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

Clubs Re-Named, Re-Formed Or Merged, Or New Clubs?


In reply to:

There are a few cases in which it’s arguable whether or not one club is or is not the same club as another. For instance, you’ve taken the view that the Accrington Stanley which is now in League Two is the same club as the one which withdrew from the league in 1962; strictly legally that isn’t the case, but purely from an emotional / footballing point of view it could be argued either way. Similar arises with Stoke / Stoke City, and with Aldershot / Aldershot Town. I don’t think Leeds City can really be regarded as the same club as Leeds United.

Whether Milton Keynes Dons is the same club as Wimbledon is one of those subjects that must never be discussed in the pub, along with religion and politics, and I see that the way you’ve worded things nods to both positions. But if you consider for these purposes that it is, then South Shields and Gateshead are the same club. (It was a broadly comparable situation. In the summer of 1930, South Shields FC was broke and decided to relocate in the hope of drawing bigger crowds.)

Wasn’t the change from Stoke to Stoke City simply a change of name?

For the rest, the question for me is what does a football club represent – a sociological phenomenon or a legal entity?  My views on the examples given above are set out here.

Looking at the list of clubs that are no longer in the Football League, several of them were re-formed, some after several years, including:

  • Bradford Park Avenue, re-formed in 1988 after 14 years.
  • New Brighton, re-formed in 1993 after 7 years.
  • Durham City, re-formed in 1950 after 12 years (before discounting the 7-year interruption of World War II)

As I take a broader sociological approach, I tend to look at other factors, in particular:

  • The intention of those who form the new club.
  • The fan base.

For my website, I also consider whether there is a sufficient causal connection between the demise of the old club and the formation of the new club to treat the latter as a continuation of the former.

In each of the above examples, Wikipedia refers to the old club in the same article as the new club, which I assume represents the views of the fans.  The same is true of the other examples of re-formed clubs.

On the other hand, whether Burton Albion is the continuation of the older Burton clubs is stated much more equivocally on Wikipedia.   The confusion appears to be that there were three older Burton clubs, not just one, but it could easily have been resolved by looking at the three old clubs in the way it is expressed on Wikipedia – Burton Wanderers merged with Burton Swift to form Burton United.

The fan base argument might hold for looking at Burton Albion as a continuation of Burton United, but it doesn’t appear to have been the intention of those who formed Burton Albion.  The choice of a different name can be a significant factor in trying to discern “intention”.

There are many examples of mergers equivalent to that by which Burton United were formed, including clubs currently in the Football League, such as Rotherham United and Dagenham & Redbridge.

There are a lot more in non-league football.  Sometimes, it’s obvious from the name of the new club, for example Havant & Waterlooville, Rushden & Diamonds, Hayes & Yeading United, Tooting & Mitcham United, and Wingate & Finchley and Walton & Hersham.  On the other hand, Hampton changed its name to Hampton & Richmond Borough in 1999 “in an attempt to draw a wider support base from around the Borough”.

A complete listing would be interesting.

Maidenhead United are particularly interesting, as the “The Football Association have acknowledged that this is the oldest continuously used senior football ground in the world”, even though the ground was first used by Maidenhead in 1871, and Maidenhead merged with Maidenhead Norfolkians in 1919 to form Maidenhead Town (changed to Maidenhead United in 1920).

In the case of Burton, the break in continuity is between United and Albion.

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6 thoughts on “Clubs Re-Named, Re-Formed Or Merged, Or New Clubs?

  1. Thanks to PaulC for the following quote from the Manchester Guardian on 13 January 1902:

    “Attention was directed to the Second League by the unusual experience of Newton Heath. The club is financially in a bad way. A winding up order to meet a debt of £242 precipitated matters last week and no arrangements could be made for playing the game fixed for Saturday. One hears that a new club will be formed out of the ashes of the old one, but this has not been decided definitely.”

    He also points out that it was earlier reported in the Manchester Guardian on 11 January 1902 that:

    “Re – Newton Heath Football Club, an application was read by the players of the late Newton Heath Club Limited to be allowed to carry out their engagements under the control of the late directors of the Company. After considerable discussion it was decided that the Association and the Football League should join in a commission to settle a scheme and to report.”

    Fascinating stuff.

    Statto.com confirms that Newton Heath/Manchester United did not play a game on Saturday, 11 January 1902. It looks like they were scheduled to play Middlesbrough (the only other club in the then Second Division that did not play that Saturday). Newton Heath/Manchester United played the previous Saturday (4 January 1902), and the following Saturday (18 January 1902). (statto.com use the name “Manchester United”, even for earlier seasons).

    It would appear that a winding up order was made against Newton Heath sometime in the week of 6 January 1902. As a consequence, Newton Heath failed to fulfil their fixture on Saturday, 11 January 1902. Was a new club formed sometime between 11 and 18 January 1902, that played the remainder of Newton Heath’s fixtures?

    The game against Middlesbrough was played on Monday, 7 April 1902.

    PaulC added further:

    “The Guardian for Fri 10 Jan has Newton Heath v Middlesbrough listed as a fixture for the following day and I see that on 11 Jan Newton Heath Reserves played at Burnley Reserves in the Lancashire Combination.

    The first reference to “Manchester United” is at the end of the season (April 28, 1902) in a report of the Manchester Senior Cup final (v Manchester City); “Newton’s success will make the rivalry between the two clubs keener than ever next season when, by the way, the Newton combination will be known as Manchester United.”

    I’ve also had a discussion on Wikipedia’s Talk:Manchester United.

    It can’t be ruled out that the debts were settled after the winding up order was made, and the winding up order set aside, so we may be no closer to knowing whether a new legal entity was formed.

    I’m not sure what the law was in 1902, but before the introduction of company voluntary arrangements (formerly schemes of arrangements), the courts may have been more willing to set aside winding up orders.

    CVAs now give a company more time to see if a settlement can be reached before a winding up order is made, and may have been introduced as an alternative to making and then setting aside a winding up order.

  2. I’m re-looking at the causal connection issue for Leeds City/United and Wigan Borough/Athletic.

    For Wigan Borough/Athletic, the Wikipedia article on the former states:

    In 1931, the effects of the Great Depression proved too much and, unable to pay the players’ wages any longer, Wigan Borough went out of business. The following year, Wigan’s Mayor chaired a public meeting at Queens Hall which resulted in the founding of Wigan Athletic. ….

    For Leeds City/United, an article on a Leeds United website on the financial irregularities that led to the demise of Leeds City concludes with the following passage:

    However, just as the history of Leeds City came to an abrupt and infamous conclusion, things took a new twist. Moves were under way to create Leeds United, a new club which would (eventually) rise triumphantly from the ashes of this whole sorry affair.

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