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« It’s a Dutch invention, but we started it in Scotland1 »

The Strange Case of Scottish Football
Bill Findlay
p. 261-273

Texte intégral

  • 1 Quote from Scotland manager, Andy Roxburgh, which is representative of Scottish “football speak”.

The intimate connection between sport, leisure and national identity has been recognised and stressed by commentators and historians alike for some considerable time. As early as the 1830s Joseph Strutt, in his groundbreaking study of popular recreation, stressed the fact that:

  • 2  Joseph Strutt, The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, London, Thomas Tegg, 1838, p. xvi (...)

In order to form a just estimation of the character of any particular people, it is absolutely necessary to investigate the sports and pastimes most generally prevalent among them2.

1Participatory sports, and football arguably more than any other, seem to confirm this precept and, over the years, have given rise to a variety of “insights” and clichés about national identity traits which can be drawn from them, some of which even lay claim to “universal” meaning. One such popular if non-attributable conviction among British football pundits is that:

In soccer, more than in any other sport, the way you play is the way you are. Different soccer styles did not occur by accident… the Renaissance happened in Italy, and the Industrial Revolution in England – and when either country plays soccer, that’s the way it tends to look.

2Certainly the influence football is believed to exert over the popular mind is well beyond the realms of the leisure activity. Surrogate symbols of nationalism and, to the popular mind, prowess are often seen as an indicator of national status. English socialist thinkers in the latter part of the nineteenth century certainly did believe that the hold the game had taken on the working class was far greater than that of a mere recreation or pause in the life cycle of the nation. In 1902, during the Boer War, the Bristol Christian socialist paper, Commonwealth expressed its despair at the negative influence the sport was having on the nation’s youth:

  • 3  Commonwealth, 1902, p.146. Cited in John H. S. Kent, “The Role of Religion in the Cultural Structu (...)

War rages, great social changes are toward, disasters intervene, there are discussions on bread and education, but the adult male population of England and Scotland is watching its football matches. The sight is a portent, a hundred thousand young adult males, all in black roundhats, small moustaches and short pipes, gazing with painful intensity at the twenty-two combatants they have hired to compete before them. So long as the Saturday afternoon is preserved, and the sixpence for the match secure, England need never fear revolution3.

  • 4  K.O. Morgan, for instance, noted once that this hostile attitude towards sport in general permeate (...)

3But what then of Scotland? What lessons, if any, can the study of the social history of Scottish football hold for us about the nature of Scottish society, given the tempestuous relationship which “recreation” has had with canons of Presbyterian austerity?4 What popular images of Scottish culture is the “beautiful game” supposed to carry?

  • 5  The Royal and Ancient Club, founded by 22 noblemen, professors and landowners, in 1754 has become (...)
  • 6  The website of the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame at <www.sshf.co.uk> is dedicated to celebrating Scotland’s rich di</www> (...)

4When we turn to the history books and the annals of international sporting excellence, Scotland figures in a prominent position and is indeed intimately associated with a variety of activities. To most aficionados, Scotland, and in particular St. Andrews, is the “home of golf”, the place of its birth, where the sport has been played since the early part of the 15th century and where the sport’s governing body is located5. Sporting Scots have distinguished themselves at the highest levels in a wide variety of other fields such as athletics, baseball, boxing, curling, cycling, snooker, swimming, and, of course, F1 motor racing with Jim Clark et Jackie Stewart6.

  • 7  See <www.fifa.com/en/mens/statistics>for April 2006. These positions obviously fluctuate from month to month.
  • 8  The population of Denmark at present is 5,413,392 while the 2001 Census found that Scotland has 5, (...)
  • 9  The Swedish population is 8,986,400.
  • 10  The official estimate for 2003 puts the population at 3,978,900.
  • 11  The award was “won” by supporters of Dundee United FC in 1987 and again by Celtic supporters in 20 (...)

5Football, however, is not one of them. On the international scene, Scottish football has always appeared a colourful but rather insignificant figure with occasional flashes of genius amid a sea of mediocre, indeed sometimes quite embarrassing, results. Scotland has never won, or even come remotely close to winning a World Cup. Only on one occasion has a Scottish club won Europe’s highest trophy and never the Fifa Club World Cup. Indeed, if Fifa International rankings are anything to go by, one would be forgiven for thinking that football was a minor recreational activity to the Scots and not one that they were particularly good at or interested in, as it figures in 86th position alongside Albania, and only a short distance above countries such as Togo, Uzbekistan and Iceland7. This lowly position might of course be attributed to the fact that Scotland is a small country with limited manpower resources, yet other similarly small European nations occupy much higher ranks in this classification: Denmark8, for instance, lies in 14th place and Sweden9 in 13th. Indeed, in the British Isles, the Republic of Ireland10 is to be found in 12th place while Wales, with a population of fewer than 3 million inhabitants lies in 68th position, although Scottish football supporters have on two occasions won the (coveted?) Fifa  Fair Play Trophy11.

