What is a Derby in Football and Why is it Called a ‘Derby’?

Celtic vs Rangers. Boca Juniors vs River Plate. Manchester United vs Manchester City. Whether it’s bragging rights in school, work or the family, nothing quite revs football fans up like a clash with their fiercest rivals, otherwise known as a ‘derby’.

But how do we define derbies? Can games between United and Liverpool be truly considered a derby when they come from different cities, purely because they’ve been in direct competition with each other for as long as football has been played? And just why is it called a ‘derby’ anyway?

What Is A Derby in Football/Soccer?

Strictly speaking, many define a derby as a fixture between two clubs in close geographical proximity to each other. Though, given there is some debate as to whether games like United vs Liverpool could be called ‘derbies’ given their staunch opposition to one another historically, perhaps this explains why ‘derby’ is often labelled with the prefix ‘local’ before it nowadays.

If we were to apply this logic, then the aforementioned trio of fixtures would all be derbies, because Celtic and Rangers both come from Glasgow, Boca Junior and River Plater are both based in Buenos Aires, and United and City – obviously – both hail from Manchester.

By the same token, then, Everton vs Liverpool is a derby, because they are both Liverpool-based football clubs, but Manchester United vs Liverpool is not.  Some may argue it could be given they’re both based in the North-West of England, but if we’re coining the term ‘North-West Derby’ now, then you could essentially put Stockport vs Southport or Bolton vs Preston under the same umbrella.

There is, of course, a ‘North-East’ derby between Newcastle and Sunderland (also known as the Tyne-Wear derby), but then again, these are both one-club cities, separated by just 12 miles. It’s not quite the same thing.

Image result for united v city
Man Utd v Man City, February 2008

Is ‘El Clasico’ a Derby?

Although they are stern rivals and matches between the pair are the most prestigious fixtures in Spanish football, the ‘El Clasico’ between Real Madrid and Barcelona is not considered a “derby” as the teams are not in the same locality.

You may hate fans of other clubs further afield more than those nearest to you, but that doesn’t make matches against them derbies. You get the idea.

However, Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid is a Madrid derby, and Barcelona v Espanyol is a Barcelona/Catalonia derby (or derbi barceloni, as it’s otherwise known).

Why Is a Derby Called a ‘Derby’?

It is widely believed that the phrase ‘derby’ stems from the town of Ashbourne in Derbyshire, England. Since the 12th century, two teams from opposite sides of Ashbourne play a game called the Royal Shrovetide Football Match (also known as ‘hugball’) between the ‘uppers’ and the ‘downers’ – those from opposite sides of the river that runs through the town.

Image result for ashbourne shrovetide football
Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football

This ‘us-and-them’ mentality may go some way to explaining how we view derbies in football today. In theory, the players came from the two opposing parishes, All Saints’ and St Peter’s, but in practice the game was a free-for-all with as many as 1,000 players.

Whoever manages to get a painted leather ball into the opposition’s goal, however fairly or unfairly, wins. The goals, at Nuns Mill in the north and the Gallows Balk in the south, are three miles apart and one of few rules is that ‘unnecessary’ violence is frowned upon. This used to be common on feast days in England, and is still played out each Shrove Tuesday at Ashbourne.

That said, there are other theories about how the term came about; one is that it originated from ‘The Derby’, a horse race in England, founded by the 12th Earl of Derby in 1780. Another is that the ‘derby match’ saying arose from when Liverpool played Everton. Their two grounds were separated by Stanley Park, owned by the Earl of Derby, and one of the first uses of the term ‘local derby’ in print media came from the Daily Express in October 1914, which described a match between the Reds and the Toffees as such.

So, to summarise…

What is Meant by “Derby” in Football?

A football “derby” is a match between two nearby teams with a long-standing rivalry. Derby matches can involve teams from the same town or city (e.g Everton and Liverpool) or neighbouring towns or cities (e.g. Southampton and Portsmouth).

Read More:

