The term phoenix club is one used in professional team sports to refer to a new parent company that is set up to replace the parent company of a club that has failed in business terms but not in sporting terms, ideally while maintaining the continuity of the sporting activity. In some cases, the phoenix club is created by the supporters of the club which has ended (or appears to be on the point of ending). A phoenix club will often have the same or similar name, logo and playing uniform to the original club. The term is particularly prevalent in the United Kingdom in relation to association football, though it is also used in other countries.
The term is also occasionally used to refer to a club formed by disgruntled supporters of a major team when a change of ownership or policy causes them to lose faith in the management of their favoured side (as happened in 2005 when F.C. United of Manchester were formed by fans of Manchester United as a protest at the sale of the latter to Malcolm Glazer). although their status as such may be disputed if the original club is still in existence at the time.
The term is taken from the mythical phoenix bird, which is said to resurrect itself from its own ashes. In the Australia-New Zealand A-League the demise of the sole New Zealand team, New Zealand Knights, resulted in the newly created club actually calling itself the Phoenix, albeit that the club moved to a different city, Wellington.
In some cases, phoenix clubs will retain the name of the club which they replaced, implying a continuation from the former team. In other cases, name changes occur, perhaps due to proprietorial ownership existing on the old club's name. An American football example is the Cleveland Browns, the original franchise of which moved to Baltimore in 1995 to become the Baltimore Ravens; the NFL however stipulated as part of the move the franchise would not be able to keep the team history and records of the Browns, a cornerstone NFL franchise. In 1999, the "new" Browns were granted an expansion franchise and were awarded all of the former team's history by the league, even though the extant Ravens had the original Browns players and personnel.
It does not also include teams that relocated and/or have been renamed as a going concern, although many of the former may have their founding date as the day they have moved and still have strong links to their past, however they are considered to be the same club and therefore cannot be a phoenix (unless their previous entity officially folded and was liquidated).
However, the term phoenix club is one that could be disputed depending on the criteria used, as there is no single universally accepted definition. Furthermore, there may be changes in what each country's football governing body and legal system defines as a phoenix club and not a resurrected club.
bAirdrieonians F.C. (1878) were liquidated in 2002 but their owners bought Clydebank and rebranded it as Airdrie United (now known as Airdrieonians F.C. (2002)); therefore that club is not a phoenix as it took the place of an existing entity. However the current incarnation of Clydebank is a phoenix, as it was founded by supporters to replace the entity which had moved to Airdrie and had to restart at the bottom of the (Junior) league pyramid.
^Osbourne, Chris (2014-08-13). "MK Dons 3–1 AFC Wimbledon". BBC Football. Retrieved 2014-11-13. It is 11 years since the old Wimbledon was moved 60 miles north to Milton Keynes by music mogul Pete Winkelman, and 10 years since the club was rebranded into MK Dons. But still AFC Wimbledon, the phoenix club created by fans, are searching for the win that may provide them with the smallest sensation of revenge.
^Doyle, Paul (2012-11-30). "Neal Ardley's phoenix club on the rise for FA Cup duel of raw emotion". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-01-01. Wimbledon ... as you may have gathered, is not the same thing as MK Dons. For most people connected with Wimbledon, MK Dons is the club that hijacked their one and absconded to Milton Keynes to raise an illegitimate offshoot ... fans founded a phoenix club, AFC Wimbledon, that rose from the ashes and soared up through the leagues, ascending five tiers in nine seasons to its current perch in League Two.