The sequel to A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS – Volume 2 in a series ‘History Revisited’ by Bantamspast


The origins of professional football in Bradford
and the rivalry of Bradford FC & Manningham FC

by John Dewhirst

The former rivalry between the Bradford City and Bradford (Park Avenue) football clubs was intense, the equivalent of a blood feud. Supporters of the respective clubs were hard-wired to have an antipathy towards the other, as if the rivalry ran in the DNA of succeeding generations.

Nowadays, 45 years after Bradford (PA) lost its place in the Football League, the old rivalry seems quaint, if not bizarre yet until now no-one has provided a satisfactory explanation as to why feelings ran so high. It wasn’t a matter of sectarianism and the suggestion that the rivalry was based on class, that Bradford FC was the middle class club in conflict with its proletarian rival at Valley Parade is not only simplistic, but wide of the mark. The reality was not quite so black and white.

A planned new book, ROOM AT THE TOP examines the origins of the rivalry by tracing the history of the two back to their days as rugby clubs in the nineteenth century. It reveals that a better explanation for the intensity of the feeling lay in their competition as business rivals in a town that did not have room for both. John Dewhirst, an accountant by profession has applied his experience undertaking financial due diligence to examine the relationship and has uncovered a story of commercial rivalry that would be on a par with the worst excesses of modern day corporate competition. It is a story of how each club took advantage of opportunities to undermine the other.

Dewhirst explores the origins of football clubs in Bradford in the 1870s, the development of the Park Avenue arena in 1880 and how – and why – Manningham FC emerged as the challenger to Bradford FC. He examines the circumstances that led to both clubs becoming founder members of the Northern Union in 1895 and their conversion to soccer in 1903 and 1907 respectively. He looks at the social and economic history of Bradford that shaped their development and the timing of what occurred.

Dewhirst, author of the local best seller A HISTORY OF BRADFORD CITY IN OBJECTS identifies the reluctance of the two to merge in 1907 as the start of a slow train crash that led to the disappearance of Bradford FC and its Park Avenue stadium. However such was the ill-feeling that amalgamation was never likely, however logical it might have been.

The book is due for publication in November, 2015 and promises a number of surprises for followers of both rugby and soccer, not least that in 1890 Bradford FC was one of the richest sports clubs in England. It uncovers previously forgotten detail about the history of both Park Avenue and Valley Parade as well as other early football grounds in Bradford. And ROOM AT THE TOP will also tell the likely origins of the colours worn by both clubs and subsequently inherited by City and Bulls.

The book should appeal to supporters of Bradford Bulls and Bradford & Bingley RUFC and not just those of Bradford City AFC or Bradford Park Avenue AFC. The format and size will be similar to the first volume in the series, A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS and details will be confirmed later this summer.

A subsequent volume will cover the history of the rivalry in the twentieth century, from 1908 to 1974

Further information on the progress of the project will be provided on this site. If you would like to be put on the mailing list please contact glorious1911-at-paraders-dot-co-dot-uk

If you can help with nineteenth century Bradford rugby artefacts to illustrate the book please contact the author at the email address above or on 07834 757 677

Twitter @woolcityrivals


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s