DISCOVER: Best Gifts for Football Fans

Bestseller No. 1
Football 3D Illusion Lamp, Football 3D Night Light for Kids with 16 Colors Changing and Remote, Football Toys Gift for Boys Girls
  • 💗【Creative 3D Visual Effect】Syomin Football 3D Illusion Lamp is a new creative night light. It comes with a 2D acrylic panel and a luminous base, and together they will creat a 3D Visual Effect. It looks like amazing 3D especially used in a dark environment.
  • 🌈【Multicolor & Remote Control】The color of Syomin Football 3D night light can be changed by using remote control. There're 7 colors and 4 lighting modes for to choose from. You can choose different colors according to your mood and scene to make more fun.
  • 🙂【Convenient & Safe】To get start, tear off the protective film on the surface of panel before using 3D Football night light and clean your finger print off. The light is soft, no glare and blinking, and it won't hurt children's eyes.
  • 🍃【Energy-Saving】There are two ways of power supply, using USB or using three AA batteries, so there is no need to worry about sudden blackout or other issues. The energy consumption of the Football 3D night light is low, which is convenient for daily use.
  • 🎁【Best Gift】Innovative appearance, exquisite design, Syomin Football 3D night light can be used as bedroom decoration and bedside lamp. Families and children will love this Football 3D lamp. This is the best birthday Christmas Thanksgiving present for kids age 3,4,5,6,7 year old.
Bestseller No. 2
Toyk Boy Toys - LED Hover Football - Air Power Training Ball Game - Football Gifts for Boys Kids 3 4 5 6 7 8-12 Year Old Toys
  • Be easy to use,be like real soccer !A powerful fan floats allows it to glide across most flat surfaces, like hard wood floor,tiles,carpet.Be a good parent-kid interaction toy as you can play with kids together.Provide time for enjoyment and exercise for all ages.
  • Attractive toys: This ball toy is with colored LED lights that flashes colorful lights in the dark,children can play games at night and bring more fun because of the variety of colors. The flash lights makes kids more entertained and let them play a more challenging game in the dark for ,will be more exciting and more amazing.
  • Best Gift: Color packaging - moderate size. Suitable indoors or outdoors, a good toy for your kids to use it in multi-player game.The best choice for children's Birthday gifts or Christmas gifts.
  • Safe toy: Made of non-toxic plastic.foam edge, flexible, safe and not hurt foot.Be enough safe and nice so that kids won't hurt themselves or damage the furniture or the wall.
  • Toy size: 7 x 7 x 2.5 in, Required 4 x AA batteries (not included) - For Age 3 year old +
Bestseller No. 3
Himozoo 'Do Not Disturb I'm Watching Football or Rugby' Socks Novelty Funny Socks for Men Women Rugby Lovers Gifts (Grey-football)…
  • Material: Made of luxury cotton-soft,stretch, breathable,very comfortable to wear.No fading, machine washable, and hold up well in the laundry.
  • ONE SIZE FITS MOST: Our size will suitable for most people,funny gifts for teenage boys/boyfriends/husband/son/uncle.
  • Funny design: Funny saying knitting word 'Do Not Disturb I'm Watching Football or Rugby 'socks,Ideal present for people who like football or rugby !
  • Various Colors Available:Our funny socks suitable for most men and women.All of the words are stitched directly into the socks rather than iron-on transfer, so it won't peel off. These Novelty and funny socks will make your friends giggle
  • Perfect Gift:Buy it as a Funny gifts for your friends who are Football or rugby Lover,Xmas Gifts, birthday present, party favor, or keep them for yourself !
SaleBestseller No. 4
Smart Ball SBCB1B Football Gift for Boys Girls Age 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,12+ Years Old Kick Up Counting Power Ball with Glow Lights and Sounds Training Kids, White & Blue
  • AMAZING COUNTING FOOTBALL: Introducing the latest innovation in football, Smart Ball Kick up Counting Football with lights and sounds This amazing counting football allows you to challenge yourself and your friends to see who can achieve more tricks Use your feet, legs, knees, chest and shoulders to keep the Smart Ball from hitting the ground and it will count each time it makes contact with you.
  • FEATURES LIGHTS AND SOUNDS: As you reach key milestones Smart Ball will speak words of encouragement to spur you on as you challenge yourself to keep the ball in the air, and for even more fun, the Smart Ball lights up each time it comes into contact with your body.
  • CHALLENGE FRIENDS: Compete with your friends to see who can get closest to the magic 100 kick ups
  • PERFECT GIFT FOR FOOTBALL FANS: Whether you are looking for a Birthday gift, Christmas gift or other event, the Smart Ball Kick Up Counting Football is the perfect gift for football fans aged 6 years and over
