The Irish Soccer Split: A Reflection of the Politics of Ireland?




Journal Title

Journal ISSN



Volume Title


De Montfort University


Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed


The purpose of the thesis is to ascertain the reasons for the split in Irish soccer. Chronologically, the thesis covers from the period in the late nineteenth century when soccer was introduced to Ireland, up to 1932, the year of the last significant attempt to bring about re-unity in the sport. The thesis focuses on soccer in Ireland, with a particular geographic emphasis on the two centres of the sport, Belfast and Dublin. It shows how the Irish soccer example compares to other sports in Ireland and how they responded to partition, and it compares the sporting examples with other organisations and their reaction to partition by analysing the political, cultural, economic and societal ramifications of the division of Ireland. The thesis goes beyond the regional and local in offering a global perspective on sporting divisions by offering a transnational comparison of other sporting splits around the world. The thesis demonstrates the important role that administrative bodies play in shaping sports. It shows the pivotal impact internal politics – the ways that power is shared in an organisation and the way it is affected by relationships between people who work together – has on sports. It scrutinises the governance of sports in Ireland and transnationally, as well as in other organisations and bodies in Ireland. This thesis adds to the expanding historiography on sport and partition mainly through the prism of the Irish soccer split. By focusing on a particular case study, this thesis explores wider societal impacts. By adding to the growing literature on studies of partition away from the purely political treatises, this thesis demonstrates the ambiguities, complexities and fluidity that surrounded the partition of Ireland that does not fit into the simplistic narratives that have coloured the topic in the past. It contributes to research on borderlands by analysing the impact of partition on multiple bodies, not just from a top-down political perspective. This thesis also places emphasis on the interlinking of nation-state actions and people’s and organisations’ responses to them. This thesis focuses on four main research questions: How did the political environment contribute to the Irish soccer split? What part did the internal structures within Irish soccer play in fomenting division? How much of a factor was the geography of Ireland in leading to the split? And how unique was the Irish soccer split to other sports in Ireland and around the world? The thesis contends that the Irish soccer split was caused primarily by deep rooted internal political factors and not the political partition of Ireland. Whilst, there were underlying issues of a national political character that contributed to the split, the main divisions related to internal governance issues.





Research Institute