  • 12  This remarkable achievement was built on a team of young Scottish footballers, all of whom were bo (...)

6Nor has Scotland produced individuals of exceptional ability who have shone on the world stage. A few players, like Denis Law and Kenny Dalglish, did reach legendary status during their playing careers in English club football but none has ever won the sport’s highest accolade, the Fifa  World Player Award. Ironically, perhaps, Scottish football’s greatest achievements have been created off rather than on the pitch. Scotland, it can be said, has produced its own brand of football manager of exceptional ability. In the 1950s, for instance, Matt Busby transformed Manchester United from a relatively ordinary league club into a team of legend, “The Busby Babes”, and set it on its way to becoming the most financially successful club in the world. In the following decade, Bill Shankly reached the same levels of greatness with Liverpool FC, taking the club from the shadow of its local rivals, the “millionaires” of  Everton FC, and transforming it into one of the giants of European football. Arguably even more remarkable is the career of Alex Fergusson, who in the late 1970s transformed the lowly Aberdeen FC into dominant force in Scottish football, with the team going on to defeat Real Madrid in 1983 to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup. Ferguson has since confirmed his place in the annals of world football by managing Manchester United for over two decades and leading them to domination both in Europe and in England. Yet no doubt the greatest achievement of them all is that of Jock Stein, manager of Celtic in the 1960s. Stein not only dominated Scottish football, but was also the first manager to win the European Cup with a British team, when his “Lisbon Lions” defeated Inter Milan in Lisbon in May 1967 and reinstated the values of all-out attacking football12. These impressive achievements were no doubt made all the more so by the fact that none of these managers were renowned footballers in their own right, their skills lying elsewhere.

  • 13  Tommy Docherty, It’s only a game, BBC Television, 1985.

7On the basis of these facts and other similar statistical evidence, it would be tempting to draw conclusions about the role football plays in Scottish life and how it affects the Scottish sense of identity. Football is undoubtedly much more than a mere “game” played between two competing sets of players on the field of play. Arguably it has always remained a participatory sport for those who watch as well, whether in an official capacity or merely as “punters”. In fact, football occupies a special place inside Scottish culture, and in the eyes of most observers it today constitutes a “national obsession”, a “lovely incurable disease”, as it has done for a very long time13.

8As far back as the early 15th century, in fact, the Scottish nation seems to have been fascinated with what was called this “most reprehensible obsession”. On the very day of his coronation at Scone, King James I introduced tough legislation to counter what he believed was the threat to national security that the game represented. Hence it was decreed:

That na man play at the fute-ball, under the paine of fiftie schillings, to be raised to the Lord of the Land, als often as he be tainted or to the Schireffe of the land of his ministers, gif the Lordes will not punish sic trespassoures.

  • 14  Acts of parliament were passed in 1457 and again in 1491 against such pastimes as “fute-ball, golf (...)

9Five days later, on 26th May 1424 the Scottish Parliament took the issue a stage further by banning the playing of football altogether, and in subsequent years other Acts were passed to combat the spread of this and other “useless” sports which were believed to be damaging Scotland’s ability to make war or protect itself14.

  • 15  See Quentin Cooper and Paul Sullivan, Maypoles, Martyrs and Mayhem: 366 Days of British Customs, M (...)
  • 16  One commentator, the Puritan pamphleteer Philip Stubbs, described it as a “bloody and murthering p (...)

10However, by all indications, these laws had little impact on the fascination the game held over the Scottish people and football matches became prominent features of popular recreation in the following centuries. By the mid 16th century, for instance, football tournaments had become regular annual occurrences in many places15 and served a variety of social purposes well beyond their recreational dimension, from matrimonial fairs to occasions for a social protest and riot and even a convenient pretext for assassination16. “Ba games” were held – and still are – in places as far apart as Kirkwall and Jedburgh to celebrate the start of the new year. During the summer months likewise, football played a prominent part in popular festivities such as “Reivers Week” at Duns in the Borders. But the biggest day of the year for folk football was undoubtedly Shrove Tuesday. By all accounts the Shrove Tuesday matches, such as those between the married and single men at Scone, drew enormous crowds from far and near, particularly young men and women looking for a partner:

  • 17  According to Ditchfield, “The Scots were famous formerly, as they now are, for prowess in the game (...)

When the pancakes are sated,
Come to the ring and you’ll be mated,
There this ball will be upcast,
May this game be better than the last17.

  • 18  The banner was displayed on 4th December 1815 at a football match when Sir Walter Scott captained (...)

11Even genteel society seems to have been caught up in the frenzy of “fiba feever” which seems gradually to have gripped the nation, despite the injunctions of the law and pressures of social decorum. James I, for instance, who deemed football too rough a game and “meeter for laming than making able”, repeatedly admonished his son Henry who was a keen footballer, but to no avail. Noble and wealthy families were known to organise challenge matches with rival estates where victory on the playing field was synonymous with immense pride and social status. Sir Walter Scott, for instance, himself a football fanatic even dedicated a poem “Lifting the banner of the House of Buccleuch” to one such match organised on 4th December 181518. Indeed, by the early decades of the nineteenth century, popular enthusiasm for the game had reached such a degree that a new approach to the social “problem” it constituted was adopted and repression gradually gave way to regulation.

