Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest football club, is celebrating its 165th anniversary in 2022, an achievement that surpasses the longevity of even the most established teams in the English football leagues.
Despite currently competing in the Northern Premier League, the eighth tier of the English Football League system, Sheffield FC’s longevity is a testament to its enduring legacy and impact on the sport.
The First Team Of The World
The origins of association football can be traced back to 1855 when members of a local cricket club began playing an informal version of the game.
However, it was not until 1857, when William Prest and Nathaniel Creswick, two cricket enthusiasts, recognized the need for a sport to keep them active and competitive during the winter months, that association football, also known as soccer, took on a more serious tone and Sheffield FC was established. And thus, the game of soccer was born as a way to keep them active and competitive during the off-season of cricket.
Sheffield FC Formation
On October 24, 1857, William Prest and Nathaniel Creswick, two cricket enthusiasts, decided to establish a football club to keep them active and competitive during the winter months when cricket was not in season.
And thus, Sheffield FC was born, with its first headquarters being a potting shed and greenhouse. Creswick was appointed as the captain and secretary, and he and Prest created the “Sheffield Rules,” a set of guidelines for the sport.
When the English Football Association was established in 1863, it adopted and adapted these rules as the standard code of conduct for the sport. Unfortunately, Sheffield FC was also the first soccer club in the world. So, initially, they needed someone to play with.
Initially, the club members would split themselves and play ‘professionals versus amateurs’ or ‘married players versus singles.’ It was when Hallam FC was formed that proper games began.
Becoming The Home Of Football
Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest football club, found success in the local community through matches between its members, which were organized based on occupation, age, or marital status.
This sparked interest in the area and led to the formation of other teams in and around Sheffield. In 1862, the oldest football derby in the world was established between Sheffield FC and Hallam Football Club, further increasing the sport’s popularity.
Despite joining The Football Association (FA) in 1863, they continued to use their own rules, known as the Sheffield Rules, until 1878.
It was not until 2 January 1865 that the club played its first game away from Sheffield. The match was played at the Meadows Cricket Ground. At this time, Notts County was known as Nottingham Football Club. There were 18 players per side playing under “Nottingham Rules.” Sheffield recorded a victory, winning 1-0.
Pioneers Of Soccer
The club was also a pioneer in introducing innovations to the game of football, including a solid crossbar, free-kicks, corners, and aerial play, which became a staple in English football.
The southern regions of England were not familiar with the aerial game of football until Sheffield FC brought it to London. When they faced off against a local team at The Oval, the London players were taken aback by the sight of Sheffield FC players heading the ball. But after witnessing the technique in action, they quickly adopted it, making it a staple in English football.
Additionally, Sheffield FC played a role in the founding of Sheffield United in 1889. Despite not appearing in the FA Cup proper since the 1880s, the original Sheffield FC club has undergone a resurgence under new chairman Richard Tims, with a financially stable position and ownership of their own ground in Dronfield, Sheffield.
How Old Is Sheffield FC
The role of Sheffield FC in the history of football cannot be understated. As one of the sport’s pioneers, the club’s contributions have played a vital role in football’s development and global spread.
Founded 30 years before the establishment of England’s first league and 31 years before Alexander Hutton’s creation of the Argentine Football Association, Sheffield FC’s innovations and lasting impact on the game are undeniable.
As Charles Miller brought football to Brazil and William Paats introduced the sport to Paraguay, Sheffield FC was already 37 and 47 years old, respectively. Even as Wembley Stadium was opened and England won the World Cup, Sheffield FC had already existed for 65 and 108 years, respectively.
The longevity and continued success of the club, the oldest football club in the world, is a testament to its unique place in the sport’s history. In 2004, Sheffield FC received the FIFA Order of Merit, an honor previously only awarded to Real Madrid. The club’s 150th anniversary was marked by a match at Bramall Lane, attended by Pele, against Inter Milan.