I went to a rugby league match between Swinton and Workington at Heywood Road, Sale, yesterday afternoon.
Since leaving their Station Road home in 1992, Swinton have played at a few grounds, including Gigg Lane, Bury, and Park Lane, Whitefield. Their new home at Sale is shared with the amateur rugby union club of that name whose professional offshoot, Sale Sharks, left for Edgeley Park, Stockport, in 2003 before moving into the AJ Bell Stadium in Barton-on-Irwell with Salford Red Devils rugby league club in 2012.
Sale is quite a distance from Swinton, as is Barton from Sale. In relocating to Barton from their home at The Willows, the Red Devils moved within the City, but outside the traditional boundaries, of Salford. Manchester United's ground at Old Trafford is just outside the boundaries of the City of Manchester, having moved there from Newton Heath in 1910, and Arsenal began life in Woolwich, south London, before moving north of the river in 1913. So how far can a club move before the connection between its name and history and geographical location is severed?
Most people would, I think, regard AFC Wimbledon as the continuation of Wimbledon FC rather than Buckinghamshire outfit Milton Keynes Dons, although neither side now claim the honours of the historic club. The real difference seems to be between moving outside a conurbation (London, Greater Manchester) and relocating within it, especially if, as with Swinton and AFC Wimbledon, you're still looking to build a ground back in the place you originally came from.
Of course, in the United States, not only would such moves within cities not even register with all but the most diehard of fans, nor seemingly do the multiple moves franchises in the four major sports (American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey) make, so baseball's Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants can relocate from the East Coast to the West without dropping their nicknames or records and in the NFL the Cleveland Browns can become the Baltimore Ravens while the Oakland Raiders leave for Los Angeles before moving back to Northern California and resuming play under their original name.