Question of religion as basis for support still contentious

Plenty of anecdotal evidence that city’s Catholics were more inclined to become “Blues”

Liverpool FC has a great many Irish supporters and loyalties on Merseyside itself are decidedly mixed these days with many families divided down the middle. Photograph: Getty Images

Liverpool FC has a great many Irish supporters and loyalties on Merseyside itself are decidedly mixed these days with many families divided down the middle. Photograph: Getty Images

Wed, Jan 15, 2014, 01:00

The question of whether Everton, founded in 1878, has traditionally been the club of Merseyside’s Catholic and, in particular, Irish, communities is a contentious one with even academics who have looked into the issue apparently divided on the matter.

Clearly, Liverpool FC has a great many Irish supporters and loyalties on Merseyside itself are decidedly mixed these days with many families divided down the middle but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that, historically speaking, the city’s Catholics were more inclined to become “Blues” and little firm evidence, it seems, to contradict the idea.

Natives of the city as diverse as Cilla Black, the protestant sociologist John Williams and the long-time Labour MP for Walton, Eric Heffer, have all suggested that that was the perception locally. Tommy Smith, the tough tackling Anfield hero who joined Liverpool in 1960 recalled: “Pop Moran (Brother James Quinton Moran, then headmaster at Cardinal Godfrey School in Anfield) even tried to turn me off football at Anfield – Catholics were traditionally Everton supporters and players, Liverpool were the Protestant team. Pop honestly thought that being a Catholic I wouldn’t be happy at Anfield.”

Toffeeweb’s Michael Kenrick remains unconvinced, pointing out that both clubs were founded by the same middle-class Protestants who were involved with St Domingo’s Methodist Church which gave Everton its name.

“There appears to be little real evidence,” he contends, “to suggest any strong relationship between support of Everton and adherence to either the Catholic or Protestant faiths. Parental family ties appear to have been much stronger.”


Falling out
In his academic article, “Red and Blue and Orange and Green”, however, Dr David Kennedy of Glasgow’s Caledonian University, argues that while the falling out between Everton board members (1892) that led to Liverpool FC’s establishment was ostensibly over the rent for Anfield and starkly contrasting views over the use and abuse of alcohol at the time, politics played a big part too.

Liverpool FC’s founder, John Houlding, eight of its early board members and many others associated with it were deeply involved with the Conservative Party and also, in many cases, both the Freemasons and the city’s deeply-sectarian Working Men’s Conservative Association which, in turn, had strong links to the local Orange Order.

The early Everton board, meanwhile, were active Liberals, and sold themselves to the significant Irish portion of the local electorate as being in favour of Home Rule for Ireland.

What all sides seem agreed on, however, is neither actual club was sectarian in its employment policies or general outlook.

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