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Community Politics in Liverpool and the Governance of Professional Football in the Late 19th Century

By David Kennedy & Michael Collins :  24/09/2008 :  Comments (25) :

As we count down to the 205th Merseyside Derby on Saturday this article focuses on the events that created the celebrated fixture: the split of Everton FC in 1892. 

The split was a defining moment in the history of British football. Our knowledge of this event has been advanced by a handful of studies which have helped to establish an orthodox view of the dynamics that lay behind it. Essentially, the split has been portrayed as the bitter culmination of the faltering financial relationship between the Everton FC membership and their president and landlord, John Houlding.

Using a wealth of sources, this article [PDF] puts forward and supports an argument that the tussle for the club was as much a political struggle as one over matters of finance ? that Everton Football Club, an important social institution in the north end of Liverpool, was a treasured prize for political rivals operating within the club.

David Kennedy

Read the full article in PDF format [163KB]

Extract © Cambridge University Press 2006; used by kind permission of the authors

Reader Comments

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1   Posted 25/09/2008 at 07:43:25

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Tom, "Proddies" as you call us are responsible not just for EFC but also for the set up of LFC as we both had the same owner and backer. What is clear from this article is EFC and LFC have no connection at all to local Churches which is good news because I get fed up when either side try and state we are ?green or Blue? if you get my slant when its very clear we are neither. If you know History is often taken the wrong way and I have many arguments with my mate who is Irish Catholic and I emailed him this article yesterday and he read it and was glad it was in most cases neutral of the religious slant as we can now move on and disagree on other matters such as DK and the price of beer in Orry?s on match days! What is clear from the article to me is these useless Liberals spoil everything with their insistence of making us all be do-gooders, today we all seek a rich benefactor in the 1890?s we had one and forced him out to build a bigger club than ours! We chose to move to the Liberal political group who advocated no alcohol!!! Maybe they knew how bad Chang beer would taste warm?.? COYB
Tom Hughes
2   Posted 25/09/2008 at 09:38:04

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Note to Editor,

I think David is referring to:

WMCA: Working mens conservative association which I believe was the political arm of the Liverpool protestant association. To put it in context it might sound amazing now but at the time Liverpool also had Irish Nationalist politicians and by far the biggest Irish population in Britain.... but basically it goes to show that LFC grew out of the Liverpool branch of the "Klan"...... ;)
Paul Niklas
3   Posted 25/09/2008 at 10:27:56

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This article will clearly improve our current performance.

If you ( yer) know your history? and all that.

We have to stop living in the past, it is or has no relevance to today and has no value other than some form of comfort blanket to a minority of the support.

It does not make any one want to play for us, it does not make anyone play any better for us and it clearly does not attract any financial investment.

Why not open a museum in Liverpol for all of this and watch the crowds turn up , I dont think so, the only museum related to Everton if things carry on as they are will be Goodison Park .

This is not at all a negative post but some of us are more interested in tomorrow than why we gave a piece of field to Liverpool 100 years ago and the bitterness that the decision seems to have created ever since.

Why oh Why do we have suffer this bullshit, we are the second club in Liverpool on every front, history has dictated that and created that, it will only be what we do from now on both on and off the field that will dictate whether the future is any different, I am afraid Dixie, Alex Young the Holy trinity some old memorabelia and remembering the heady days of the eighties means nothing.
Neil Adderley
4   Posted 23/09/2008 at 23:52:04

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I’d like to thank the authors (and TW for giving this article a wider audience) for an enthralling read. It certainly allows for another strand of ’If you know your history’ to be grasped.

I suppose the piece also rings with a certain resonance given the ’schisms’ Everton Football Club is faced with currently.

On a personal note, not only as an Evertonian but also as someone born and bred in the district of Everton, the details of the political and social landscape and their particular effect on Everton Football Club makes for fascinating reading.

Excellent work.
George Smith
5   Posted 24/09/2008 at 00:42:08

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An excellent piece.

A piece that highlights once again our history and role in the heart of North Liverpool. As a born and bred Fazakerley resident and an Evertonian with a deep interest in our history I dearly hope that when we move to Kirkby (I’m one of the lucky so and so’s who will live just as near to our new ground as Goodison!) that the club acknowledges our great history in the museum to be built there.

