Football More is known about folk football through the 18th and 19th centuries. It was essentially a game for large numbers played over wide distances with goals that were as much as three miles apart, as at Ashbourne. At Whitehaven, the goals were a harbour wall and a wall outside the town. Matches in Derby involved about a thousand players. In all cases, the object of the exercise was to drive a ball of varying size and shape, often a pig’s bladder, to a goal. Generally, the ball could be kicked, thrown or carried but it is believed there were some places at which only kicking was allowed. Whatever rules may have been agreed beforehand, there is no doubt at all that folk football was extremely violent, even when relatively well organised. One form of kicking that was common was “shinning”, the term for kicking another player’s legs, and it was legal even if the ball was hundreds of yards away.
Folk football was essentially rural and matches tended to coincide with country fairs. Change was brought about by industrialisation and the growth of towns as people moved away from the country. The very idea of a game taking several hours over huge areas ran counter to “the discipline, order and organisation necessary for urban capitalism”. In 1801, a survey of British sports by Joseph Strutt described football as being “formerly much in vogue among the common people of England”. Although Strutt claimed that folk football was in disrepute and was “but little practised”, there is no doubt that many games continued well into the nineteenth century before codification took effect.
Harrogate Town AFC At Harrogate Town Football Club we pride ourselves on providing authentic and passionate football. The EnviroVent Stadium boasts outstanding facilities, capable of providing a top flight experience for fans, families and even first time match goers.
We are a club who place family values at the heart of everything we do, and are dedicated to providing exciting football in a safe and enjoyable environment.
Beyond the first team, we are a club at the heart of the community. Our Community Foundation has gone from strength to strength in recent years and has now achieved Charity status, with initiatives such as walking football and sporting memories involving local residents from a range of ages and backgrounds.
The club was due to be formed for the 1914/15 season however, due to the Great War all games were postponed before fixtures could take place. Harrogate should have been playing at Bishop Auckland on Saturday 5 September, but sent a telegram two hours before kick-off stating they would not be arriving as most of the team had joined the Regiments.
After the war Harrogate AFC was formed for the 1919/20 season to play in the West Riding League. The first competitive game was a 1-0 win at the Starbeck Lane Ground on Saturday 30 August 1919 against Horsforth. In that season Harrogate won the Whitworth Cup 4-0 against Ripon City, the first ever trophy won by the new Harrogate AFC.
The 1920/21 season saw Harrogate join the newly formed Yorkshire League, but also continue with a team in the West Riding League, while a move to the then named ‘Wetherby Lane’ was completed. The first Yorkshire League game at the new ground took place on Saturday 28 August 1920 with a 2-1 win against York YMCA, before a friendly with Sheffield United saw 15,000 supporters in attendance.
Harrogate’s first major trophy arrived in the form of the West Riding County Challenge Cup as Fryston Colliery were beaten 3-1 at Elland Road on 9th May 1925; a trophy that would be won again two seasons later. The club then disbanded following the 1931/32 season until 1935, when a team formed under the name Harrogate Hotspurs. The team played in the Harrogate League and West Riding County Amateur League until outbreak of war when the team returned to action in the West Yorkshire League.
After adopting the name Harrogate Town in 1948, the club joined the Yorkshire League nine years later, and finished Runners-Up, as well as County Cup Winners, in the 1962/63 season. Under Peter Gunby, Town had a successful side in the early 1970s, winning the County Cup again in 1973.
Under Alan Smith, Town were the last winners of the Yorkshire League Division Two in the 1981/82 season, as the Northern Counties East League was then formed with the Yorkshire and Midland leagues joining forces. Under head groundsman George Dunnington, floodlights were installed in 1982 when Leeds United sent their entire first team to mark the occasion, and Eddie Gray switched on the lights. The first competitive match played under the lights was an FA Cup replay against Accrington Stanley which attracted a crowd of over 2,000.
November 1990 saw the official opening of the new impressive cantilevered grandstand and York City sent their first team before a prolonged period on the UniBond League Division One. In June 1998 Town appointed Maurice Hammond as Chairman, though was replaced in February 2000 by former Chairman of Leeds United Bill Fotherby.
EARLY 2000’S AND FA CUP EXPLOITS
The 2001/02 season saw the club become Champions of UniBond League Division One by ten clear points under Manager John Reed and Coach Neil Aspin, after playing 15 seasons in the league since its inception. Reed and Aspin also guided Town to a first West Riding County Cup since 1986 with a 4-0 win over Farsley Celtic.
2002/03 saw the club finish 6th in their first ever season of UniBond League Premier Division, while The FA Cup First Round proper was reached for the first time in the club’s history and the West Riding County Cup was won again, against Farsley Celtic. A 5th place finish in 2003/04 secured the club a place in the newly formed Conference North Football League.
The inaugural 2004/05 Nationwide North season saw the club achieve more success, despite the shock mid-season departure of John Reed. Neil Aspin returned to Wetherby Road as the new Manager having left the club at the end of the previous season, and an excellent 6th place finish was achieved. The 2005/06 season saw more success for Town; The FA Cup First Round proper was again reached, and Town were unfortunate to go out of the competition following a penalty shoot-out against Torquay United at Wetherby Road. A place in the Conference North promotion play-offs was secured on the final day of the season with a 1-0 win at Stafford Rangers, but just 3 days later the score was reversed against the same opposition in the semi-final.
