

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