  • PRACTISE: Great for practising your kick ups and freestyling skills
Bestseller No. 5
Tottenham Hotspur FC Official Football Gift Kids Graphic T-Shirt Navy 10-11 Yrs
  • Official THFC kids graphic T-shirt
  • Large club crest print to front; small crest print to sleeve
  • Garment Size (Chest): 2/3yrs 25"; 4/5yrs 27"; 6/7yrs 29"; 8/9yrs 32"; 10/11yrs 34"; 12/13yrs 36"
  • 100% cotton, top quality T-shirt
Bestseller No. 6
Uloveido Training Recreation Practice Indoor Outdoor Sports Soccer Balls for Boys Teens Kids Football Gift To My Son Y594
  • ❤Standard Size 5 Football(Diameter 21.5cm ) Special TPU Exterior Material: Resists abrasions and provides optimum feel. Great for soccer training and practicing your soccer skills. Quickly control the ball and precisely pass and shoot; great ball for a beginning or young athlete.
  • ❤Premier Quality: High Rebound Butyl rubber bladder for excellent air and shape retention- 2 to 4 weeks.
  • ❤Great Performance: Machined-stitched construction ensures soft touch and high durability. Traditional panel graphics design.
  • ❤Packaged by nice bag especially for sport ball, a good gift for your son/grandson/daughter.
  • ❤Intended use: for son, grandson, daughter as a birthday/thanksgiving day/holiday/new year/christmas gift.
SaleBestseller No. 7
Kids Water Bottle by elefunkie – Football Gifts for Boys – Unique Water Bottle for Kids, Collapsible - Childrens Water Bottle, BPA Free - Boys Water Bottle 500ml, Free eBook Name Tag…
  • NO NASTY CHEMICALS: Our kids drinking bottle is BPA FREE & LFGB certified so you know your children are safe making the perfect football water bottle. The strong food-grade silicone ensures this kids drinks bottle is safe and a great football gift or boys birthday gift
  • EVERYDAY I’M GUZZLIN’: Do your kids drink enough water? With a capacity of 500ml, up to 4 refills of this kids bottle is enough for their daily intake to be met. The flip-top spout makes the elefunkie childrens drinks bottle practical as well.
  • FUNKY & FUNCTIONAL: Stunning football design you won’t find on another drinks bottles for kids. And when it’s all said and done, collapse it and put it away. Truly a unique gift for boys & girls and great as a birthday gift for boys
  • DROP RESISTANT & LEAKPROOF: When did the last boys drinks bottle you bought lasted a whole school year? The elefunkie kids sport bottle is drop resistant up to 4ft making it ideal for sports and other fun activities
  • ADD TO CART: Once you’re done, collapse, clip and go. All elefunkie water bottle for kids come with a carabiner so you’ll never lose it. So CLICK ADD TO CART and take advantage of our 30 day money back guarantee and give them the perfect boys gift
Bestseller No. 8
Kids Night Light Football 3D Optical Illusion Lamp with Remote Control 16 Colors Changing Soccer Birthday Xmas Valentine's Day Gift Idea for Sport Fan Boys Girsl
  • ❤[3D Visual Football Lamp] Using a creative laser engraved optical acrylic plate,Football Night Light looks like a 3D etched line when lit at night and The-three dimensional illusion effect makes your room more unique and warm,helping you to sleep better.
  • ❤[16-Color with Remote and 7-Color Touch Control] By acrylic light guide and the LED colorful source,Football night lamp can export a variety of dinosaur visual effects with a touch of the button on the base.With remote control,you can control the brightness and 16 colors you want.
  • ❤[Dual-Power] Compatible with all USB interface,such as Laptop,Computer,USB Power Bank,USB Power Adaptor.and any other with USB Connector.Or use 3*AAA battery(Not included) .
  • ❤ [Perfect Gift for Kids/Friends] High quality LED light is soft and harmless to children’s eyes.Simple and stylish design,suitable for Birthday,Anniversary,Housewarming,Graduation,Engagement,Velentines,Romantic time;It can be put in bedroom,child room,living room,bar,shop,cafe,restaurant etc.As decorative light ,and as best gift for your friends or children.
  • ❤ [Guarantee] Please free feel to contact with our customers services team.Guarantee 100% refund or replacement if you are not happy with our 3D visual night light.
Bestseller No. 9
Smart Ball Speed Football, Talking Soccer Ball, Measures and Tells You Your Kick Speed, Great Quality, Innovative Design, Ideal Gift, Aged 6+
  • Measure the speed of your kick! Hi-tech smart ball can measure kick speeds of up to 100 kph. Can you reach the max?
  • Tells you your speed. Talking ball is a novel training aid. Great gift for footy fans ages 6 up
  • Easy to use. Put the ball on the kick-off base, just one click and it’s time to kick! Ideal Gift
  • Use on any surface. Rest the base on the ground in a garden, hall, field or on a beach
  • High quality and great value. Tough enough for the hardest kicks. Offers outdoor fun for everyone
SaleBestseller No. 10