  • 19  After 1924 the name was changed to the Scottish Rugby Union.
  • 20  The Scottish Cup is therefore the second oldest in the world.

12In England in 1848 the first steps towards imposing some form of social control over this “game for ruffians” and the “dictatorship of the street” which it seemed to aspire to, were successfully introduced with the codification of the sport. By 1867, this process had advanced to the extent that a Football Association could be set up in London with central responsibility for regulation of play both on and off the field. Indeed, far from stifling popular enthusiasm, this new bureaucratic approach seemed to stimulate demand as clubs sprang up throughout the country both north and south of the border. Scotland’s first football club, Queen’s Park, was set up in 1867 in response to this initiative and was immediately affiliated to the English FA. In the context of the times, however, such solutions could only remain exceptional as demand for a specifically Scottish structure for the game became more and more pressing. Yet the Scottish project, when it finally came into being in 1873, was no simple copy of the English blueprint, for instead of one federation, Scotland created two. The Scottish Football Union19 was set up on 3rd March of that year, followed ten days later by the creation of the Scottish Football Association. Initially the Association was organised with seven clubs (as well as a hesitant Kilmarnock) and it was decided to hold an annual competition called the Scottish Cup20. However, the announcement of the organisation created a massive demand for membership as clubs sprang up both in town and countryside throughout the land. By 1878 the SFA had become completely transformed with no fewer than 133 clubs making up 11 provincial associations, including one in Nova Scotia.

  • 21  One critic in 1882 fumed at the tendency to play with only 8 attacking outfield players “to keep t (...)
  • 22  Football’s first World Championship trophy can be seen in the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden (...)
  • 23  See John Rafferty; One Hundred Years of Scottish Football.London, Pan, 1973, pp. 20-21.

13Perhaps not surprising, given this popular clamour, football rapidly became identified with the nation’s destiny, as part of its distinctive identity. The press of the period contains numerous articles defending the idea that even if the original model was English the game itself was somehow “genetically” Scottish. Scottish tactics were, not surprisingly, reminiscent of the nation’s belligerent past: all-out attack was the order of the day, in a style not unlike the “battle charge” of old21. And, as the statistics show, this approach was remarkably successful, for Scotland dominated “world” football during these early years, the national side remaining undefeated during the first five years of its existence (1873-1878). Indeed, in 1888 the lowly Dumbarton club of Renton even claimed the first ever “World Cup” for Scotland22. In turn, this period of phenomenal success generated intense debate inside the Scottish Football Association as to the nation’s “missionary” duty towards the rest of the world and in particular the United States, Canada and Australia23.

  • 24  See <www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/sportscotland/asportingnation/article/0008/index.shtml>.
  • 25  Forfar Athletic evolved from a variety of smaller clubs all centred around the jute factories of t (...)
  • 26  Third Lanark FC was created from the 3rd Regiment of the Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers in 1872. The (...)
  • 27  Formed by members of the YMCA, it attracted support mainly from the city’s lower middle-class and (...)

14How seriously such schemes were pursued in fact is debatable, but their very existence unquestionably translates a national mindset, particularly among the male population. For all the new regulations and bureaucracy, the sport still remained the “people’s game” and was seen as a powerful expression of cultural identity, both real and imagined: Scotland identified itself internationally through the sport, the Scottish people reaffirmed who they were socially through affiliation with the values, or supposed values, of their chosen football clubs. Hence we see that many of the clubs created at the beginning of the new football era came into existence as expressions of social emphasis or distinction. They were first and foremost “clubs”. Many, particularly in rural areas, were purely local initiatives comprised of youths from local communities and constituted a focal point and rallying call for the young people of the community they sprang from. Renton FC, for instance, was formed reputedly after an exhibition match provided by Queen’s Park in Dumbarton24. For others, the club was the simply “natural” recreational extension of the work environment, as in Forfar25. Third Lanark, created in 187226 carried the banner of patriotism having been founded by volunteer reserves in the South of Glasgow. Queen’s Park, on the other hand, came into being as a social centre and club for gentlemen, a place where people of a similar social background could indulge their passion for football27.In their diversity they mirror the aspirations and assumptions of the society they sprang from and their times, but behind this diversity they collectively stated a common belief that sport – and football in particular – was a moral force for good among the youth of Scotland and a potential solution to many of the chronic social problems facing modern society.

  • 28  In the social context of the period, the image of football was soon transformed and the game becam (...)
  • 29  At the same time it should be noted that the choice of football over the more Irish sports promote (...)
  • 30  The Hibernian Football Club, the brain child of Canon Edward Hannan and Michael Whelahan, was laun (...)
  • 31  The club later changed its name to Dundee United, again, no doubt a significant symbol of social i (...)

