My feature in the Bradford City matchday magazine on 14 March, 2018 (vs Wigan Athletic, League One)
In June, 1908 Bradford became home to two Football League clubs and City – the newly crowned champions of Division Two – were joined by Bradford Park Avenue.
The Bradford club had abandoned rugby at Park Avenue the previous year and been elected to the Southern League. At the end of February, 1908 it was announced that the club intended to resign its place in preference of an application to the Football League. It followed QPR and Tottenham Hotspur giving notice of their own resignation from the Southern League.
The Park Avenue leadership was concerned that if it did not make the move, its own ambitions for a place in the Football League could be thwarted. It came at a time when its finances were under pressure from falling gates and the expense of travel. It was not simply the cost of travelling to southern venues but the commitment to reimburse southern clubs coming to Bradford. What was an expensive pledge had been made by Bradford Park Avenue to secure a place in the Southern League after its original application to join the Football League was rejected in 1907.
The Southern League was a rival competition but there had been speculation about merger and becoming a feeder to the Football League which was predominantly northern in its composition. The concern in Bradford was that with the loss of Spurs, it would make the Southern League less attractive. Likewise, there was a fear that the pre-emptive move by the two London sides might lead to the door being closed to others seeking a switch in future years. (The Southern League was anxious to maintain its integrity to optimise negotiations with the Football League for merger.)
The leadership of the Southern responded to the actions of the three recalcitrant clubs by telling them they would not be readmitted to membership. Hence the notice of resignation by Bradford Park Avenue amounted to a high risk venture if it was not successful in getting a place in Division Two.
In 1907 there had been opposition among members of the Football League of there being two Bradford clubs. The Valley Parade leadership had also lobbied against Park Avenue’s membership, fearing the impact of direct competition. Notwithstanding, there were sympathies for Bradford Park Avenue who could boast financial security and a prestigious ground. Crucially with Bradford City anticipated to win promotion to Division One it was considered acceptable for Avenue to join Division Two. Indeed, Bradford was considered a hotbed of soccer enthusiasm in West Yorkshire.
Incredibly when the vote eventually took place, Bradford Park Avenue polled more than Spurs and became members of the Football League at the expense of Lincoln City. However, Tottenham secured a place when Stoke City dropped out of the Football League due to financial difficulty. QPR meanwhile withdrew its application and returned to the Southern League.
Six years later Bradford Park Avenue won promotion to Division One and in 1914/15 – as well the first two post-war seasons in 1919/20 and 1920/21 – Bradford had two first tier clubs.
- Thanks for visiting my blog. Scroll down for details about my books in the BANTAMSPAST History Revisited series which tell the history of sport in Bradford – and in particular football. The books seek to explain why things happened as they did instead of simply recording what occurred and readers may be surprised at the extent to which they contradict many of the myths and superficial narratives that have circulated previously. You won’t get fancy art school graphics but you will find substance and historical accuracy in the content. Of course if you prefer an abundance of pictures accompanied by text written for a Year 5 schoolchild you’ll find them ball-achingly boring. Tweets @jpdewhirst
If you are interested in Bradford sport history visit VINCIT: http://www.bradfordsporthistory.wordpress.com
Links to other articles written by myself on the history of football and the origins of sport in Bradford HERE
On Saturday 19 May, 2018 I am giving a talk in the Bradford Local Studies Library on the origins of spectator sport in nineteenth century Bradford and the development of the city’s sporting culture and identity. This will cover principally cricket, rugby and football and include a Q&A session.
Further details tbc.