Essays on Football in the North-East of England 1880-1930
Chapter 4 Shamaterurism, Corruption and Prejudice on the Eve of Professionalism: The Sunderland AFC/Sunderland Albion Split of 1888
In 1888 there was an acrimonious split in the management committee of Sunderland Association Football Club (hereafter ‘SAFC’). The split was so acrimonious that it resulted in the man who had created SAFC – the Scotsman James Allan – resigning his post as Treasurer and founding a rival club in the town, ‘Sunderland Albion’. There then followed an often ill-tempered and nasty rivalry between SAFC and Albion lasting almost until the latter’s demise in 1892.
That much is easy to recount, but to gain a clear understanding of why these events occurred is much more difficult. In fact it is impossible, even now, to know definitively what led Allan and his associates in the Sunderland club and committee to take the radical step of splitting the club, or why, after the split, there was such unremitting hostility between the two clubs, at least for as long (about three of the four years) as Allan remained closely associated with Sunderland Albion.
In this chapter I attempt – using the reports not only of Sunderland’s major newspaper (the Sunderland Daily Echo – ‘SDE’) but of a number of other north-eastern newspapers of the time – to provide some answers to these questions. But even at the end of a tortuous interrogation of a mass of old newsprint all I can offer are plausible hypotheses – informed guesses – about the motivations involved. The reason for this is that the Sunderland Daily Echo engaged in a systematic cover-up of the causes of ←115 | 116→the split,...
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