1st Edition

The Football Pools and the British Working Class A Political, Social and Cultural History

By Keith Laybourn Copyright 2023
    250 Pages
    by Routledge

    250 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book is the first national study of the football pools in Britain which examines the politics and culture of the gambling on the football pools. It charts the rise of the football pools, focusing upon its rapid growth from the 1920s and its prolonged decline in British culture from the 1990s, partly as a result of the National Lottery. The book explores how this new gambling activity became a significant leisure opportunity for the working class - a way to feel that the individual skill of the punter could lead to the winning of some life-changing jackpot cheque being presented by a sporting personality of celebrity. Dominated by Littlewoods, and other large commercial companies, the weekly filling-in of the coupons was considered to be a safe form of investment, guaranteed by the integrity of the pool companies, rather than some seedy gambling operation.

    The Football Pools and the British Working Class looks at different elements of the football pools from what attracted people to this form of gambling to how the industry developed and adjusted to the suspension of the football fixtures in 1936, and the bad winter of 1962-3. Above all, it examines the deep hostility that surrounded the filling in of the football pools arising from the National Anti-Gambling League, religious groups, the football authorities and MPs.

    This book will appeal to all those interested in the history of British football and 20th century British working class culture.

    Chapter 1 Introduction and overview: debate and argument on working-class leisure, gambling and the football pools

    Chapter 2 The emergence of the football pools c.1870-c. 1945: from bookmaker to the modern football pool company

    Chapter 3 The politics of the football pools 1918-1945: the opposition of the chadbards, sabbatarians, the National Anti-Gambling League, the Football League and the Football Association

    Chapter 4 The recovery, evolution and decline of the pools 1945-1990s

    Chapter 5 The politics of the pools since 1945: conflict and acceptance of ‘the ranks of high super-spivery’

    Chapter 6 Employment, process and changing industrial relations  in the football companies 1945-1990s

    Chapter 7 An integral part of working-class life: was the pools worth ‘the candle’ in the culture of working-class life

    Chapter 8 Challenge, decline and the restructuring of the pools: the impact of The National Lottery ‘for good causes’

    Chapter 9 Globalisation and the football pools

    Chapter 10 Conclusion




    Keith Laybourn is Diamond Jubilee Professor Emeritus at the University of Huddersfield. His main research interests are labour history and gambling, and he is President of the Society for the Study of Labour History. He has recently published Going to the Dogs (2019).