THE WEAVER ERA Harrogate Town AFC
Neil Aspin left the club at the end of the 2008/09 season, and soon after Simon Weaver was appointed the club’s new manager. Having to operate on a severely restricted budget hampered the clubs progress during the 2009/2010 season and at the end the club finished in the unwanted bottom position of the league. However, with several clubs going bankrupt, Harrogate Town were handed a reprieve. The following season saw Town struggle around the mid to lower regions of the league and it took a ten match unbeaten run to pull the club to safety and their final position of 12th. Despite a good start to the 2011-2012 season, Town once again hit a rocky patch and it took a 5-0 win over Corby Town on the final day of the season to guarantee safety and another crack at conquering the league.
The 2012/2013 season turned out to be one of mixed fortunes; an amazing FA Cup run saw Football League side Torquay United defeated in the first round proper and only a penalty shoot-out following a replay prevented us from reaching the third round where Middlesbrough lied in wait.
RECENT HISTORY of Harrogate Town AFC
The 2015/16 season saw the club achieve their highest ever league finish as fourth place and a spot in the playoffs was secured in the National League North. The playoff semi-final pitted Town against AFC Fylde who secured a slender first leg lead with a 1-0 win at Wetherby Road that set the foundations to eliminate Harrogate after a 1-1 draw in the second leg at Kellamergh Park. The summer of 2016 saw the club lay a state of the art 3G pitch at the now named CNG Stadium allowing the club to avoid any weather disruptions and hire the venue out when not in use by the club. Towards the end of the 16/17 season, in which the club finished 11th, it was announced that Harrogate Town would be operating as a full time professional club from the start of the 2017/18 season.
The 2017/18 season was one that will live long in the memory of Harrogate Town fans as the club achieved promotion to The National League for the first time in their history. Having gone head to head with Salford City all season, Town found themselves in the play-offs, but were able to overcome both Chorley and Brackley and achieve promotion in the most dramatic fashion.
Simon Weaver couldn’t have wished for a better start to life in The National League, as Town got through their first 11 games unbeaten and topped the table in September, taking the football world by storm. A final league position of sixth meant Town qualified for the Play-Offs at the first time of asking and, despite elimination at the hands of eventual finalists AFC Fylde, the club received many plaudits for their performances over the season.
History was once again made in the 2019/20 season as Town earned promotion to the Football League. Weaver’s side were second in the table, four points behind league leaders Barrow in early March when the season was brought to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With null and void a worrying possibility, the National League decided to award the league title and promotion to Barrow, while the teams placed 2nd to 7th would contest the one remaining place in the Football League via the Play-Offs. Town hosted Boreham Wood in the Semi-Final at a behind closed doors Wetherby Road, with Jack Muldoon’s goal booking a first ever trip to Wembley Stadium. Notts County, members of the Football League for all but one of their seasons in existence, stood between Town and a place in League Two. Again with no fans in attendance, Town got the job down as goals from George Thomson, Connor Hall and Jack Diamond helped Weaver’s side to a 3-1 win and ensured it would be a season that would go down in history.
With the Covid-19 pandemic continuing, Town’s first season in the Football League was played almost entirely behind closed doors, with Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium Harrogate’s home for the first few weeks while a grass pitch was installed at Wetherby Road. The first ever Football League fixture in Harrogate took place on Saturday 17th October as fellow EFL new boys Barrow visited The EnviroVent Stadium, with Jack Muldoon’s goal securing a historic win for Town. Harrogate had already made history by playing a Premier League side in a competitive fixture for the first time when Simon Weaver took his side to West Bromwich Albion in the Second Round of the Carabao Cup. Another season in the EFL was secured on Saturday 17th April as Town completed the league double over Yorkshire rivals Bradford City, with Simon Weaver’s side finishing their first season in 17th.
The 2021/22 season ended on a high as Town lifted the 2019/20 FA Trophy, which had been delayed due to the pandemic, at Wembley Stadium with Josh Falkingham scoring the winning goal against Concord Rangers.
Harrogate Town AFC A full club history, written by Club Historian Phil Harrison, can be found here…
FDS Harrogate – Visit the website here
Location: Henshaws College Harrogate HG1 4ED – Phone: 07776213740
Harrogate & District Vets 11 a side League – Visit the website here
Location: Home Ground, The CNG Stadium, Harrogate Town AFC or St John Fishers School.
Description : Matches will take place on the Home Ground of each team participating along with the brand New 3G Pitches at The CNG Stadium (Harrogate Town AFC) & St John Fishers School which are the Home Ground for 4 teams Matches will be 80 minutes long (40 mins each way) with FA Referees. The league is over 40’s & teams can have up to 4 players between 35-40 on the field at any one time.
Harrogate 6 a side Leagues – Visit the website here
Location: Harrogate HG2 7SY – Phone: 01937 841440
Description : Football Mundial provides 5/6 & 7-a-side football throughout the UK. Our fantastic and professional league system offers you the opportunity to participate every week, regardless of your ability and standard. With 5 a side & 6 a side football rapidly becoming one of the most popular sports throughout the whole of the UK, we are excited to be able to offer to you the chance to easily and effortlessly join a league.
Harrogate Town – Visit the website here
ENVIROVENT STADIUM, HARROGATE, NORTH YORKSHIRE, HG2 7SA – Phone: 01423 210600
Knaresborough Celtic Football Club – Visit the website here
Location: Thistle Hill, Knaresborough HG5 8LS – Phone: 07812973030
KNARESBOROUGH TOWN – Visit the website here
Location: Manse Lane Knaresborough North Yorkshire HG5 8LF – Phone: 07702678320
Ripon City AFC – Visit the website here
Location: Mallorie Park Dr, Ripon HG4 2QD – Phone: 07886705460