Senior and Junior Football

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Senior and Junior Football

Post by Aten » Sun Jun 04, 2017 1:34 pm

As you may have seen in other posts, I have mentioned that I am researching senior football in Springburn that covers the period 1872 through to the end of that century. At this time association football was still very much evolving and with the formation of the SFA and the introduction of the national cup followed by a number of local associations and competitions the number of clubs expanded considerably. During this time of growth there was a vast number of friendly matches with which to fill the season calendar. Which leads me to the point for which some guidance would be very much appreciated. Does anyone know what distinguished “senior” football from “junior” football before the formation of the SJFA in 1886?

Referencing through reported matches played, it was not uncommon for a First Eleven team to face a Second Eleven team and similarly a high frequency of “senior” First or Second Elevens playing against “junior” opposition. At its simplest level you could argue that “senior” teams were those who were members of the SFA and “junior” teams were those who were not but how does that explain teams such as Parkgrove who played in both the Scottish Cup and the ill fated “junior” Scottish Cup of 1880? Also there seems to be a fair number of clubs who had “senior” and “junior” teams. Was this a case of “junior” being just another description of “second eleven”?

I am hoping that some of you more experienced historians can give me some guidance on this in order to have a clearer picture of what distinguished “senior” from “junior” status. Perhaps it had no real significance at that time of evolution and clubs were just happy to have any opponents to play against or may be there was some significance, I admit I just do know. Certainly prior to a formal demarcation in 1886, it seems it was all pretty relaxed.

Thanks in advance for any advice/information.


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Re: Senior and Junior Football

Post by bluedragon » Mon Jun 05, 2017 6:45 am

It is an interesting question and like you I will be interested to hear what others say.

My own thinking goes along the following the lines:

1) “Junior clubs” was a generic term used in England and Scotland in the late 19th century to describe football clubs playing below the top standard of the day. It does not appear to be used to describe youth teams even if they existed in those days.

2) By contrast “Senior clubs” was not used as a term to describe the clubs playing at the top level at this time and only starts to be used much later on.

3) In England “junior clubs” were, over time, brought within the fold of their single, regional football association and given representation on the council. The regional FA was in turn part of the Football Association. The term “junior club” in this context gradually dies out. Other terms, e.g. amateur, non-league, etc are then used to describe these clubs.

4) In Scotland football associations are formed to bring together clubs with a common purpose. So in Dumbartonshire in March 1884 the Dumbartonshire FA was formed. In December 1884 the Glasgow Herald reported that there were discussions to form a separate Dumbartonshire Junior Football Association “in the county, open to second elevens and junior teams which have not competed for any cup in connection with the Scottish, Dumbartonshire, Second Eleven Scottish, or West of Scotland Football Association.” So although this did not happen at the time I can see how “junior” started to appear in the football vocabulary as they would have to distinguish this new association from the existing Dumbartonshire Football Association and what better way than to add the word “junior”. So did “junior” start to be used to describe those clubs as yet unaffiliated and were now being brought together in new associations?

5) Moving forward to the start of Junior Internationals the new SJFA would select a team from players in its member clubs. However, the “England” opposition provided for many years by the Birmingham FA would be selected from players in its clubs but who had not played for their club in the Football League or FA Cup, e.g. an Aston Villa reserve player, as its membership covered all standards of clubs.

6) Bringing it right up to date in England today there are simply “non-league clubs” who play in a single structure below the English Football League. Whereas in Scotland we have both Senior and Junior clubs that are all “non-league”. In England the integration of clubs into a single structure took place in the very early days.

As I say, these are just my own thoughts and I hope they make sense!

Alan McCabe
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Re: Senior and Junior Football

Post by Alan McCabe » Mon Jun 05, 2017 9:10 am

From recollection, I'm fairly sure the 'private ground' criteria had something to do with the early designations between senior and junior.
While the earliest years of the Scottish FA Cup would have included clubs with no privately owned ground, e.g. original entrants Callander, I'm fairly sure the rules of membership quickly adopted the requirement to possess a private ground. Some of the clubs circumvented this ruling by effectively renting a section of a farmer's field for national cup ties as this seemed to satisfy the requirements.
Certainly, by the time that the West of Scotland (Junior) association was temporarily formed, I'm sure it was created to accommodate a cup competition for the clubs not in possession of SFA membership and also to embrace those clubs which competed on public parks rather than 'private grounds', again using the term loosely.

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