15It is ironic therefore that these very aspirations were to be the cause of a new twist to the evolution of Scottish football which was to blight its future development up to the present day: Religion. Moral and social “improvement” through healthy recreation was, as can still be seen28, at the heart of many of these initiatives, but it was not limited to any specific religious body. In the mid 1870s however, the Roman Catholic Church authorities also turned to this form of leisure activity29 as a means of self-help for the large numbers of its followers, many of Irish origin, in the poorer quarters of the cities. In 1875, the Edinburgh Hibernians30 were founded to give the Church’s Catholic Young Men’s Society some meaningful pastime and the large Irish population a focal point. The initiative proved so successful that it was later copied elsewhere in Scotland, as in the East-end of Glasgow in 1888 with the creation of Celtic FC, and in Dundee in 1909 when the Dundee Hibernian were set up31. For an immigrant community which was seen and saw itself as outside the national framework of Scottish society, this assertion of its own values and symbols was, no doubt natural, but it was to prove a catalyst which unleashed the socio-religious tensions which had taken deep root inside the industrial centres of Scotland. In the ensuing years, these tensions were to see the religious polarisation of football clubs in several of Scotland’s cities where large Irish Catholic populations were located: Dundee, Edinburgh, but above all Glasgow.

  • 32  The name of the club came apparently from an admiration of an English rugby club. See Graham Walke (...)
  • 33  See Tom Campbell and Pat Woods, The Glory and the Dream. The History of Celtic FC, 1887-1987, Lond (...)
  • 34  Celtic won their first league title in 1893 and went on under their first manager, Willie Maley, t (...)
  • 35  Ibrox park, the club’s home ground since 1892, is situated near the Govan shipyards, a stronghold (...)
  • 36  The origins of the term lies shrouded in mystery but it has been suggested that it was coined afte (...)
  • 37  Celtic became a private company in 1897 and Rangers in 1899.
  • 38  Celtic Park, for instance, was the first to install electric lighting from 1893 to allow night-tim (...)
  • 39  T. Campbell and P. Woods, op. cit., p. 46ff. The first international match between England v Scotl (...)
  • 40  The only serious “rival” to these two giants was, surprisingly perhaps, Queen’s Park whose continu (...)
  • 41  Beneficial also to the Scottish economy, according to a report published in 2005 which found that (...)

16In Glasgow in particular this polarisation gradually focussed on and fed off the rivalry between two of the city’s most successful clubs, Rangers and Celtic. Rangers, created in 1873 by a group of football enthusiasts, seems initially to have had no particular religious or even distinctly “Scottish” connotation attached to it32. Celtic, on the other hand, originated in the east of the city and was established in 1887 by a Marist Brother from Ireland, Brother Walfrid, as a means of giving healthy amusement to young Roman Catholics and generating finance in aid of the Church’s dinners scheme for poor children33. With the arrival of this new club, the dominant position the Govan club, Rangers, had established over Scottish football came under threat34. The rivalry between these two clubs, however, soon spread far beyond the playing field and gradually came to encapsulate many of the deep divisions inside Scottish society by giving popular expression to the “subterranean” strands of working class culture. As Celtic became the symbol of the Roman Catholic Irish immigrant, the underdog, Rangers took on the mantle of Protestantism, Unionism, Scottishness35 and the Establishment. In the context of the period, with the gradual professionalisation of the sport and its transformation into a commercial concern, this polarisation was of immense value, for it provided both clubs with a “faithful” and deeply committed support base and allowed them, collectively to become the football giants of the Scottish game, under the nick-name, “The Old Firm36”. In sporting terms their domination of Scottish football is indisputable: during the 43 years between 1904-1947, with one exception, the Scottish championship was won by one or other of these clubs; since 1890 they have taken 87 of the 105 championships. Financially too the “Old Firm” stand head and shoulders above the rest of Scotland. The joint efforts of both clubs, for instance, resulted in the professionalisation of the sport in 189337. In the following years they were at the forefront of commercial innovations which generated enormous annual profits38. Celtic, for instance, were the first to break with the tradition of the period when, in 1894, they bought Celtic Park with a capacity of 50,000 spectators, a move which allowed them to generate profits of more than £5,000 profit per annum39. In 1899, Rangers followed suit buying Ibrox Park with an initial capacity of 50,000 places, which was to rise to some 120,000 by 193940. Quite clearly the dynamics of success both on and off the field were self-generating and, through the intensity of the rivalry between the two clubs, mutually beneficial41. Indeed, one might even wonder whether these two giants really have their place at all inside the world of Scottish football, when the massive imbalance they have always represented is taken into account.

