Only four teams on Merseyside

As part of the series I wrote on Football League clubs that are gone and almost forgotten, I stumbled on the amazing story of New Brighton FC and their ground, which today would have been the largest stadium in the UK.  Despite attempts to keep a club going, today there’s not a club based on the area sporting the famous name.

Name four teams that have played League football on Merseyside? Liverpool, Everton, Tranmere Rovers and who else? Well, go back to the 1898 and Tranmere Rovers biggest rivals would have been just around the corner from Prenton Park. On tip of the Wirral you will still find today the lonely spot of New Brighton, and it was here at the start of the 20th century that league football was being played by New Brighton Tower FC. Clubs came and went all the time at this point, with the likes of Loughborough, Darwen and Glossop North End making up the 2nd tier of English football.

Thanks to Les Ward for this one

The club were formed in 1896 and moved immediately into a ground adjacent to the New Brighton Tower (hence their name). What made this so unique was that at the time it had a capacity for 100,000, and thus one of the largest stadiums in Britain. The development included the actual Tower, which when opened in 1900 was the tallest building in Great Britain at 189 metres tall, looking out over the Mersey and the Estuary and modelled on the Eiffel Tower. With a ballroom at the bottom, the whole area was THE place to be seen in Merseyside.

The club won the Lancashire League in only their second season and were elected to the Football League in 1898, taking their place in the newly expanded Second Division. Their record in the first season was good – finishing 5th and just three points off 2nd place and promotion. One of the reasons for this success was the club’s intention to sign up as many of the top footballers in the country as they could. After all, who else could offer the bright lights and glamour that New Brighton could at the time? The Football League were aghast at such behaviour and strongly rebuked the club for their strategy.

Thanks to Les Ward for the use of this picture

Did it have any affect? Not really. The club continued to try and offer the best salaries and in the following season they gambled on promotion to the top tier. The local authorities were desperate to make New Brighton an all year attraction to rival, if not beat Blackpool amongst others, and saw a successful football team playing during the winter months as key to this strategy. Unfortunately the gamble didn’t work as less than 1,000 spectators on average saw the club finish in tenth place and then in fourth in 1901. The consortium that had been bank rolling the club admitted failure. They simply could not keep bankrolling the experiment so it was with some relief that the Football League accepted their resignation in September 1901 with their position being taken by Doncaster Rovers.

The ground was still used for other sports including cycling and motor bike racing. However, the company struggled to make anything really work. They even tried a live action Cowboys and Indians show during the summer months of 1908 with over 500 performers.

With the onset of World War One the tower was deemed too dangerous to use, and by June 1919 it had been decided to dismantle the structure. The ballroom and the stadium stayed, although the terraces were reduced in size. In 1921 a new club was formed after the demise of South Liverpool FC, and two seasons later they were elected into the Football League 3rd Division North. Initially they played at Rakes Lane close by but after the Second World War games were played back at The Tower, although by this stage the capacity was a shadow of its former self. In 1951 the club finished bottom of the Third Division North and were voted out of the league in favour of Workington.

The club continued to play in the regional leagues, still using the New Tower Athletics Ground but it was clear the future wasn’t bright. Finally, the left home in 1970’s after fire and vandalism had made it unusable, and the ground lay vacant until purchased by a developer who over time turned the site into houses.

Today nothing is left of one of Great Britain’s biggest ever football stadiums bar a memory. The Wirral has returned to a one club area (although step 6 Vauxhall Motors may say otherwise), but for a couple of glorious years, one club tried to break the mould of English football, and basically failed. Kevin Costner may have been told “Build it and they will come” in his dreams in Field of Dreams, but for New Brighton Tower it was all just a Nightmare on Egerton Street.


  1. great story..wasnt aware of any of this in any shape or form..shame there;’s not any more pictures. Similar to white city stadium site — its just around the corner from me and trying to convince my son that there was a 93K stadium there until the mid 80’s and he wont have it!

  2. Sorry to be pedantic Stuart, but the Costner film you’re quoting from was ‘Field of Dreams’ not his other baseball film ‘Bull Durham’ and the quote is actually ‘build it and HE will come’, referring to his father.

