Hello and welcome to a WordPress.com weekly special tracking the history of British football clubs. Today we will start at the origin of club football in this country with Sheffield FC, founded in 1857 and is acknowledged by the Football Association and FIFA as the oldest football club in the world.

The 1850’s saw plenty happening for Britain with the Crimean War dominating the middle of the decade, Queen Victoria was on the throne throughout the period and the words ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’ were seen in writing for the very first time as recognised words.

Throughout the year of 1855, the members of Sheffield Cricket Club were organising informal ‘kick-abouts’ which carried no relevance or meaning, however, Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest saw some value in this new ‘game’ which the men were playing. They took the initiative and were the founding members of Sheffield Football Club, the first ever formal club for football.

The inaugural meeting of the new club took place on the 24th October 1857 at Parkfield House in the Highfield area of the city, with their headquarters based at East Bank Road where they found their first official home on the playing fields close by.

Obviously with no others clubs having been formed at this time, the games which were played took place between the squad members of the club. Games ranged from married versus singles to old versus young to professionals versus ‘the rest’ and many more variations.

1858 saw the first annual general meeting of the club, where founders, Creswick and Prest took responsibility for developing the rules by which the game would be played. The Football Association wasn’t formed until five years later; however, there were different variations of ‘football’ up and down the country, mainly in public schools. The rules developed by the two sportsmen were very distinctive to what we know today and became known as Sheffield Rules.

Developed on the 21st October 1858, Sheffield Rules were the first officially published rules for the game and are seen as the foundation of football as we know it today. It was agreed that foul play would result in the opposing team receiving a free kick; however, the offside rule was not incorporated into this set of rules. A lot of the rules which did make this first publication closely resemble the modern day version of Australian Rules football.

Two years later, the district of Hallam, in the Sheffield region, established their own club and the first ever local football derby was played and to this day the two teams still contest in the rival match. Within the next two years another thirteen more clubs initiated in the city and the club took the decision to only play against teams from other cities in order to challenge themselves.

Members of Sheffield FC were instrumental in the establishment of a national governing body and in 1862, the Football Association was founded. A meeting was held involving various public school scholars and the ‘Laws of the Game’ were developed, commonly referred to at the time as ‘London Rules’. On 30th November 1863, Sheffield FC became formal members of the Football Association, but continued to play under their own set of rules.

In January 1865 the club played their first game outside the city, against Nottingham and the game took place under ‘Nottingham Rules’. However, a year later, a century before England’s one and only World Cup success, the first inter-city match took place under Football Association laws between Sheffield FC and Battersea Park FC in London. The match saw Sheffield players ‘butting’ the ball, prompting fits of laughter from the opposition and spectators; this was the birth of heading in football. Battersea Park went on to win the game by 2 goals and 4 touchdowns to nil.

Sir Charles Clegg, Sheffield FC’s leading player was named on the teamsheet for the first ever international football match which was contest by England and Scotland and became one of the first eleven men to earn the three lion international cap. The game took place at Hamilton Cresent in Scotland and ended in a 0-0 draw; but yet again, Sheffield had involvement in another first for the sport.

Conflicts arose between Sheffield and the sport’s governing body as the city team continued to play under their own ‘Sheffield Rules’ and constantly sent revised proposals to the FA seeking approval of their format. In 1878 Sheffield FC conceded and adopted the Football Association Laws which saw almost majority standardisation of the game as we know it today.

 The club had to wait until 1904 before they managed to win their first piece of silverware and the FA Amateur Cup final victory is still regarded as the club’s finest hour. Played in Bradford, the final saw Sheffield FC take on Ealing FC where the oldest ever football club ran out victors with a three goals to one winning margin.

 Sheffield FC was acknowledged by the international governing body in 2007 when the club was awarded the FIFA Order of Merit along Real Madrid for their services to football. The anniversary of the club was celebrated by a series of matches, with opponents including Ajax and Inter Milan. Also, there was a membership influx with various notable figures from the sport joining the clubs, no less than former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, Ashes winning England cricket captain, Michael Vaughan and FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

The club now presides in the Northern Premier League Division One South and play their games at the Coach and Horse Ground in Dronfield, nearby Derbyshire.

Thank you very much for reading the first of this series of English football history.

Feel free to leave any comments; any feedback would be much appreciated.

Look forward to seeing you for next Friday’s instalment.

Have a great weekend, Sheffield FC are away at Quorn, keep your eye out for the score from the oldest football club in the world.

B H

Sheffield F C Squad 1890

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