A great piece of work and well done to its authors.
David Kennedy
6   Posted 24/09/2008 at 09:59:34

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Thanks Neil and George. Two big reasons I wanted to place the article online was to touch on the importance of locality and our identity and the issue of club governance. I think the piece underlines - as if any were needed(!) - how integral to the north end landscape the club has been (and continues to be!), and how struggle to assert different agendas in relation to the running of the club is hardly an early 21st century phenomenon!
Tom Hughes
7   Posted 24/09/2008 at 12:31:55

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A great piece of research, and as quite rightly pointed out analogous in many ways, if not directly comparable to much of our current situation in terms of the politics of the boardroom and ownership. The issues may be completely different, but the human dynamics and personal motives have parallels...... On a slightly sectarian note it is slightly gratifying to note that we have the "proddies" to thank for LFC’s existance, and it took a couple of lads called Kennedy and "Michael Collins" to reveal all! ;) Faith of our fathers indeed?! Well done!
David Kennedy
8   Posted 24/09/2008 at 13:34:58

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Tom - something outside the scope of that article, but post-split period (at least to WW1 when I stopped studying the issue) sees a striking difference in the social composition of those in ownership and control of the two clubs. Members of the WMCA take a very tight grip of LFC....but that?s another story!


[Ed's Note: WMCA? or YMCA... or YWCA???]
Tom Hughes
9   Posted 24/09/2008 at 14:47:39

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Sounds like another interesting read. I have been researching the exploits of a few of my ancestors from that period 1880’s-1920’s..... all blues, and footy remained important to them throughout their lives, the last one, my grandad living long enough to see us win the league in 1970. With the political backdrop you describe and their backgrounds there has been some fascinating stuff, and some of your references to the politics of the era added to my perceptions of their lives. One day I’ll write a book about them!!! haha. Keep up the good work
Andy Willox
10   Posted 24/09/2008 at 15:08:36

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A thoroughly well researched piece riddled with an intrigue I hadn?t expected. As someone (else) from St Domingo Road in the district, I found it fascinating in the sense it gave me of my old man growing up in the area in the early part of the 20th century and how the community was developing. It seems to me from that piece that Everton was a ?city? on it?s own.

Many thanks for all the work.
Greg Murphy
11   Posted 24/09/2008 at 14:06:20

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David, Michael (and indeed ToffeeWeb, which has again shown ? despite its critics? what an invaluable Evertonian resource it really is) sincere thanks for an immense piece. Great, great reading.

Utterly ironic to read of George Mahon?s vision of governance so soon after the current Everton board has reconfigured the rules regarding the calling of future EGMs. Even more ironic to read the whole piece knowing that currently EFC and LFC are both sponsored by (foreign) brewing companies.

David, Michael, one question: from reading the essay it wouldn?t seem that the League Championship win of 1891 ? and all the associated kudos ? had any effect, either directly or indirectly, in bringing matters to the fore (especially the fairly transparent spoiling motives of Mr Orrell). But I would be astounded if that first title of ours didn?t have any catalystic effect in bringing the simmering politics to the fore. Any views on this? For I?ve long been of the dark opinion that winning that title in 1891 might paradoxically have been one of the worst things the club has ever done!

Michael Reid
12   Posted 24/09/2008 at 16:26:53

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Many thanks David I really enjoyed reading your paper. For me it provides a masterful account of the political and social schisms leading to the incorporation of Everton FC and Liverpool FC in 1892. The paper reveals in intricate detail that football is not just a game, not simply a business, but is rather integral to local and national politics, ranging across social class and Nationalist divisions. It highlights the enduring nature of football as an expression of class identity, unity and division.

Moreover, the insight that ?locality can never be seen as a self-contained entity, but rather as being linked to regional and national developments?, really does comes home to roost in this paper and it should not be lost on Everton?s current predicaments either! An excellent thought-provoking paper offering huge insights into the past and the present and the ways in which football continues to be buttressed by moral crusades and corporate power!

David Kennedy
13   Posted 24/09/2008 at 16:17:15

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Greg - events did seem to accelerate in the wake of that championship season. Maybe the added notoriety it gave the club made sure the minutiae of its internal politics became headline news in the very influential and partisan local press and this struggle was then seized on by those with political motives outside the club as well as inside it thereby inflaming the situation?

