Why Are Southampton Called The Saints? (Revealed)

Southampton flag flying

On paper they are possibly the most evangelical team in English football.

They play at St. Mary’s Stadium, have a halo on their badge and the team runs out to ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’.

But why are Southampton called the Saints?

Let’s find out…

Why Are Southampton Called The Saints?

Southampton are called the Saints as they were founded by members of St. Mary’s Church in Southampton in 1885. The religious heritage has never been forgotten and is reflected not only in the club nickname, but also the club badge, the name of the stadium and the music the players run out to before each home game.

Two men wearing retro football inspired t shirts with text in between them

A Hallowed Beginning…

You need to go way back to the very foundation of Southampton FC to find out why they are called the Saints.

In the Autumn of 1885, members of St Mary’s Church in Southampton began to discuss forming a football team.

At that time a number of churches had cricket teams, but with the growing popularity of football in the late 19th Century, starting a football team was seen as an excellent way to keep people together over the winter months.

So on 21 November 1885, the church members met at the church to officially form St Mary’s Young Men’s Association F.C, or St. Mary’s Y.M.A as they were known in the local press.

Their first match was played later that day, with St Mary’s winning 5-1 against Freemantle, another Southampton-based club.

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Climbing the Pyramid

For the first decade of its existence, the club played in local leagues, with many of its home games taking place on Southampton Common.

During this time, in 1887, the club changed its name slightly from St Mary’s Young Men’s Association F.C to the more simple St Mary’s F.C.

By 1894 the club had outgrown its status in the local leagues and joined the ranks of semi-professional teams in the Southern League.

This also signalled another name change, with the club becoming known as Southampton St. Mary’s for its inaugural season in the Southern League.

The step up from local leagues to the Southern League didn’t prove too much of a challenge for the club.

In its first 12 seasons in the Southern League, Southampton didn’t finish lower than 3rd and won the league six times.

During this time two more things happened. 

First of all, it became obvious Southampton needed a bigger ground.

They were playing on Southampton Common until 1896 when they became tenants of Hampshire Country Cricket Club’s County Ground.

Then in 1898, they moved to the Dell which was to be Southampton’s home for the next 103 years.

The second thing that happened was the club changed its name for the last time.

In 1897 Southampton St Mary’s became Southampton F.C.

So just to recap on those name changes:

  • 1885: Founded as St Mary’s Young Men’s Association F.C
  • 1887: Name changed to St Mary’s F.C.
  • 1894: Name changed again to Southampton St. Mary’s.
  • 1897: Name changed to Southampton F.C

A Righteous Relationship

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So in short, that is why Southampton are called the Saints.

It all stems from them starting life out as the church football team of St Mary’s Church in Southampton.

Their holy heritage is reflected in numerous ways at the club.

For many decades they have run out to the old jazz tune, When the Saints Go Marching In. 

Whilst many clubs use the tune, Southampton can probably claim ownership of it better than any other.

They are also one of the only teams that do not change the original music in any way when they run out to it, with the original lyrics being played.

In 2001 Southampton left the Dell to move into St Mary’s Stadium.

The stadium is located just 600 metres from St Mary’s Church, where the club was founded way back in 1885.

Then there is the club crest designed by Saint’s fan Rolland Paris back in 1974, which showcases the heritage of the club.

Sitting at the very top of the crest, hovering above a football, is a golden halo to reflect the club’s roots at St Mary’s Church.

Beneath that ball is a red and white scarf, then beneath that a tree that reflects the nearby New Forest and Southampton Common where the club played for many years.

Under the tree is water, representing Southampton’s location on the coast and history as a centre for shipbuilding, and at the base of the crest is a white rose, the symbol of the city that is also present on the city coat of arms.

Final Thoughts

Why Are Southampton Called the Saints infographic

Southampton’s nickname of the Saints is a reflection of the club’s beginnings.

They were founded in 1885 as St Mary’s Young Men’s Association F.C, a team representing the local St. Mary’s Church.

They changed their name a few times over the years, before eventually settling on Southampton F.C in 1897.

Nevertheless, their religious heritage has been preserved in a number of ways, not only in the nickname but also in the club badge, the ground and the music the players run out to before each home game.

The Saints are still well and truly marching in, all these years later!

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