English clubs · English league · Football history · Sociology & community

Local Rivalries

  • Manchester United v Manchester City
  • Arsenal v Tottenham
  • Liverpool v Everton

Often borne of or fuelled by historical events:

  • Manchester City:

“…. The club went on to claim its first major honour on April 23, 1904, beating Bolton Wanderers 1-0 at Crystal Palace to win … the FA Cup, and narrowly missing out on a League and Cup double by finishing runners-up in the League. In the seasons following the FA Cup triumph, the club was dogged by allegations of financial irregularities, culminating in the suspension of seventeen players in 1906, including captain Billy Meredith. To the chagrin of City fans, most of the players who were suspended went to local rivals Manchester United, forming the basis of United’s first successful side.”


Ernest Mangnall managed to sign star defender Herbert Burgess, Alec “Sandy” Turnbull, and Jimmy Bannister after a scandal hit Manchester City and forced them to sell off most of their team. It paid off, and Manchester United won their first League Championship in 1908.

  • Arsenal:

“The club controversially rejoined the First Division in 1919,despite only finishing sixth in 1914–15, the last season of competitive football before the First World War had intervened — although an error in the calculation of goal average meant Arsenal had actually finished fifth, an error which was corrected by the Football League in 1975. The First Division was being expanded from 20 teams to 22, and the two new entrants were elected at an AGM of the Football League. One of the extra places was given to Chelsea, who had finished 19th in the First Division and thus had been already relegated. The other spot could have gone to 20th-placed Tottenham Hotspur (also relegated), or to Barnsley or Wolves, who had finished third and fourth in the Second Division respectively.

Instead, the League decided instead to promote fifth-placed Arsenal, for reasons of history over merit; Norris argued that Arsenal be promoted for their “long service to league football”, having been the first League club from the South. The League board agreed; they voted eighteen votes to eight to promote Arsenal ahead of their local rivals Tottenham Hotspur, which has fuelled the long-standing enmity between the two clubs. It has been alleged that this was due to backroom deals or even outright bribery by Sir Henry Norris, colluding with his friend John McKenna, chairman of Liverpool and the Football League, who recommended Arsenal’s promotion to the AGM.”

  • Liverpool:

“In 1891 John Houlding, the leaseholder of Anfield stadium, purchased the ground outright and proposed increasing the rent from £100 to £250 per year. Everton F.C., who had played at Anfield for seven years, refused to meet his demands and moved to Goodison Park. Liverpool F.C. were founded by Houlding on 15 March 1892 to play in his vacated Anfield. The original name was to be Everton F.C. and Athletic Grounds, Ltd., or Everton Athletic for short, but was changed to Liverpool F.C. when The Football Association refused to recognise the team as Everton.”

In each case, the club that might have had reason to feel hard done by has been less successful.

(Article first published on BBC 606 and posted on Tony Kempster’s Non-League Forum)


5 thoughts on “Local Rivalries

  1. As an aside, if the origin of the sporting term “derby” is attributable to the Royal Shrovetide football match played in Ashbourne, Derbyshire since the 12th century, then the term should strictly be confined to cross-city rivalries, but it has been extended to include intra-regional rivalries.

    A comparison of the population base of the clubs concerned does I suppose give some sense of the level of intensity of regional rivalries.

    (First posted on Tony Kempster’s Non-League Forum)

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