The Oldest Football Club
Once upon a time, somewhere in the United Kingdom, Football was invented by two pioneers who believed in the power of the beautiful game and who dedicated their soul to the invention of it: Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest. These two men wrote the rules and laws for a new game and founded The World’s First Football Club, Sheffield FC on the 24th of October in 1857.
There are records of earlier forms of football being played in China that date back almost 2000 years; and a form of the game was enjoyed in ancient Greece and Rome. However it was in England that this sport was to take shape and become the game the world now recognizes as football.
BRINGING ORDER TO CHAOS
By the mid 19th century the game had evolved somewhat with various Public Schools and Universities who introduced their own idiosyncratic laws that co-existed. What was needed though was a strong set of individuals to impose a standard set of laws and that is precisely what happened in Sheffield. As well as being the oldest football club, Sheffield FC’s influence on the modern game cannot be overstated: In 1859 Nathaniel and William have pioneered the writing of a commonly accepted set of rules. The so called “Sheffield Rules” played a key role in the formation of the FA and were involved in a host of innovations such as the first crossbar, the first corner kick, the first free kick, the first throw-in and the first floodlit match.
THE WORLD’S FIRST DERBY
On Boxing Day December 26th 1860, Sheffield FC played the first inter-city match against its local rival Hallam FC, the Countrymen, founded 1860. This 'Rules derby' is considered the oldest still-contested derby of any football code in the world, and is probably one of the oldest organised team-sport derbies in the world, besides those found in cricket. The match was played on the Oldest Football Ground in the World, the Hallam Pitch at Sandygate Lane in the city of Sheffield.
Thanks to the core values of the founding fathers William and Nathaniel - Integrity, Respect and Community - their legacy lives on and football has become the greatest game in this world ever since. It is a wonderful gift, bringing education, peace, friendship and happiness to the world. For their services to football and credible maintenance of their values, in 2004 Sheffield FC was recognised by FIFA alongside Real Madrid with a Centennial Order of Merit.
Visit our Gallery below to discover the history of Sheffield FC on a timeline!
- 1857 Sheffield Football Club is founded on October 24th, by the pioneers, Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest, who wanted to build a community for the game of football. A game for young and old people alike to play in their free-time. The club's committee decides to develop a new set of rules and laws for the game of football.
- 1859 Starting with the foundation of the club in 1857, the club’s committee studies the various rules and codes of ‘Mob Football’ which was often played at universities. After two years of experiments and debate they lay down their own set of standardised laws, which become the foundation of today’s modern game. Written by Nathaniel Creswick (left) and William Prest (right), the Rulebook of 1859 is the first official set of rules and laws for the game of football and defined the inventions of a corner kick, throw-in, free-kick, cross-bar and fouls.
- 1860 On Boxing Day in 1860, Sheffield FC plays the first inter-club game against Hallam FC at Sandygate Lane, thereby becoming the first and oldest local derby in global football. Sheffield FC won this match 2-0. This legacy has lived on ever since, with both clubs competing against each other in a friendly match at amateur level every year.
- 1863 Sheffield Club members are instrumental in the formation of the English Football Association.
- 1866 The Club plays its first inter-city match with London City at Battersea Park. The sight of the Sheffield players ‘butting’ the ball with their heads reduces the London players and fans to fits of laughter. Heading is born. (picture: map of Battersea Park). Furthermore in this year, the club travels to the first ever away match at Nottingham.
- 1867 The world’s first football tournament, the ‘Youdan Cup’ was played under Sheffield Rules in 1867.
- 1872 Sir Charles Clegg, also known as the ‘Napoleon of Football’, a regular feature on the Sheffield FC teamsheet and one of the club's greatest pioneers, plays in the first international match between England and Scotland. In 1890 Sheffield's famous son becomes chairman of the FA.
- 1878 On October 14th, Sheffield's Bramall Lane ground hosts a match between two sides pulled from local players. It was the first match in football history to be played under floodlights. The experiment in night-time football was a great success, with approximately 20,000 people attending the legendary match at Bramall Lane, now the home of Sheffield United FC.
