In addition to being an English footballer, Sir John Charles Clegg, popularly known as Charles Clegg played in England’s first international versus Scotland in 1872 and served as the Football Association’s chairman and then president. He was also a respected referee and a famous administrator. Sheffield was the city where he was born and where Charles Clegg has lived all his life.
He played both with and against his older brother, William Clegg for teams in Sheffield and one game for England.
His Early Childhood
The fifth Football Association president was born at 53 Broom Spring Lane on 15 June 1850 and educated at a private school in the city. Indeed, he lived in a metropolis that was a hotbed of soccer and early sport.
Charles Clegg was significantly involved in these sporting activities and was an athlete from 1867to 1874 who won around 120 prizes. He held the 600-yard record and could run 100 yards in 10 seconds. Charlie never trained but kept fit through ordinary exercise and temperance. He was a fast and strong forward who started playing football for Wednesday FC, Broomhill FC, Perseverance FC, and Sheffield Albion FC, all of which were formed in Sheffield at that era.
After leaving school, Charles Clegg joined his father’s law firm. In 1871, his brother and he was members of the Sheffield Association which played the inter association match against the Football Association (who were based in London) at Bramall Lane. Charles Clegg would become a regular player in inter-association games after Sheffield won this game 3–1.
The significant factor was a half-day on Wednesday allowing for leisure time, thus racing and various sporting contests became common. Bramall Lane was established in 1854, and there were other venues nearby. While a number of early soccer clubs were formed, such as Sheffield FC(1857), Hallam (1860), and Wednesday FC (1867) – the Sheffield Rules soon followed.
Charles Clegg Family
His busiest year came in 1872. As a law student, he married Mary Sayles at St. John’s, Manchester, on 2 September. Charles Clegg was admitted to the Law Society and became a partner in the family firm two weeks later.
The couple had three children, namely Charles W. (1873), Colin (1877), and Edith Margaret (1879). Like many great English soccer players of this time, he had his hand in several pies and was an administrator, businessman, and leader of Sheffield society.
He resided at Collegiate Court, Broomhall, in 1891 with his wife, daughter, and two servants. This was an affluent area with merchants, manufacturers, ministers, the chief constable, and persons living on their means nearby.
Representing England National Football Team
On 30 November 1872, Charles Clegg played in a friendly international match versus Scotland at The West of Scotland Cricket Ground, Partick, Glasgow. It was a nil-all draw. He played as a forward and played the full game.
At the end of his playing career, he received one final distinction. He and his brother were selected as captains of the two sides participating in the first floodlit match. The Reds (captained by Clegg) were defeated by the Blues by 2–0 on the night of 15 October 1878 at Bramall Lane in front of a crowd of 20,000 fans. The game was a great success.
Charlie became a referee after he finished his playing career. He refereed two FA Cup finals. Charles Clegg was the leading match official at the Cup Final on 25 March 1882 when the Old Etonians beat Blackburn Rovers. Charlie was the referee at the last FA Cup Final at the Oval between West Bromwich and Aston Villa in 1892. He had to keep his nerve since the crowd was 32,810. The future FA chairman took charge of the 1888 international matches between Scotland and Wales and the 1893 international match between England and Scotland.
Sheffield United Founder
He became Chairman of Sheffield Wednesday in the mid-1880s. The Sheffield Football Association elected him chairman in 1885, earning him a place on the FA Council. During his tenure as chairman, he was crucial to the merger of two competing Sheffield football associations.
As well as being Sheffield Wednesday’s chairman and president, he founded Sheffield United. As the president of Sheffield United Cricket Club, he proposed that a football club be based at Bramall Lane in 1889. In 1889, Sheffield United Football Club was born, named after the cricket club. He became the club’s first president and chairman.
Elected To The Football Association
John Charles Clegg’s progress continued. He was a president of both the Sheffield clubs, sat on the League appeals committee, and was vice-president of the Football Association in 1904. Indeed, he was a formidable administrator of high principles, stating, ” Nobody gets lost on a straight road.” He was also a chairman of the local employment committee, a Justice of the Peace, a supporter of the Band of Hope Union, and a president of the British Temperance League.
Meanwhile, he was an affiliated representative for Sheffield at the F.A. in 1885-87. Charles Clegg was elected to the F.A. committee in 1886, then became the first permanent chairman in 1890 – a position he held until his death. Charles Clegg was an opponent of professionalism in football. By introducing elements who would exploit football for their own financial gain, he feared the game would be destroyed and corrupted.
On the death of Lord Arthur Kinnaird, he was appointed president of the F.A. and was a representative at the first Wembley final in 1923. John Charles Clegg then worked with Frederick Wall and guided the F.A. between the World Wars, including several tours abroad.
The Family Business
His father died on his 45th birthday. This made him a senior partner in the family business. The family’s business success was quite apparent, and he had moved to a grand property, “Clifton House,” 32 Cavendish Road, high on the hill above Ecclesall Road, by 1901.
This was a two-story yellow brick building in a tree-lined avenue at the corner of Chelsea Road and had large bay windows, extensive gables, a copious leafy garden, a substantial coach-house to the rear, and a dry-stone wall around the perimeter. His son Charles was a solicitor, and another son Colin was a civil engineer in Battersea.
Final Words On Charles Clegg
For nearly seventy years, John Charles Clegg was involved in English soccer and watched it develop from its small origins to some memorable FA Cup finals at Wembley. He received a knighthood in 1927. This was for services to the Board of Trade and Ministry of Labour rather than any sporting contribution.
Before his death on 26 June 1937, Charles Clegg lost his sons and wife. Tributes came pouring in from around the world.
Wiliam Johnson Clegg
The Sheffield-born William Clegg played for Sheffield Wednesday together with his brother Charles. They were the first brothers to be capped for England, although they never played in the same game. Charles Alcock described William Clegg as a “safe kicker and a good half-back” in the 1875 Football Annual.
An injury forced him to retire from football, but he continued as an administrator and became president of Sheffield Wednesday and vice president of the Sheffield and Hallamshire Football Association.
William embarked on a more lucrative path and was an attorney’s clerk at Paradise Square. Clegg became a solicitor and was well known after representing the infamous criminal Charles Peace. He married Mary Sykes at Sheffield Church on 3 November 1847 and had seven children.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!