Essays on Football in the North-East of England 1880-1930
Chapter 2 What’s in a Name? Playing ‘Football’ in the Mid-Victorian North-East
This chapter is about a familiar topic in sports history, the transition from traditional forms of recreation (in this case a form of traditional or folk football) to modern organised forms of sport (in this case rugby union and association football). Like many such discussions it is set in the mid-late Victorian period (the 1870s and 1880s) but it deals with a particular region of England – the North-East – where soccer subsequently became a mass participation and spectator sport and an icon of regional cultural identity.
However, unlike many of the more conventional discussions of this transition, I shall not be concerned in this chapter with the way in which traditional recreations and modern organised sport mirrored or reflected the broader societies of which they were a part. I do not ignore this familiar story because I think it unimportant or false in some way. Rather I want to concentrate in this chapter on the empirical detail of how this transition occurred, rather than on the interpretive question of why (in a broader sense) it occurred. I am concerned with the transition from traditional recreations to modern sport as a lived experience of a particular group of historical actors at a particular – and brief – historical moment. I am therefore also concerned with it as a set of actions and activities of ←43 | 44→particular people, rather than with the broader, longer-term consequences of those activities.
Given this focus, one preliminary point has to be made. In the...
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