  • 42  The use of the term “sectarianism” has been hotly disputed in this context. See the introduction t (...)
  • 43  Joseph M. Bradley, “We shall not be Moved! Mere Sport, Mere Songs?” in Adam Brown (ed.), Fanatics! (...)
  • 44  Joseph M. Bradley, Ethnicity: The Irish in Scotland: Football, Politics and Identity, Caledonian p (...)
  • 45  Maurice (Mo) Johnston was the first Roman Catholic to join Rangers in 1989, after having played fo (...)

17The question is particularly pertinent because the “Old Firm” have also been largely responsible for perpetuating the “ugly” side to the “beautiful” game in Scotland by fuelling a climate of sectarian hatred42 associated with their corporate identities. Celtic, until very recently, flew the Irish tricolour at Parkhead and tolerated supporters chanting Irish Republican songs43. The Protestant-Unionist identity which has been cultivated inside Rangers can likewise be traced back to the early years and the high-profile linking of the club with freemasonry, the Orange Order and anti-Irish, anti-Catholic and pro-Union sentiments through one of its first patrons, John Ure Primrose44.The depth of such early orientations can be measured by the fact that until 1989 Rangers refused to employ a Roman Catholic or anyone who married into this religion45.As with Celtic, the clubs’ supporters continue to chant sectarian songs and exchange violent and provocative insults. They also antagonise their rivals by proclaiming support for Protestant paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland.

  • 46  Ironically, perhaps, the first recorded riot, after the 1909 Scottish Cup Final, was sparked by a (...)
  • 47  Scottish society has been able to breach the sectarian divide, usually on spectacularly tragic occ (...)
  • 48  The Sunday Herald, 26th August 2006.
  • 49  The randomness of this particular murder so shocked Glasgow that a charity and pressure group was (...)
  • 50  The Irish Prime Minister was invited to Scotland to unveil a memorial to the Irish immigrants who (...)

18Such verbal abuse, however, is only the tip of the problem. From as early as 1909 to the present day, violence has been an endemic feature of their encounters46, with only rare moments of peace or mutual cooperation47. What is intriguing, however, about this sustained climate of hatred and violence is that the explosive cocktail of football, capitalist profit and supposedly threatened ethno-religious identity it feeds on seems to perpetuate itself from generation to generation with apparent impunity and despite almost universal condemnation, despite also the changing reality of sport and leisure activity inside the national community. What is equally intriguing is its ability to insinuate itself into all aspects of an otherwise multicultural society where respect for otherness is generally considered “normal”. Artur Boruc, for instance, Celtic’s Polish goalkeeper, was cautioned by Strathclyde Police and the Crown Prosecution Service in August 2006 for blessing himself before the start of a football match, which was apparently interpreted as a provocative gesture destined to incite riot48. In October 1995 a young Catholic was stabbed to death in Glasgow simply for wearing a Celtic scarf on the day of the derby match. While this tragic event is, unfortunately, not uncommon nor indeed limited to one side of the divide, the twist this murder was later to take is indicative of the hidden ramifications of the Old Firm conflict, since it was later claimed as a “political crime” by Protestant paramilitaries in Northern Ireland49. Even international relations can become tangled up in its complexities as when the visit of Irish Taoiseach Berty Ahern’s visit to Scotland in 2001 had to be cancelled amid fears for his safety, the trip coinciding with an “Old Firm” match50.

  • 51  According to a recent report produced by the United Nations’ Crime Research Institute, Scottish so (...)
  • 52  Joseph M. Bradley, “The Patriot Game: Football’s Famous Tartan Army”, International Review for the (...)
  • 53  Hugh McIlvanney, McIlvanney on Football, Edinburgh, Mainstream, 1994, 283 p.
  • 54  Sunday Times, 4 th October 1981.
  • 55  In September 2006, for instance, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland called for the (...)

19Not for the first time the researcher into Scotland’s past is struck by the sensation that there is something profoundly historical and yet somehow “out of time” which lies at the core of football’s role in Scottish popular culture, something intangible yet, at the same time, firmly anchored to the day-to-day realities of a society where violence has always occupied a prominent position51. On the world map of football, Scotland occupies and has always occupied a relatively modest place in the hierarchy of excellence, yet this fact has never even remotely undermined the hold the game exerts over the nation. Whether expressed through the hate-fuelled brutality of the “Old Firm” confrontation or the contagious all-embracing revelry of the “Tartan Army52”, Scottish football supporters’ own version of a travelling circus, the game appears to be the chosen “vehicle” for the expression of emotions and feelings of identity which defy linguistic formulation: for some “a metaphor for their pride”, for others “a metaphor for their desperation”, as Hugh McIlvanney once suggested53. No doubt Bill Shankly was speaking for the people of Scotland when he once famously quipped, “Some people think football is a matter of life and death … I can assure them it is much more serious than that54”. What is surprising, however, is that despite the long history of the Scottish game, it is only as the media spotlight has recently been insistently focused on it that the type of football culture the Scots want to be identified with has become a key part of the public debate, as the “whistleblowers” have challenged the “sleep-walking” and “cringing” attitudes of old55. The challenge is a massive one, made all the more so by the fact that the “cure”, to be successful, must never destroy the hard competitive edge which lies at the heart of football’s popular appeal.

