Among the clubs that have played in the FA Premier League are twelve that owe their existence to a church yet their founders have faded into obscurity. Who were these visionary pioneers? What motivated them? What struggles did they face? Peter Lupson, author of the book, Thank God For Football, gets onto the pitch to share these important stories.
Aston Villa FC
The birth of the Football League and the rise of Aston Villa FC are inseparable from the name of William McGregor, a devout Christian who changed the course of football history.
Selfless service to the poor and deprived was the hallmark of the life of Barnsley FC’s founder, Rev. Tiverton Preedy.
Birmingham City FC
The founders of Birmingham City FC were members of the choir of Holy Trinity Church, Bordesley. Little did they know that the controversial services in which they took part would propel their church into the national limelight.
Bolton Wanderers FC
Bolton Wanderers FC was born at Christ Church in a tough district of the town. Rev. Joseph Wright founded the club as a wholesome means of recreation for young men in the Sunday School.
Everton FC & Liverpool FC
Liverpool FC emerged from a bitter split within the ranks of Everton in 1892 but the Christian spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation brought the two clubs close together again.
Fulham FC was a magnet for sports-minded clergymen in its early years but two in particular stand out for their lasting impact.
Manchester City FC
Manchester City FC was born at St Mark’s Church, West Gorton, a district plagued by poverty and violence. The Rev. Arthur Connell, rector of St Mark’s and the first president of the club, stepped into this cauldron.
Queens Park Rangers FC
Standing in the heart of a London housing estate of striking architectural interest, St Jude’s Mission Hall was the birthplace of Queen’s Park Rangers. The club has never forgotten its debt to St Jude’s or the clergy who served there.
The club’s Christian heritage is still in evidence from its nickname ‘The Saints’ and the St Mary’s stadium named after the church where the club was born. Canon Basil Wilberforce, rector of St Mary’s and grandson of the man who led the movement to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire, was the club’s first president.
Swindon Town FC
The founder of Swindon Town FC, Rev. William Baker Pitt, curate of Christ Church, continually stressed the importance of Christian values in football. His name and legacy live on at the club.
Tottenham Hotspur FC
John Ripsher, a Bible Class teacher and first president of Tottenham Hotspur FC, would not give up on rebellious youngsters who attended his Bible Class and played for his team. Had he done so, Spurs would not exist today.
Peter Lupson biography
Peter Lupson is the author of the highly acclaimed books Thank God for Football! and In God’s Company – Christian Giants of Business. Both have been the subject of TV documentaries shown worldwide.
Thank God for Football! tracks the church origins of 12 English clubs that have played in the FA Premier League. They include such illustrious names as Aston Villa, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. The book was launched at the Football Association headquarters in London in the presence of Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Geoff Thompson, Chairman of the Football Association among other distinguished guests.
The book has attracted huge media interest including major features in The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph and The Church Times as well as a mini-series on ITV and a TV documentary produced by the Christian Television Association which was written and presented by Peter and shown on Christian channels worldwide.
Since publication the book has inspired five English Premier League clubs to restore their founders’ graves, two clubs to induct their clergymen founders into their Halls of Fame and another club to change its badge.
Peter was invited to address the AGM of the All-Party Parliamentary Football Group in the House of Lords about football and faith. He was also invited by Liverpool Football Club to write a follow-up to the Everton and Liverpool chapter in the book to celebrate the historic links between the two clubs. The result was Across the Park.
Peter, a retired Modern Languages and English teacher, was for many years Chief Examiner for GCE Advanced Level German for the University of Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations. He is the author of a number of successful German text books. In football, he has been a youth scout for a Premier League club and he is Honorary Vice-President of a semi-professional club in Wales.
He is married to Evelyn. They have a daughter and a son.
© Premier Christian Communications 2023
Premier consists of Premier Christian Media Trust registered as a charity (no. 287610) and as a company limited by guarantee (no. 01743091) with two fully-owned trading subsidiaries: Premier Christian Communications Ltd (no. 02816074) and Christian Communication Partnership Ltd (no. 03422292). All three companies are registered in England & Wales with a registered office address of Unit 6 April Court, Sybron Way, Crowborough, TN6 3DZ.