- 1885 Its decline from the top echelon of football began with the introduction of professionalism in July 1885, with the amateurs of Sheffield failing to compete with professional teams; losing heavily that year to Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest and Notts County. After the legalisation of professionalism, Sheffield FC suggests to the FA the creation of a cup exclusively for amateur clubs - namely the ‘FA Amateur Cup’. Sadly, in this year, on February 10th, William Prest dies, at the age of 52, from a fatal seizure due to a ruptured blood vessel.
- 1904 Sheffield FC celebrates their finest hour by lifting the Amateur Cup. The team won the final against Ealing, 3-1, with a crowd of 6,000 supporters seeing Sheffield’s historic victory.
- 1905 ‘The Pilgrims’, an amateur representative team, tour the U.S. and Canada. Frederick Houghton Milnes, a talented and well-known Sheffield amateur player, was involved in that first tour. Milnes was part of the Sheffield FC team that won the FA Amateur Cup in 1904 and was subsequently the moving spirit behind ‘The Pilgrims’. It was reported that ‘The Pilgrims’ were specially selected by US President Theodore Roosevelt, who was conducting a campaign to eliminate brutality from American college football by increasing the popularity of soccer. ‘The Pilgrims’ tour of 1905 represents the first serious attempt to popularise association football in that country.
- 1917 At the age of 86, Nathaniel Creswick dies, in the month of October, exactly 60 years after his gift to football, the legacy of 1857.
- 1946 In June 1946 Sheffield FC travels into Europe to play a friendly against FC Eindhoven. Sheffield won 3-0 against Eindhoven and a trophy from the encounter is still in the hands of the oldest club. Since their first trip to the Netherlands in 1894, Sheffield FC has played a few games against Eindhoven. The games between the two cities were arranged through the Sheffield-Eindhoven branch of the Anglo-Dutch Sports Association - formed to develop relations between the two countries through sport - and the Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA.
- 1949 The World’s First Football Club joins the ‘Yorkshire League’ in 1949, remaining in that competition until it merged with the ‘Midland League’ to form the ‘Northern Counties East League’ in 1982. During their 33-year stay in the ‘Yorkshire League’, their only divisional title was the Division Two crown in 1975–76.
- 1957 The Club celebrates their centenary at the Cutlers Hall, attended by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and Sir Stanley Rous. Furthermore a Centenary Celebration Concert featuring Lonnie Donegan had been organised to entertain and engage the citizens of Sheffield.
- 1977 Sheffield FC appears for its first time on the hallowed turf at Wembley in the FA Vase Final, drawing 1-1. The club lost 2-1 to Billericay Town in a replay at Nottingham.
- 1978 A year later, Sheffield FC wins the Yorkshire League Cup with an emphatic 4-1 victory over Maltby.
- 1982 For its 125th anniversary, Sheffield Football Club holds a celebration dinner and plays a friendly match against Manchester United at Bramall Lane.
- 2001 For the first time in its history, Sheffield FC has its own ground! The Coach and Horses pub with an adjoining pitch and land in Dronfield is purchased for the purposes of developing a stadium. The ground is now also known as the ‘BT Local Business Stadium’.
- 2004 Sheffield FC is recognised by FIFA, alongside Real Madrid, with a ‘Centennial Order of Merit’, for services to football and credible maintenance of the club’s values: Integrity, Respect and Community.
- 2007 The club celebrates its 150th anniversary with a “Service to Football”, attended by many famous and celebrated gentlemen from the global football community, all celebrating this legendary day together with Sheffield Football Club. Amongst others, Pele, Sepp Blatter and Sir Bobby Charlton joined the anniversary dinner in Sheffield.
- 2010 To preserve the heritage of Sheffield FC and the nature of football, the club inaugurates its own foundation in 2010. The Sheffield FC Foundation will never invest in future players, but in different local and global projects to spread the true values of the game: Integrity, Respect and Community.
- 2012 24th of October: Happy Birthday Football! In recognition of the 155th anniversary of the club and in memory of the founders, Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest, the Sheffield FC Foundation celebrates the pioneering spirit of football with fans, clubs and football associations from all over the world. This event has now become "World Football Day" - one day for the global football community to remember and celebrate the pioneers and inventors of the game.