The Young Lions: Archbishop Ramsey and football

As much of the world’s attention turns to the World Cup, we can reveal an unlikely link between football and a former Archbishop of Canterbury.

In 1971, Archbishop Michael Ramsey agreed to a donation of £100 to help set up a team for black South African refugees in Kenya. Ramsey had visited Kenya earlier in the year for the Anglican Consultative Council at Limuru and had granted a group of the refugees an audience. On 14th May he wrote “I look forward to hearing that the cheque has reached you safely and also to receiving any news about the group and its fortunes”. The letter shown here was sent in acknowledgement of the donation.

Letter from the Young Lions  Football Club

Letter from the Young Lions Football Club. Archbishops’ Papers, Ramsey 213, f.260

Ramsey was not noted for an interest in sport, although his period as Archbishop of Canterbury (1961-1974) coincided closely with the tenure of his England manager namesake Sir Alf.

There are many links between the Church and the national winter game. Several prominent English clubs were founded as church sides. Fulham were St. Andrew’s Church Sunday School FC of West Kensington, and Bolton Wanderers began life in 1874 as the Christ Church Sunday School. Everton were originally St.Domingo’s FC, a Sunday School team from St. Domingo’s Methodist Church in the district of Everton in Liverpool.

Arsenal’s former stadium, Highbury, was originally leased in 1913 from St. John’s College of Divinity, which occupied the southern end of the stadium until the end of the Second World War when it burnt down. The original terms of the lease prevented the club from playing on Christmas Day or Good Friday.

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