Sheffield FC: The World’s First Football Club

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Sheffield Football Club
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Integrity, respect, community, and remembering where the game comes from are just some of the values that embody Sheffield FC, the world’s first football club.

The Oldest Football Club in the World

Sheffield FC

Football started centuries ago with no certified rules. However, on October 24, 1857, a new set of rules was introduced. Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest came up with the Sheffield Rules.

Creswick and Prest are the founders of Sheffield Football Club. According to FIFA and the FA, Sheffield FC is the oldest association football club in the world.

Sheffield FC and near neighbors Hallam face each other in the Rules Derby. This also happens to be the oldest fixture in the world of football.

In 2004, Sheffield became the second team after Spanish giants Real Madrid to be awarded with the FIFA Order of Merit. After 3 years in 2007, the club was inducted to the English Football Hall of Fame.

Sheffield FC currently competes in the Northern Premier League Division One South. They are based at the Coach and Horses Ground at Dronfield.

Inception

They need not be confused with neighbours Sheffield Wednesday (1867) or Sheffield United (1889). Sheffield FC is so old that their existence predates the FA rule book (the FA wasn’t formed until 1863). Therefore, they used their own rules until 1878.

Many people often have questions about what happened at the start and what it was like to play. Did they play headers and volleys? Were the games played at Wembley?

In the beginning, they played against each other. They achieved this by mainly dividing themselves into groups. At times they played bachelors vs married or bearded vs clean-shaven.

However, it wasn’t too long before Hallam, which also hails from Sheffield, became the second football club in 1860. This ultimately led to the creation of the oldest derby in the world, the Rules Derby. Up to today, the two clubs are still rivals.

In the early days, Sheffield FC used to play at Bramall Lane. This was the home of the cricket club that they developed from. However, Sheffield United took over the stadium. In turn, this led to Sheffield FC being nomads for almost a century. They played at Hillsborough Park, the Owlerton Stadium, and the Don Valley Stadium. Finally, they settled for the current home, which is next to the Coach and Horses Pub. This ground was known as the Coach and Horse Ground until a sponsorship with Bright Finance took place.

The unfortunate part about all this is that it’s outlying Dronfield. It is just over the county border in Derbyshire. This always brings an uneasy feeling among some of the hardcore Sheffield Football Club supporters. The only consolation is that they have their own ground for the first time.

Unique Tradition

Worlds First Football Club
Unknown author / Public domain

It may be off to learn that a club with such a rich history is playing seven leagues from the first division. Aren’t Sheffield FC supposed to be the biggest or among the richest clubs in the world?

That’s not their priority at the moment. Sheffield may be some distance from some of the best football clubs in the world stature-wise, however, their own rich history is very important to them. They value continuing the legacy left by football glories of the past.

In the final years of 1800, Sheffield FC was at the forefront but this changed quickly when they lost ground compared to other teams. There was an inexorable rise in professionalism at that time. Most players did not just play it on a part-time basis as it was before. Many of the teams formed after them, majority from the northern English sides, started paying their best players constant wages. However, this move was not welcomed by the many non-professional football clubs in the south. However, July 1885, the FA officially bowed to the mounting pressure. They finally legalised professionalism in football.

Sheffield FC unanimously rejected the idea of professionalism even though they were very famous at that time. They still embraced their amateur status even though the prevailing wind of professionalism was blowing across England.

The club was formed under three firm values: integrity, respect, and community. When other clubs were changing they remained the same. The club saw no need for dropping their amateur status while still holding firmly to their founding principles.

Never Forgotten

Sheffield Football Club was pushed back into the limelight on the world football dias in 2004. FIFA invited the club’s longest serving chairman who was Richard Tims at that time. The football body was celebrating their 100-year of global football at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich.

Only two teams were given the distinction of a FIFA Order of Merit. This was in regard to their, contribution to football and historic importance to Football. Sheffield Football Club and Real Madrid were the only recipients of the award.

In 2007, the club celebrated 150 years of existence in style. On that night, Inter Milan faced off against Sheffield. The first goal that night was scored by Mario Balotelli. Even though there was a very huge difference between the two sides, the match ended in a fairly 5-2 loss.

Future Plans

The club has their sights set on climbing the English Football pyramid even though their influence exceeds far beyond the football pitch.

The mission statement on the club’s website reads and shares three unique aims. This is the continued success of both the club and the wider community that is part and parcel of them.

Firstly, they wish to “protect and preserve the worlds first as a social community football club at amateur level.”

Secondly, they aspire to “rebuild the original home of football and move the club’s stadium back to the field of Olive Grove, where the world’s first football club was founded in 1887.”

Lastly, they will continue to “grow and seed the global family tree of football, a home for the founding fathers and pioneers of the game.”

Undoubtedly, these great ideas shed more light on Sheffield Football Club’s role as a pioneering club as well as a community-based football institution.

Midfielder @ Hooligan F.C.

Donald Maloba is a Kenyan football writer and former football player. He eats, sleeps, and breathes football.

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