FunKitZ by AToZ UK Football Water Bottle - Unique Football Gifts for Boys and Girls - Cool Kids Water Bottle, Collapsible, Leakproof - Boys Water Bottle - BPA Free - 550 ml
  • WITH YOUR KIDS AS THEY GROW: Are you tired of replacing your kids drinking bottle after a few uses? Our collapsible water bottle is made with the highest grade silicone and is sure to withstand the roughest of play. Kick, throw, hit and roll, this bottle can take it all
  • THE PERFECT BOREDOM BUSTER: Looking for the perfect football gifts for boys and girls to bust any lockdown boredom. No more nagging or stress, With our fun and funky kids bottle your kid will fall in love with drinking water. Drink, shrink, kick repeat
  • READY TO EXPLORE: Say goodbye to wet and soggy bags with our leakproof kids water bottle! The innovative collapsible sports design of our boys water bottle can go from 550ml to 200ml easily, saving space and ensuring that your child is always hydrated
  • SAFE FOR YOU AND YOUR KIDS: Your child's health is our highest priority! Our kids drinks bottle is certified BPA FREE, durable, 100% leak-proof and reduces daily plastic waste. Featuring a convenient Cleaning Brush to help you keep the spout in tip top condition and germ free
  • BUY PEACE OF MIND: As parents with two kids under 7 years old we strive to bring only the best quality and safe products that we know will make a difference for you and your little star's life. We are sure that your child will absolutely love this reusable water bottle, if however, you are not satisfied with your purchase, let us know via the "Ask a question" section. We offer a 30 day money back guarantee
Bestseller No. 11
Eat Sleep Football Repeat Funny Unisex Kids Adults Hoodie Jumper Sport Royal Blue
  • Premium 80% Cotton 20% Polyester
  • Handprinted in the UK using the latest DTG Printing
  • Size Guide Chest Measurements: Small 35-37", Medium 38-40", Large 41-43", XL 44-46", XXL 47-49"
  • Great Value With No Compromise
  • Machine Washable
Bestseller No. 12
Football 3D Optical Illusion Night Light for Boys,Besrina 7 Color Changing Touch Table Desk Lamp for Kids Bedroom, USB Charger Pretty Cool Gifts for Birthday X-mas Holiday Valentine's Day
  • 7 Colors Night Light: The football night light has 7 colors change- Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Cyan, Pink, White,it can gradually change one color or 7 colors auto changing.
  • Flat Arcylic Night Light: The Football night light is a flat arcylic panel, but it is a 3D illusion effect, beautiful and special design in the night, best gifts for home decor.
  • USB charging interface, easy to charge. Comprised of 4mm acrylic glass which is both durable and beautiful.
  • Energy Saving: Power spend: 0.012kW.H/24 hours; LED Life Span: 10000hours. Spend less energy even turn on in a whole night.
  • Best Gifts and Decors for Kids Childen bedroom and for all holidays, birthdays,Christmas. 100% satisfied purchase experience available.
Bestseller No. 13
Football 3D Lamp, QpenguinBabies 3D Night Light for Boys, Football Bedside Light 7 Colors Change, Football Lamp for Boys Kids Adults
  • ❤CREATIVE 3D VISUALS ROOM DECOR: This is a 3D illusion light that displays football when it lights up, and an optical acrylic flat board carved with laser light gives you amazing 3D visuals. The 3d night light itself actually is flat but can creates an innovative 3D visual artistic atmosphere light. This is sure to surprise and impress your children and guests. Amazing optical visual illusion home football lamp makes your room more interesting.
  • ❤7 COLORS CHANGING WITH SMART TOUCH: By acrylic light guide and the LED colorful source, LED football light can export a variety of color visual effects with a touch of the button on the base. This 3D LED illusion lamp has 7 different colors for you to change and choose, easily realizing your colourful 3D visual illusion depending on your mood or surrounding. Then the 8th touch to turn on makes it into the random colors.
  • ❤A GUARANTEE OF QUALITY SLEEP: The kids lamp adopts newly designed ABS lamp holder and environment-friendly acrylic material, which is strong and high in toughness. 3D illusion lamp football is the most suitable bedside decoration lamps for infants and children. The light of table desk lamp is soft and bright, let your lovely child feel warm and have a good sleep at night.
  • ❤LONG LASTING & ENERGY SAVING: Give your child a 3d football light to satisfy his curiosity about the unknown area. Durable ABS base in which there are 9 LED beads, powered by 5V USB cable connected to computer, laptop or your household adaptor. Power dissipation: 0.012kw.h/24 hours; LED Life span: 10000hours. This football night light for boys takes less energy, and even turns it on all night.
