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"Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play…it is war minus the shooting."

George Orwell

Thank God for Football

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for...By faith Abraham...was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Hebrews 11:1,2, 8,10

This week I attended the launch of Peter Lupson’s new book* on the Christian origins of football clubs at Liverpool Cathedral. These verses seem relevant.

The book celebrates the Christian men who founded Premier League football teams – or more correctly, founded church football teams, which were to develop into professional and ultimately Premier League Clubs.

Of course no one in the 19th century set out to found a 21st century Premier League Club. Churches formed sports clubs, many existed for a short time and many remained church teams all their lives but a few evolved into professional clubs.

How could the members of the Young Men's Bible Class who decided to found the Aston Villa (Wesleyan) Football team or the boys of the All Hallows Church Bible class who founded the Hotspur Football Club, for example, possible have guessed that two of England's finest clubs, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur who emerge in later years? But let us thank God for Rev Tiverton Preedy, founder of Barnsley St Peter’s Football Club, for John Ripsher, who ran a Bible Class at All Hallows Church, Tottenham and poured his life into the boys of the area and their football club or William Baker Pitt, curate of Christ Church, Swindon. Where would Barnsley FC, Tottenham Hotspur or Swindon Town be without them?

The book’s title is based on the following quotation from Lord Arthur Kinnaird, who played in nine FA Cup Finals between 1873 and 1883 – as well as being a leading Christian statesman of his era. “I believe that all right-minded people have good reason to thank God for the great progress of this popular national game”. Many of us regularly and sincerely thank God for football.

This is an unusual weekly devotional but I hope you share my encouragement that those of us who are seeking to represent Jesus Christ in football (or sport generally) are following in the footsteps of many generations.

Thank God for Football, the illustrated companion, Peter Lupson, Azure, SPCK, 2010. The early book (no illustrations but longer) is Thank God for Football, Peter Lupson, SPCK, London 2006

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