Repudiate or Replicate

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  • Title: Repudiate or Replicate: The Delegitimization of Soccer in Australia: 1880–1914
  • Author(s): Andy Harper
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Sport & Society
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Sport and Society
  • Keywords: Australian Soccer, Football, Australian Rules, Rugby Union, Rugby League, Class, Colonialism, Ethnicity
  • Volume: 10
  • Issue: 2
  • Year: 2019
  • ISSN: 2152-7857 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2152-7865 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Harper, Andy. 2019. "Repudiate or Replicate: The Delegitimization of Soccer in Australia: 1880–1914." The International Journal of Sport and Society 10 (2): 11-28. doi:10.18848/2152-7857/CGP/v10i02/11-28.
  • Extent: 18 pages


Modern Australia hosts a unique football landscape. Its four professional codes (Australian Rules, Rugby Union, Rugby League, Soccer) are supported by a population of just twenty-five million people. As distinct from most other countries and despite its long history in Australia, its British colonial past, and being an anglophile nation, soccer did not become the predominant, hegemonic football sport. In fact, soccer has historically been viewed as un-Australian and existed outside the mainstream and legitimized sports culture. Academic literature insists that Australian soccer’s enduring plight has been one of problematic foreignness and ethnicity. Ethnicity becomes a major consideration in Australian soccer as a result of the mass immigration of Europeans post-1950. However, prior to this and since colonization in 1788, Australia was a largely homogenous (British) culture. Based on analysis of primary source material (via digitized newspaper archives) and secondary source sports and social history writing, this article investigates the roles of class and colonialism in the key period between 1850 and 1914, during which time the football games were organizing themselves and when soccer was originally marginalized. In challenging the incumbent ethnicity orthodoxy, this article highlights those elements of British colonial (sporting) culture that were deemed worthy of replication and those to be repudiated in the Australian colony, and how soccer fitted into this matrix.