A Cultural History of Association Football in Scotland, 1865-1902


Lampeter: Edwin Mellen, 2013 (purchase here)

Rangers and Celtic Football Clubs, together known as the ‘Old Firm’, have received the lion’s share of attention given to Scottish association football in both scholarly and popular literature.  During Scottish football’s formative years, however, the ascendancy of the Old Firm was far from set in stone.  The exhaustive study of these two extraordinary organisations, therefore, greatly distorts our understanding of Scottish football’s Victorian origins.  Both clubs were part of a far greater scene which included not only fellow ‘senior’, well-established clubs, but also any number of ‘junior’, ‘juvenile’ and non-classified football clubs, as well as fledgling associations which oversaw the regulation of the young game.  This study will examine the birth and growth of football in the west of Scotland, during a period stretching from the mid-1860s to the Ibrox disaster of April 1902.

Clubs were formed at any number of locations, from schools and churches, to factories and coal pits, as well as the many spaces in between.  Clubs’ respective connections in their own communities not only dictated how and why the game was played, but also determined the local support and patronage that each club received from local establishment figures.  Victorian football organisations were as much social clubs as they were organisations dedicated to the playing and winning of the sport, and the sociability and conviviality of clubs determined their place in a complex social hierarchy, often leading to hedonistic excess.  What pulled football away from this social scene, however, was its undisputed status as a gate money bonanza, one which saw not only the formation of a partisan supporter culture, but also the creation of a niche press dedicated to the ins and outs of the nascent game, both of which continued to fuel participation in the young sport.  When the game itself became the main attraction, and when victory became more important than camaraderie, professionalism was not far behind.  Play-for-pay irrevocably changed the relationship between players, supporters, the press and football clubs’ local communities.  This study will examine the interrelationships between the players, the supporters, sport clubs’ patrons and the press, as well as the local and national connotations present in the building and advancement of the newly-popular association game.


Roy Hay, International Journal of the History of Sport 30 (17) (2013): 2115-2134 (very positive)

Graham Curry, Soccer and Society 15 (4) (2014): 618-628 (mostly positive)

Bill Murray, Sporting Traditions 30 (1) (2013): 78-80 (mostly positive)

Alexander Jackson, Sport in History 34 (1) (2014): 163-165 (very positive)

Torbjörn Andersson, Idrottsforum (6 February 2014) (in Swedish) (very positive)

Trevor Griffiths, Journal of Scottish Historical Studies 34 (2) (2014): 253-254 (so-so)

Andy Mitchell, Northern Scotland 7 (1) (2016): 119-121 (mostly positive)




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