Formed 1889. Wound up 1894
Elected to Division Two 1893. Resigned 1894.
1889-Jan 1891 a d e g
Jan 1891-Feb 93 c f
Feb 1893-1894 b h
In the late 1880s, professionalism was becoming established: with the formation of the Football League in 1888 and the Football Alliance a year later the leading clubs in the north west and midlands were able to guarantee lucrative fixtures against each other. In the north-east, however, clubs resisted the trend and the committee of Middlesbrough FC staunchly opposed professionalism. A group of dissenting members called a meeting on 29 October 1889 at the Temperance Hall and resolved to form a new professional club. A journalist commented, "It is evident that the miserable ineptitude of the older organisation has disgusted a great many Middlesbrough people and they are determined to see if the club based on professional lines cannot lift their good name out of the mire."
The new club adopted the name "Ironopolis" to distinguish them from Middlesbrough FC and to emphasise the town's association with heavy industry. The club was quickly nicknamed "The Nops" or "The Washers," the latter being slang for cash (being paid to the players). Meanwhile, Middlesbrough FC reversed their policy and embraced professionalism but moves towatrds a merger came to nothing and Ironopolis joined the Northern League in 1890, winning the championship three years in a row. Meanwhile Middlesbrough reverted to amateur status in 1892.
While Middlesbrough continued to draw its main support from the middle and upper classes of the town, Ironopolis were very much the team of the working man. Evidence for this comes from the occupations listed on the register of investors who bought £1 shares in 1891.
In January 1891 "No-Side" wrote in the Northern Echo that prior to a match with Cambuslang, "Alderman R Weighill, a well known owner of racehorses, and proprietor of the Cleveland Bay Inn and Oxford Music Hall, presented the team with jerseys of his racing colours (cherry with white stripes)". The old maroon and green tops were retained as an alternative.
A report on the club's AGM in August 1892 (Northern Echo 26 August 1892) indicates that finances were at that stage causing concern. Unexpected financial losses in several key fixtures and the Durham miners' strike had hit income hard and they ended the season with a deficit of £379 5s 3d.
In February 1893 the "Nops" adopted the cherry red shirts with a white sash shown in the photograph above and went on to win the Northern League title. Their application to join Division Two of the Football League was initially rejected but shortly afterwards Accrington FC resigned and Ironopolis successfuly applied to fill the vacancy.
This proved a step too far: receipts did not cover the cost of players' wages and the costs of travelling to fixtures in Lancashire and the Midlands. In December 1893 the local press were reporting that the club was considering going into liquidation. In February 1894 all the professional players were served notice and in May the club resigned from the League and was disbanded. Six years later Middlesbough FC, having turned professional after the Nops' demise, were elected to the Football League.
- (a) Middlesbrough Official Website
- (b) Middlesbrough Ironopolis FC - A fascinating site with historical research by Nigel Gibb
- (c) Club Colours (Bob Bickerton)
- (d) Raynerseye - a site produced by Richard Pete Rayner with splendid paintings recreating historic matches sadly no longer available.
- (e) Pioneers of the North (Paul Joannou & Alan Candlish, Breedon Books 2009)
- (f) Northern Echo January 1891 submitted by Darren Foss & Brian Webb
- (g) Sunderland Daily Echo 2nd September 1892 submitted by Brian Webb
- (h) York Herald 2nd February 1893 submitted by Brian Webb