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Notes

1 Quote from Scotland manager, Andy Roxburgh, which is representative of Scottish “football speak”.

2  Joseph Strutt, The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, London, Thomas Tegg, 1838, p. xvii. See also Tony Mason, Sport in Britain. A Social History, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 5.

3  Commonwealth, 1902, p.146. Cited in John H. S. Kent, “The Role of Religion in the Cultural Structure of the later Victorian City”. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th Ser., n° 23, 1973, p. 153-173.

4  K.O. Morgan, for instance, noted once that this hostile attitude towards sport in general permeated all levels of Scottish society and has even influenced the historian’s perception of the past: “Though Keir Hardie’s son signed professional forms for Sunderland, the fervent anti-sport hostility of Bruce Glasier seems more typical of the attitude to sport of the traditional labour historian – serious-minded, more concerned with work than leisure, uncertain in the face of the unstructured, the informal and the spontaneous, more at home with Black Friday than Sheffield Wednesday”. Times Literary Supplement, 1st February 1981, p. 157. See Steven J. Overman, The Influence of the Protestant Ethnic on Sport and Recreation, Aldershot, Avebury, 1997, p. 5ff on the historical links between religious values and physical culture.

5  The Royal and Ancient Club, founded by 22 noblemen, professors and landowners, in 1754 has become the foremost golf club in the world, and now governs the rules of golf everywhere except in the USA. See Charles McGrath, David McCormick and John Garrity (eds.), The Ultimate Golf Book- A History and a Celebration of the World’s Greatest Game, London, Houghton Mifflin, 2002, pp. 12-16.

6  The website of the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame at <www.sshf.co.uk> is dedicated to celebrating Scotland’s rich diversity of sporting excellence.

7  See <www.fifa.com/en/mens/statistics>for April 2006. These positions obviously fluctuate from month to month.

8  The population of Denmark at present is 5,413,392 while the 2001 Census found that Scotland has 5,062,011 inhabitants.

9  The Swedish population is 8,986,400.

10  The official estimate for 2003 puts the population at 3,978,900.

11  The award was “won” by supporters of Dundee United FC in 1987 and again by Celtic supporters in 2003.

12  This remarkable achievement was built on a team of young Scottish footballers, all of whom were born within a 25-mile radius of Celtic Park. Its significance lies in the fact that it marked the success of attacking football over the Italian “cattenacio” system, perfected by Helenio Herrera in Spain and Italy.

13  Tommy Docherty, It’s only a game, BBC Television, 1985.

14  Acts of parliament were passed in 1457 and again in 1491 against such pastimes as “fute-ball, golfe or other sik unproffitable sportis” and in an attempt to encourage more useful ones like archery and arts of combat. See Malcolm Campbell, The Scottish Golf Book, London, Sports Publishing LLC, 1999, p. 15, p. 221.

15  See Quentin Cooper and Paul Sullivan, Maypoles, Martyrs and Mayhem: 366 Days of British Customs, Myths and Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury, 1994, who note that some 50 or so local traditions of “community football” have been recorded for the whole of the United Kingdom although only six survive today.

16  One commentator, the Puritan pamphleteer Philip Stubbs, described it as a “bloody and murthering practice, rather than a fellowly sport or pastime”. See P. A. Ditchfield, Old English Sports, Pastimes and Customs, London, Methuen & Co., 1891, pp. 20-21.

17  According to Ditchfield, “The Scots were famous formerly, as they now are, for prowess in the game, and the account of the Shrove Tuesday match between the married and single men at Scone, in Perthshire, reads very like a description of a modern Rugby contest. At Inverness the women also played, the married against the unmarried, when the former were always victorious”. P.A. Ditchfield, idem, p. 21.

18  The banner was displayed on 4th December 1815 at a football match when Sir Walter Scott captained the “Sutors o’ Selkirk” against an Ettrick side. Scott certainly took his football seriously as the account notes shows: “The ancient banner of the Buccleuch family, a curious and venerable relique, emblazoned with armorial bearings, and with the word Bellendaine, the ancient warcry of the clan of Scott, was displayed, as on former occasions when the chief took the field in person, whether for the purpose of war or sport. The banner was delivered by Lady Ann Scott to Master Walter Scott, younger of Abbotsford, who attended suitably mounted and armed, and, riding over the field, displayed it to the sound of the warpipes, and amid the acclamations of the assembled spectators, who could not be fewer than 2000 in number”. J. G. Lockhart, The Life of Scott, Edinburgh, 1902, Vol.3, p. 395.

19  After 1924 the name was changed to the Scottish Rugby Union.

20  The Scottish Cup is therefore the second oldest in the world.

21  One critic in 1882 fumed at the tendency to play with only 8 attacking outfield players “to keep the goalkeeper in chat”. See The Scottish Athletic Journal, 24th November 1882.