The split certainly had a long-burning fuse, though. The committee held annual meetings which were reported in the Liverpool Review from the late 1880’s. From those accounts you can see the embryonic form of the factions that eventually rally around leading members of the club to fight it out for control.

Looking at the flow of events, I think something had to give sometime. A two club city always looked on the cards given the schisms in the club.
Greg Murphy
14   Posted 24/09/2008 at 16:56:15

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Cheers, David,

Yeah that’s pretty much how I’ve suspected things were. Of course, when I say it was probably one of the "worst" things the club has ever done, I should really have said one of the most "ill-timed".

But as you say, it looked like a two club city was always gonna happen anyway.

I’ve always said that if I was ever given a one-chance-only shot at travelling back in time it would be back to 1892 and the Anfield area. If only they knew...
Gerry Morrison
15   Posted 25/09/2008 at 16:12:29

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Thanks for a great read. We need more stuff like this on the site.
David Kennedy
16   Posted 25/09/2008 at 17:19:16

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Allan Willo -

Great line on the Chang Beer!
But Houlding didn?t build a bigger club than ours... the good old Moores family eventually did that!

Tom - the WMCA: you?re nearer than you think with that ?Klan? sideswipe. They continued into the 1930s in Liverpool. When local Tory socialite, Barbara Whitingham-Jones, attended one of their meetings in 1936 she described how by this stage they?d adopted the Nazi salute. Not a very nice bunch of lads!!

Paul Niklas - would that it could improve our current performance. ;-)
Tom Hughes
17   Posted 25/09/2008 at 17:49:47

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Let?s say I had more than an inclin....... Funnily I have been all over the coastal southern states of the US, and have met my fair share of WASPS and hillbillies while sailing on a ship with a few Ulstermen with more than a few historic connections. I also went to school in Everton so remember the shenanigans there too.
Paul Niklas
18   Posted 25/09/2008 at 18:12:40

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David, did I miss something, not sure if you did not get my sarcastic first comment or I have written something you dont understand at all.


David Kennedy
19   Posted 25/09/2008 at 18:36:49

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Paul -

You can understand and appreciate where you come from AND still live in the present and want success. Or am I still mising your point?

Michael Reid
20   Posted 25/09/2008 at 18:59:17

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Paul you wrote :-

"it will only be what we do from now on both on and off the field that will dictate whether the future is any different..."

so I guess you do believe history is important after all - nice one!
Paul Niklas
21   Posted 25/09/2008 at 22:32:42

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David, I do understand and appreciate it, I just don't want to relive it or have forced upom me all the time, I have no interest in it at all, it's like the saying "today's news, tomorrow's fish and chip paper."

At least the paper has some use.
Mark Billing
22   Posted 27/09/2008 at 00:32:29

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No one forced you to read the article; it was clearly of ’historic’ reference. If you weren’t interested, why did you read it - it wasn’t forced upon you - you chose to continue reading it! Personally, I found it a ’right riveting read’ and very salient given the present circumstances of the club. Despite your denial , it WAS a very negative initial post. Tell you what, let’s disregard the 1966 cup final - it’s only history after all; or the 1985 season? Or the 1995 cup final? Wipe the slate clean - history starts!
Joseph Moore
23   Posted 27/09/2008 at 18:02:08

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Another article that leads me to believe that the supporters of both clubs that want Kenwright out and Gillet/Hicks out, should join together and form a new club.

Good article though.
Colin Padstowe
24   Posted 27/09/2008 at 22:07:51

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The dispute was primarily to do with ownership. Who owned most of the club. Those with more shares have more say. One man with most will get his own way. Politics and alcohol were very much minor issued. Religion was not an issue at all.

The Everton Committee wanted a more democratic institution with ownership more spread out and decision making more democratic.

LFC were instantly created with ownership concentrated with a few people who had most power.

The Everton model was proven to be superior as the club instantly had a superior ground and constantly improved the ground to the best in the country, while Liverpool’s remain archaic and outdated until 1962 when the Kemlyn Road stand was built. The few owners in LFC creamed off it appears.

Colin Padstowe
25   Posted 28/04/2009 at 12:22:36

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I re-read this article and there is inconsistencies. It states John Houlding bought the land Anfield was on in 1885. Everton paid rent to him. Then it goes on about how Houlding gave EFC a loan to buy the land, contradicting the earlier claim.

Or did I miss something?

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