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'We are grateful for the opportunity to act as ambassadors for our club and our country': sporting hospitality during the Northern Ireland conflict

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jack Hepworth



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Association football did not escape the destructive effects of the conflict in and about Northern Ireland from 1969. As ‘the troubles’ escalated through the 1970s, several international teams declined to visit Northern Ireland, adversely affecting the revenue and reputation of the Irish Football Association (IFA) and its affiliated clubs. British clubs cancelled pre-season friendlies in both Irish jurisdictions. To counteract the domestic game’s crisis, clubs across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland’s border counties pioneered a unique mode of sporting hospitality.While clubs’ officials, sponsors, and supporters were determined primarily to elevate their particular team, they shared with the Belfast football authorities a broader desire to promote the regional game. Hosting British opponents in European competition and pre-season friendlies, teams in the north of Ireland welcomed visitors with studied generosity. Coalescing around these cross-channel encounters, football officials from both sides of the Irish Sea asserted that sporting fraternity transcended ‘the troubles’. Trawling matchday programmes, the sports press, and the archives of football governing bodies in Belfast and Dublin reveals how Irish hosts and British visitors alike promoted their game as a cornerstone of a robust civil society capable of outlasting the Northern Ireland conflict.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hepworth J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of the History of Sport

Year: 2023

Volume: 40

Issue: 5

Pages: 415-435

Print publication date: 06/06/2023

Online publication date: 06/06/2023

Acceptance date: 06/06/2023

Date deposited: 15/03/2024

ISSN (electronic): 0952-3367

Publisher: Taylor and Francis


DOI: 10.1080/09523367.2023.2206651

ePrints DOI: 10.57711/g1m6-my20


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