22  Football’s first World Championship trophy can be seen in the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park. The trophy was won by Renton when, after winning the Scottish Cup they were challenged to a match by the English FA Cup winners West Bromwich Albion, to determine who were the “Champions of the United Kingdom and the World”. Renton won by 4 goals to 1.

23  See John Rafferty; One Hundred Years of Scottish Football.London, Pan, 1973, pp. 20-21.

24  See <www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/sportscotland/asportingnation/article/0008/index.shtml>.

25  Forfar Athletic evolved from a variety of smaller clubs all centred around the jute factories of the town. See <http://www.forfarathletic.co.uk/official/history.html>.

26  Third Lanark FC was created from the 3rd Regiment of the Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers in 1872. The official link to the British army was later severed but the club continued to be known as the “Warriors” and the “Redcoats”. It was declared bankrupt and dissolved in 1967.

27  Formed by members of the YMCA, it attracted support mainly from the city’s lower middle-class and white collar professions. It became the bastion of the “amateur” game in Scotland. See <www.queensparkfc.co.uk/History_golden_era.htm>.

28  In the social context of the period, the image of football was soon transformed and the game became rapidly “endowed” with a variety of social “missions”, particularly that of healthy exercise against the dangers of idleness after the arrival of Saturday half-holiday, and against the “demon drink” which in 1853 was responsible for some 55,000 arrests in Glasgow alone.

29  At the same time it should be noted that the choice of football over the more Irish sports promoted vigorously at the time by the Gaelic Athletic Association, the choice of “Celtic” over more Irish names and the rejection of the strict sectarian approach adopted in Edinburgh should be understood as significant gestures by the immigrant community of its ultimate desire to communicate and integrate with the native Scots. See Alan Bairner, “Football and the idea of Scotland”, in Grant Jarvie and Graham Walker, Scottish Sport and the Making of a Nation. Ninety Minute Patriots?, Leicester, Leicester University Press, 1994, p.17. G. Finn, “Racism, religion and social prejudice: Irish catholic clubs, soccer and Scottish society II - social identity and conspiracy theories”, International Journal of the History of Sport, 1991, vol. 8, n° 3, p. 370-397.

30  The Hibernian Football Club, the brain child of Canon Edward Hannan and Michael Whelahan, was launched on August 23rd 1875 at St Patrick’s Church in the Cowgate district of Edinburgh. Its original purpose was to give the Catholic Young Men’s Society attached to the church some meaningful pastime, and the large Irish population a focal point. Originally only members of the Church could play and the Canon demanded proof of attendance at Sunday Mass prior to selection for the following Saturday. Strips were white shirts with green knicker-bockers, with the slogan “Erin Go Bragh” embroidered on the breast.

31  The club later changed its name to Dundee United, again, no doubt a significant symbol of social integration.

32  The name of the club came apparently from an admiration of an English rugby club. See Graham Walker, “‘There’s not a team like the Glasgow Rangers’. Football andreligious identity in Scotland” in Graham Walker and Tom Gallagher (eds.), Sermons and Battle Hymns Protestant Popular Culture in Modern Scotland, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1990, pp. 137-159.

33  See Tom Campbell and Pat Woods, The Glory and the Dream. The History of Celtic FC, 1887-1987, London, Grafton Books, 1987, p. 17. See also the article by John Brown, “Blether with Brown”. Dundee Evening Telegraph and Post, 29th March 2004.

34  Celtic won their first league title in 1893 and went on under their first manager, Willie Maley, to win 30 major trophies in the following 43 years.

35  Ibrox park, the club’s home ground since 1892, is situated near the Govan shipyards, a stronghold of hard-line Protestantism with strong links to Belfast which have been traced back to the establishment of Belfast’s Harland and Wolff Shipbuilding Company on the Clyde in 1912. See William Murray, The Old Firm. Sectarianism, Sport and Society in Scotland, Edinburgh, John Donald, 1984, pp. 84-85 and G. Walker, op. cit., pp. 140-141.

36  The origins of the term lies shrouded in mystery but it has been suggested that it was coined after references in the local press after the first games between the two teams that both sets of players “got on so well that you would believe that they were Old Firm Friends”. Another suggestion is that the both clubs, for all their distinctive characteristics, constituted a collective enterprise.

37  Celtic became a private company in 1897 and Rangers in 1899.

38  Celtic Park, for instance, was the first to install electric lighting from 1893 to allow night-time spectacles. These were not only limited to football matches. Other sports such as athletics and cycling were also venued there, such as the World Cycling Championships in 1897.

39  T. Campbell and P. Woods, op. cit., p. 46ff. The first international match between England v Scotland staged at Parkhead generated some £2,650 profit. By 1900 the stadium was extended to accommodate 60,000 supporters. Today, Celtic Park has a capacity of some 60,832, making it the second largest club stadium in the United Kingdom.

