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The Remarkable Legacy of English Football Clubs

Preston North End, winners of the 1888-89 Football League

IBM recently celebrated their 100 year existence as a company. While this is a massive achievement for a corporation — especially in this day and age with plenty of mergers, acquisitions and financial turmoil — it’s not such an unknown feat in the world of English football.

For example, let’s take a look at the original founding members of the Football League from 1888 — 123 years ago:

  • Accrington
  • Aston Villa
  • Blackburn Rovers
  • Bolton Wanderers
  • Burnley
  • Derby County
  • Everton
  • Notts County
  • Preston North End
  • Stoke City
  • West Bromwich Albion
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers

Out of those 12 original founding members, the only club that is not in existence today is Accrington. The club had financial problems, which led to their demise in 1896. However, local rival Accrington Stanley is still in existence today, playing in League Two. But incredibly, eleven of the other clubs are still thriving today — most of them in the Premier League.

It makes you wonder how many of the clubs in the Premier League will still be in existence 100 years from now. With these football clubs, acting as businesses, the brand loyalty they’ve built over decades (and in many cases, over a century) is practically unstoppable. The world has changed so much in our lives. It’s remarkable to think that 100 years from now, we’ll have new generations of soccer fans supporting businesses which many of them have been existence since the 19th century.

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  1. footy

    July 12, 2011 at 4:07 am

    In other words with a club that is seen as a community institution, you don’t throw in the towel the instant it looks like you can’t balance the books. It’s a very different mentality from the way American pro sports evolved. The American system also results in far fewer viable pro sports clubs per capita; the slack is taken up by high school and college sports, a school sports system unknown outside the USA.

  2. footy

    July 12, 2011 at 4:01 am

    “Industrial revolution… the UK had a 50-75 year head start.”

    That explains the head start, but it doesn’t explain the longevity.

    IMO the longevity is due to the fact that English clubs were actual clubs, and even when they became businesses they still saw themselves as clubs first, serving their communities, and not simply a way to make money. Ironically this anti-business bias (clubs were run by middle class businessmen, but they saw it as a service to the community and made their money elsewhere) led to long-term success whereas the American approach to pro sport as simply a money making exercise leads to constant business failures, except for a few lucky major leagues that have been around long enough (after decades of financial instability) to create a lock-in brand loyalty reinforced by a cartel system that keeps new clubs out. This results in big profits for the cartel clubs and dependency or instability for the non-cartel or minor league clubs.

  3. Yespage

    July 11, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    The Stanley Cup has some serious age behind it, but the NHL didn’t exist until the NHA folded. I think the Canadiens were the only original team to survive to today from the NHA. 1917 would be the formation of the NHL, including the Canadiens and Maple Leafs. Most impressive with the Habs, their jersey has gone virtually unchanged since 1917.

    But they all have nothing against the likes of a Stoke City which date to the American Civil War.

  4. IanCransonsKnees

    July 11, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Stoke will be having their 150th anniversary in 2013. First ever pitch invasion was at Stoke, the crowd didn’t like the decisions that the ref was giving so picked him up and dropped him in the River Trent next to where they played.

    • reidscott

      July 12, 2011 at 12:41 am

      That is awesome! OH would that we could today!!

  5. Keith

    July 11, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Industrial revolution… the UK had a 50-75 year head start.

  6. Stacy Richardson

    July 11, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Interesting perspective: eleven out of 12. That IS remarkable. By way of comparison, by the time the National Football League assumed its current name, eighteen teams were in the league, but these days we hear very little from Canton, the Oorang Indians, or most of the other early teams. I think the Bears and the Packers are the only teams remaining from that group.

    • Tuttle

      July 11, 2011 at 12:37 pm

      The Cardinals and Bears are the two original franchises from 1920 that are still in existence. Packers didn’t join until 1921. The Colts claim to be descended from original member Dayton Triangles, but that’s iffy at best.

      • bradjmoore48

        July 11, 2011 at 2:14 pm

        Better comparison with an American sport would be baseball. While there were lots of teams forming and folding during the late 19th century, in 1901 the American League was formed, and the National League solidified itself in terms of franchises. 16 teams between them, all still in existence today in some form, but many relocated and/or changed the original team name, so there remain only 4 teams from 1901 that have stayed in the same city and have made no name changes; 9 if you add name changes but the team remains in the city (Boston Americans become Boston Red Sox, etc.). The growth of teams has then either come from relocation, expansion and franchise renewal (i.e. franchise moves team from Milwakee Brewers to Atlanta, new Milwakee franchise appears later). Still though, having 11 English founding clubs who have stayed in the general area, have not changed their club name, and some even staying in the same ground, since even before baseball was formally organized in the US is astounding.

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