The circumstances in which English football clubs become insolvent

John Beech, Simon J.L. Horsman, J. Magraw

    Research output: Working paper/PreprintWorking paper

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    In 1863 when the (English) Football Association was founded, individuals who fell bankrupt were still sent to a debtors’ prison, a situation which continued until they were finally closed in 1867. The ambient social attitude then was that insolvency was a matter not merely of shame, but of criminal conduct. By the first decade of the twenty-first century, approximately 140 years later, attitudes had changed dramatically. While few English football clubs had become insolvent in the professional era, beginning in 1885, the move into commercialisation and the post-commercialised era resulted in insolvency becoming, while not quite the norm, at least a far from unusual situation. A brief ‘pre-research’ scoping exercise identified very few clubs who had faced insolvency during the major part of the professionalised era. These few examples of insolvency or near-insolvency include, in England: Accrington Stanley (resigned from the League 1962); Gateshead (not re-elected 1960; disbanded 1973); Bradford Park Avenue (not re-elected 1970; disbanded 1974); Portsmouth (1976; rescued by ‘SOS Pompey’); Charlton (1984; club, but not stadium, acquired by fans); And in Scotland: Third Lanark (1967; declared bankrupt and liquidated following a Board of Trade enquiry). In the commercialised era, however, insolvency began to feature all too commonly. The pre-research exercise has been reported as Beech (2007). This Working Paper reports on further progress to date on a major research project to investigate this perhaps surprising development.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationCoventry
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

    Publication series

    NameCentre for the International Business of Sport Working Paper Series
    PublisherCoventry University

    Bibliographical note

    The contents of Working Papers may be cited providing the source is appropriately referenced. The papers may not however be reproduced without prior written permission – please contact Professor Simon Chadwick, Director of CIBS ( Each paper includes contact details of its lead author.


    • bankruptcy
    • insolvency
    • football clubs
    • England


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