chapter  1
‘A scratch team with gentlemanly instincts’
The Corinthians and English soccer in the late nineteenth century
ByChris Bolsmann, Dilwyn Porter
Pages 21

Founded in 1882, by N.L. (‘Pa’) Jackson, a journalist and assiduous promoter of middle-class sport, the Corinthian Football Club effectively represented a social elite that had once dominated English soccer on and off the field but whose influence was diminishing by the 1880s. Though Jackson claimed that his object was to improve the performance of the English national team in the annual international match against Scotland, the Corinthians, all of whom had attended public schools and/or universities, flew the flag for gentlemanly amateurism by touring in the north of England and in Scotland, taking on and sometimes defeating teams of working-class professionals. Though the club’s commitment to amateurism was sometimes questioned – it demanded substantial guarantees, paid generous expenses and its players travelled in style – the argument here revolves around Jackson’s entrepreneurship in building a distinctive Corinthian brand, seizing the opportunity to promote matches that invoked symbolic rivalry between amateur and professional, middle class and working class, North and South, England and Scotland. Thus, ‘gentlemanly amateurism’ is given a commercial inflection; under Jackson, the club had more in common with its professional rivals than has previously been recognized. By the early 1900s, however, what the Corinthians had to offer was less attractive than the cut and thrust of league football. Touring in the North was no longer feasible, and the club increasingly focused on its traditional showpiece matches against the Scottish amateurs Queen’s Park and the annual Charity Shield match against professional opposition. One-off matches could still generate useful propaganda for amateurism, but in general, performance levels were inconsistent.