40  The only serious “rival” to these two giants was, surprisingly perhaps, Queen’s Park whose continued amateur and “middle-class” status allowed it to propose its ground, Hampden, as the “neutral” national stadium of Scotland. By 1920 Hampden’s capacity was a staggering 183,000. J. Rafferty, op. cit., p. 46.

41  Beneficial also to the Scottish economy, according to a report published in 2005 which found that the “Old Firm” collectively generates almost £120m a year in income and creates thousands of jobs for Scotland. See “Old Firm on the ball for economy”, BBC News, 29th June 2005, news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4635535.stm.

42  The use of the term “sectarianism” has been hotly disputed in this context. See the introduction to the 2000 edition of Murray’s work. It has been recently officially defined as “malice and ill-will towards a member or members of a church or religious group, which includes a group of persons defined by reference to their membership of or adherence to a church or religious group or their support for the culture and traditions arising from that church or religious group or participation in activities associated with that church or religious tradition”. See also Steve Bruce, Tony Glendinning, Iain Rosie and Michael Paterson, Sectarianism in Scotland, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2004, p. 123ff, Donald Gorrie MSP’s pioneering work on this problem, and the report produced by NFO Social Research for Glasgow City Council, “Sectarianism in Glasgow – Final Report”, Glasgow, 2003, 65 p.

43  Joseph M. Bradley, “We shall not be Moved! Mere Sport, Mere Songs?” in Adam Brown (ed.), Fanatics! Power. Identity and fandom in football. London, Routledge, 1998, p. 216ff.

44  Joseph M. Bradley, Ethnicity: The Irish in Scotland: Football, Politics and Identity, Caledonian papers in the Social Sciences, Social and Public policy, n° 1, Glasgow, Caledonian University, 1994, pp. 3-4.

45  Maurice (Mo) Johnston was the first Roman Catholic to join Rangers in 1989, after having played for Celtic during the 1984-1987 period. He and his family received death threats from both sets of “supporters”.

46  Ironically, perhaps, the first recorded riot, after the 1909 Scottish Cup Final, was sparked by a belief among both sets of fans that the two clubs had a concerted policy to play for draws as a money spinner. J. Rafferty, op. cit., p. 113.

47  Scottish society has been able to breach the sectarian divide, usually on spectacularly tragic occasions such as the two disasters at Ibrox stadium in 1902 when 25 spectators were killed and again in 1971 when 66 supporters lost their lives.

48  The Sunday Herald, 26th August 2006.

49  The randomness of this particular murder so shocked Glasgow that a charity and pressure group was set up by Cara Henderson, a friend of the victim. “Nil By Mouth”, as it is called, has since been active in the fight against sectarianism in Glasgow: see www.nilbymouth.org/main.shtml. See also Sara O’Loan and David McMenemy, “The Extent of Sectarianism Online”, Project Report produced for Nil by Mouth, Glasgow, University of Strathclyde, April 2005, 177 p.

50  The Irish Prime Minister was invited to Scotland to unveil a memorial to the Irish immigrants who fled to Scotland during the great potato famine of 1845-51, but the visit had to be postponed by some four months after fears for his safety amid claims that his visit would unleash civil disorder. While the incident was denigrated by some commentators as merely a “Storm in a Taoiseach” others pointed out that General Pinochet was able to visit Britain safely at the same time. See Tom Brown, “How Bertie Missed the Football”, The New Statesman, 19th February 2001.

51  According to a recent report produced by the United Nations’ Crime Research Institute, Scottish society is the most violent in the developed world. See Katrina Tweedie, “Scotland tops list of world’s most violent countries”, The Times, 19th September 2005.

52  Joseph M. Bradley, “The Patriot Game: Football’s Famous Tartan Army”, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 2002, Vol. 37, n° 2, pp. 177-197.

53  Hugh McIlvanney, McIlvanney on Football, Edinburgh, Mainstream, 1994, 283 p.

54  Sunday Times, 4 th October 1981.

55  In September 2006, for instance, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland called for the release of detailed statistics regarding sectarian hate crimes in Scotland, which the authorities seemed reluctant to divulge since the previous statistics, made public in 2004, had shown the unimagined extent of the problem: between June 2003 and February 2004, 262 sectarian attacks had taken place while, over the previous decade, 18 murders had been identified inside this category. “Cardinal requests sectarian crime details”, The Scotsman, 27th September 2006. See Peter Lynch, “The Scottish Parliament and Sectarianism: Exploring the Unexplored, Documenting the Undocumented, Informing the Uniformed” in T. Devine, op. cit., p. 231ff.

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Bill Findlay, « « It’s a Dutch invention, but we started it in Scotland » », Études écossaises, 11 | 2008, 261-273.

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Bill Findlay, « « It’s a Dutch invention, but we started it in Scotland » », Études écossaises [En ligne], 11 | 2008, mis en ligne le 30 janvier 2009, consulté le 20 novembre 2017. URL : http://etudesecossaises.revues.org/100

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Bill Findlay

Université de Tours

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