On October 26, 1863, at the Freemasons’ Tavern in Great Queen Street, near Holborn tube station, was the birth of football as we know it today. The oldest English football clubs came together to discuss the collective future of modern football.
A handful of London and district clubs playing their own versions of football met “to form an association to establish a definite code of rules for the regulation of the game.”
At the meeting were twelve of the oldest English football clubs: Barnes, War Office, Crusaders, Forest (Leytonstone), No Names (Kilburn), Crystal Palace, Blackheath, Kensington School, Perceval House, Surbiton, Blackheath Proprietary School, and Charterhouse.
The Crystal Palace listed have no connection to the current Crystal Palace FC, so the only survivors are Civil Service FC, formerly War Office, who now play in the Southern Amateur League’s Senior Division One, and were invited to play in the first official game of football on Buckingham Palace grounds on October 7, 2013.
Founder of Barnes Football Club in 1862, Ebenezer Morley, a London solicitor, could be called The Football Association’s father. Several public schoolboys joined one of the oldest English football clubs. Ebenezer was not a public schoolboy, and there were ‘feverish’ disputes over how the game should be conducted.
A new Association couldn’t stand on its own without laws, and it took six meetings over 44 days to become an independent entity. At first, the Football Association was formed.
Then the rules were formulated, and Morley was known to work on the rules from his home.
Subscriptions were a guinea per year, and changes to rules or laws were advertised in sporting papers. During the third meeting, the useful discussion was had about drafting the laws.
The Founding Football Clubs Of Football Association
A look at the founding clubs of the Football Association is presented here:
Barnes (Represented by Ebenezer C Morley and PD Gregory)
Barnes Club, one of the world’s oldest clubs, was founded in 1839, according to some reports. Barnes played in the first game governed by the FA on December 19, 1863, against Richmond. They also took part in the first-ever FA Cup.
Civil Service (George Wawn)
As a founder of the Football Association and the Rugby Football Union, the club originally played both football and rugby. War Office official George Warne attended the founders’ meeting, which led to them being referred to as the War Office Club. During the first FA Cup competition, the War Office Club participated.
Crusaders (Herbert Steward)
Crusaders were established in 1863. They entered the FA Cup during the 1880s and 1890s but never came close to winning the trophy.
Forest FC (John Alcock)
The club was founded as Forest FC in 1859 and changed to Wanderers in 1864. Wanderers were one of the most successful and oldest English football clubs in the early years of organized football, winning the FA Cup five times, including the first final against Royal Engineers in 1872. This feat of winning the FA Cup three times in a row has only been replicated once. The club’s fortunes had declined by the 1880s, and it was reduced to playing only an annual match against Harrow School.
NN Club Kilburn (Arthur Pember)
NN – an abbreviation for “No Name” – was based in the Kilburn district of London. Arthur Pember, the FA’s first president, attended the founders’ meeting.
Crystal Palace (James Turner, F Day)
Crystal Palace was rumored to have been formed by groundskeepers working at the building of the same name, which was built to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. Despite reaching the first FA Cup semi-finals, the club lost a replay against the Royal Engineers. Records of the original amateur club disappeared after 1876. As it is known today, Crystal Palace Football Club was founded in 1905.
Blackheath FC (Francis Campbell, FH Moore)
Blackheath FC was founded in 1858 and is a founding member of the Football Association and Rugby Football Union. The rugby team is currently in National League One. Francis Campbell was elected treasurer at the first FA meeting but later withdrew the club from the FA due to his dissatisfaction with the direction of the organization.
Kensington School (W MacKintosh)
Kensington School was established in 1830 and was famous for producing high-caliber athletes.
Perceval House (GW Shillingford)
Blackheath school representative GW Shillingford participated in the inaugural meeting of the Football Association. Shillingford was among those in favor of “hacking” and handling the ball. Perceval House resigned from the organization after most teams rejected its proposal.
Surbiton (H Bell)
The now-defunct Surbiton team was founded in 1863, although little is known about what happened after its early involvement in forming the FA.
Blackheath Proprietary School (WH Gordon)
Blackheath Proprietary School was founded in 1830 and played a key role in the early development of football and rugby.
Charterhouse (Bertrand Hartshone)
Having queried the newly formed FA to promote a passing style of football in its rulebook, Charterhouse went on to establish the Old Carthusian Football team – comprised of Charterhouse alumni – which became one of the nation’s leading amateur teams following their formation in 1876 and won the FA Cup in 1881, beating Old Etonians 3-0 at the Kennington Oval.
Morley’s original draft laws were finally approved at the sixth meeting on 8 December 1963, and the oldest English football clubs agreed that hacking would no longer be allowed. John Lillywhite of Seymour Street published a booklet costing a shilling and sixpence.
Weeks later, Barnes and Richmond played a match at Limes Field in Barnes as part of the FA’s commitment to seeing its laws in action. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.
Who Is The Oldest English Football Club?
The Nottinghamshire team, Notts County, is the oldest professional football club in England and the world, formed in 1862. The official formation of the oldest English club followed two years later, in 1864. We have a complete article on the oldest British football club.
Stoke City FC is the oldest club in the English Premier League or English Football League after being founded in 1863. They were initially known as Stoke Ramblers before changing their club name to Stoke in 1878.
The oldest football club in the world is Sheffield FC. Local cricketers founded Sheffield FC on October 24, 1857. They are a semi professional football club that initially played football using the Sheffield Rules. These days, they play in the Northern Premier League Division One.
The Yorkshire club is proud to be known as the pioneers of football.
Oldest Football Clubs That Still Exist
Over the decades, these football clubs have established themselves as institutions.
Several teams were formed in England during the mid-1850s and 1860s as football rose in popularity. Here are the ten oldest football clubs worldwide that are still active and recognized by FIFA.
- 1. Sheffield FC (Yorkshire) – 1857
- 2. Cambridge University (Cambridgeshire) – (claim 1856, yet unproven)
- 3. Hallam FC (Yorkshire) – 1860
- 4. Notts County (Nottinghamshire) – 1862
- 5. Stoke City (Stoke-On-Trent) – 1863
- 6. Royal Engineers (London) – 1863
- 7. Bring Town (Lincolnshire) – 1864
- 8. Wrexham (Wales) – 1864
- 9. Nottingham Forest (Nottinghamshire) – 1865
- 10. Queens Park (Scotland) – 1867
Most Successful English Football Clubs
Depending on who you ask, Liverpool or Manchester United are recognized as the most successful English football clubs in the past 150 years.
Both teams have won FIFA and UEFA trophies, English Football League championships, and cups. How you value each trophy will depend on how you determine the most successful club in British football.
Liverpool or Manchester United are not the oldest English football clubs. They were founded in 1892 and 1878.
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!