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Charles Clegg: Soccer Player, Referee, Founder, FA President

In addition to being an English footballer, Sir John Charles Clegg, popularly known as Charles Clegg served as the Football Association’s chairman and its president. He was also a respected referee and a famous administrator.

Sheffield is where he was born and where Charles Clegg has lived all his life.

In 1872, he played in the first international match between England and Scotland. He played both with and against his older brother, William Clegg.

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 1867-74 who won around 120 prizes. He held the 600-yard record and could run 100 yards in 10 seconds. Charles never trained but kept fit through ordinary exercise and temperance. He was a fast and strong forward for Broomhall, Sheffield, Albion, and Wednesday.

After leaving school, Charles joined his father’s law firm. In 1871, his brother and he were members of the Sheffield Association which played against the Football Association 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’s 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 clubs were formed, such as Sheffield FC(1857), Hallam (1860), and Wednesday (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 soccer players of this time, he had his hand in several pies and was an administrator, businessman, and a 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

He played in the first Sheffield v Glasgow contest and for England at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground.

Clegg became a referee after he finished his playing career. Charles Clegg was the leading match official at the Cup Final on 25 March 1882 when the Old Etonians beat Blackburn Rovers. He refereed the last F.A. 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. Cleg took charge of the 1888 match between Scotland and Wales and the 1893 match between England and Scotland.

Sheffield United Founder

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.

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.

Elected To The Football Association

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 F.A. 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. 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.

On the death of Lord Kinnaird, he was appointed president of the F.A. and was a representative at the first Wembley final in 1923. He then worked with Frederick Wall and guided the F.A. between the wars, including several tours abroad.

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, 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, Charles Clegg was involved in soccer and watched it develop from its small origins to some memorable 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 this death on 26 June 1937, Charles lost his sons and wife. Tributes came pouring in from around the world.

Wiliam Johnson Clegg (Brother)

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 him 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.

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