  3. The club that was formed in 1921 was New Brighton FC & had no connection to the defunct New Brighton Tower FC. There’s an interesting story surrounding their election to the league in 1923. Following the demise of South Liverpool FC the newly formed club, which the founders had originally planned to call Wallasey United FC took over South Liverpool’s fixtures & liabilities & started playing in the Lancashire Combination. However the name New Brighton FC had already been registered so they were stuck with that.

    New Brighton FC had applied for the league in 1922 & despite gaining a creditable 7 votes missed out. There was then a split within the club between the manager & the directors. The manager resigned went off with some of his supporters and promptly founded a new club – calling it Wallasey United. Despite having no ground & no team and consequently never having played a game they applied for election to the League!

    Not surprisingly they failed whereas New Brighton FC succeeded and within a year Wallasey United had disbanded so ending one of the weirdest chapters in Merseyside footballing history.

  4. New Brighton have since reformed in 1993 and currently play in West Cheshire League division 2 at Harrison Park.

    1. And although New Brighton FC were failed in their bid to be re-elected to the football league in 1951 they did continue to apply to rejoin the football league in subsequent years. They reapplied to join Division 3 North in both 1952 and 1953 not receiving a single vote in either ballot but seven years later they applied to join Division 4 (by then an amalgamation of Div3N and Div3S split on league position).

      They received 2 votes in 1960, Didn’t bother to apply in1961, got 1 vote in 1962 & 1963 and encouragingly got 2 votes in 1964. In 1965 they didn’t receive a single vote and so didn’t apply in 1966 or 1967. They made one more, ultimately futile, attempt to gain election back to the football league in 1968. They received one solitary vote and haven’t darkened the door of the football league since either to be elected or by merit through promotion.

      Interestingly their solitary vote in that 1968 ballot stands alongside the 40+ votes received by York City, Chester City, Barrow FC and Workington FC who all secured their re-election and who, at the start of the 2018/19 all look likely to be in the sixth tier of English (two below the football league) or lower.

      Teams that failed to be elected the same year (alongside with their vote count for comparison to New Brighton’s one) and who are currently (Apr 2018) in the football league that turned its back on New Brighton…

      Cheltenham Town 3
      Cambridge Utd. 2
      Wigan Athletic 2
      Wimbledon 1
      Yeovil 0

      Two of those were subsequent FA Cup winners! How fickle the finger of fate is.

  5. Bootle Football Club is an English football club based in Bootle, Merseyside. The club are currently members of the North West Counties League Premier Division and play at New Bucks Park.

    They are not the same club as the original Bootle F.C. who were in The Football League for one season in 1892–93, but rather a new club founded in 1953.

  6. All interesting stuff. More wanted ! I e-mailed the new New Brighton F.C club with no reply. D. Clarke.

  7. Read “Rest In Pieces: South Liverpool Football Club 1894-1994”. It gives the full story, with documented evidence, of how South Liverpool became New Brighton in 1921, and of the breakaway within New Brighton that led to the creation of Wallasey United in 1923.

    1. There was no South Liverpool “demise” in 1921. The club merely moved across the River Mersey, to Wallasey, and changed its name to New Brighton FC. Different name but same club. A new South Liverpool formed in 1935. Read “Rest In Pieces: South Liverpool Football Club 1894-1994″. It gives the full story, with documented evidence, of how South Liverpool became New Brighton in 1921, and of the breakaway within New Brighton that led to the creation of Wallasey United in 1923.

  8. Does anyone know anything about a club called Wallasey who applied for membership of the Third North in 1923 but didn’t get a single vote? At the same meeting New Brighton were voted in, so it’s definitely not the same club…..

    1. A very interesting programme on BBC i player. Google New Brighton Tower and it should bring up the show featuring John Keith, Tom Sault, etc.

  9. Nice article. Lots more detail on the New Brighton v Tranmere rivalry can be found on the Planet Prentonia website.

    Do have to correct you on one thing, though. Southport is in Merseyside (albeit reluctantly) and they were a League side from 1921-1978.

    I’ve noticed some other posters brought this up. When we (Tranmere) went into the National League, we crossed swords again with Southport and Chester, both of whom (especially the former) had been too small to appear on our radar for years.

    I think the Liverpool Echo tried to stoke up some Merseyrail Derby rubbish, but we were having none of it.

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