  • ❤FOOTBALL GIFTS FOR BOYS: The beautifully designed gift boxes with our colour changing lamp are not only the best football toys for young football fans, but also the best Christmas gifts for children on birthdays, Birthdays, Thanksgiving, weddings, anniversaries, baby gifts, farewell parties, New Year's day and other best gifts for your family and friends.
Bestseller No. 14
Cadbury Dairy Milk Hollow Chocolate Football, 256 g
  • Hollow Chocolate Football
  • Premier League Edition made with milk chocolate
  • Made with the delicious Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate
  • Our cocoa beans are sourced through the Cocoa Life Sustainability Program
  • Suitable for Vegetarians
Bestseller No. 15
Liverpool FC Official Football Gift Mens Crest Polo Shirt Grey XL
  • Official Liverpool FC mens polo shirt
  • Club crest embroidery to chest
  • Garment Size (CHEST): Small 40"; Medium 42"; Large 44"; XL 46"; XXL 50"; 3XL 54"
  • Hi spec polo shirt: club branded buttons & neck label
SaleBestseller No. 16
Mitre Scriball Personaliseable Mini Football, Zultz
  • Collect it, colour it, play it, an ideal gift for boys and girls whatever the occasion
  • Mini football with five colouring pens for distinct colouring-in fun
  • Includes ball pump and stand to proudly display their handiwork
  • But it isn’t just for colouring in, it also encourages children to get into the garden for a kickabout
SaleBestseller No. 17
BrainBox - Football - Card Game
  • BrainBox Football is the 10-minute brain challenge that'll test your football knowledge while developing your memory and observation skills
  • Each of its 54 cards features fun facts about a beloved football club; try to memorise everything that you see and read before flipping over the card to answer questions
  • You won't only be learning about famous players and stadiums but also keeping an eye out for details. Can you remember if the penalty spot was visible?
  • Made with a minimum of 70 Percent recycled materials, this green and travel-friendly game is a quick-playing delight that's good for play with family or groups of friends
  • 1+ Players | Ages 8+ | 10 Minute Playing Time
Bestseller No. 18
Kuyou Football Kick Trainer, Soccer Training Aid for Kids and Adults Hands Free Solo Practice,Volleyball/Rugby Training Equipment, Universal Fits #3#4#5 Footballs (Yellow)
  • ⚽ Pratice And Enjoy - Perfect solo soccer trainer with premium quality and adjustable cord stretching up to 18 ft.Also comes with a durable tethered waistband, Enjoy praticing and improving your skills of control ball, shooting, passing, receiving, dribbling, throw-in like without chasing and pressured all around
  • ⚽ Universal fits different sized balls-The football elastic band includes 5 velcro straps, the length of the velcro has 28cm, suitable ball size of 3, 4 and 5 ball.Players of all levels can gain more soccer skills through using this soccer training equipment
  • ⚽ Flexible and Adjustable - The football training kit's belt strap is adjustable to fit waist sizes (33"-39").The elastic strap stretches 6ft -18 ft.Flexible adjustment of the ball length for better praticing and playing in backyard,playground and park for kids and adults
  • ⚽ Develop Confidence - Shooting, passing, receiving, throw-ins, all of these ball control skills can obtain by training with this solo soccer kick trainer.Develop your confidence by improve the accuracy of the goal for each game
  • ⚽ 100% Satisfaction After-sales Service: Kuyou promise to provide you the best option for outdoor articles. Please email us if you have any question, we will reply in 24 working hours
Bestseller No. 19
Liverpool FC Official Football Gift Boys Fleece Zip Hoody Grey 12-13 Years
  • Official LFC boys zip through hoody
  • Full colour club crest; LFC branded zip
  • Garment Size (Chest): 2-3yrs 27"; 4-5yrs 28"; 6-7yrs 30"; 8-9yrs 34"; 10-11yrs 38"; 12-13yrs 40"
  • Elasticated rib detail to cuffs & waist
SaleBestseller No. 20
Mitre Solo Close Control and Skills Football Training Aid, Multicolor, One Size
  • The 5 ft stretch cord with adjustable clip lets you vary your training and practice even in smaller spaces
  • The Velcro strap attaches to your wrist Hands-free use means you can focus on training
  • The adjustable strap can accept any size 3, 4 or 5 footballs
  • Ball not included
  • The fastest, easiest way to work on your skills, without the frustrating ball-retrieval bits, practice shooting, passing and ball control whenever and wherever you like

Matthew Chandler
Latest posts by Matthew Chandler (see all)

3 thoughts on “What is a Derby in Football and Why is it Called a ‘Derby’?”

  1. Incorrect. The 19th Earl of Derby gave this honour and name to only 2 sporting events. The Derby horse race at Epsom and the Rugby League fixture contested between Wigan Vs St Helens.
    This was confirmed by the present Earl of Derby in 2010.

    Reply

Leave a Comment