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Oldest football clubs refers to the football clubs in all codes that are the earliest known to have been established.

The history of their formation is of interest to sport historians in tracing the origins of the modern codes of football from casual pastime to early organised competition and mainstream sport. Many early clubs did not use the word "football" in their name. Although the terms "football club" and "FC" are now strongly associated with association football (aka soccer), early rugby clubs also referred to themselves, or continue to refer to themselves, as simply a "football club", or as a "Rugby Football Club". Similarly, most Australian rules football teams also refer to themselves as football clubs. The title of the world's oldest football club, or the oldest club in a particular country, is often disputed, or is claimed by several different clubs, across several different codes of football. The oldest football club with a well-documented, continuous history is the Dublin University Football Club, a Rugby club founded in 1854 at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. The FA and FIFA, the UK and international governing bodies of Association Football, both officially recognise Sheffield F.C., to be the world's oldest Association Football club.[1] [2]

Contents

Defunct clubs

It is possible that football organisations existed in London as early as the fifteenth century. For example, the records of the Brewers' Company of London between 1421 and 1423 mention the hiring out of their hall "by the "football players" for "20 pence", under the heading "Trades and Fraternities".[1] The listing of football players as a "fraternity" or a group of players meeting socially under this identity is the earliest allusion to what might be considered a football club.[2] Other early sporting bodies dedicated to playing football include "The Gymnastic Society" of London which met regularly during the second half of the eighteenth century to pursue two sports: football and wrestling[3] The club played its matches - for example between London-based natives of Cumberland and Westmoreland - at the Kennington Common from well before 1789 until about 1800.

The first documented club to bear the title "football club" is one in Edinburgh, Scotland, during the period 1824-41, and associated with a man named John Hope. Several documents relating to this "Foot Ball Club" exist.[4] The only surviving club rules forbade tripping, but allowed pushing and holding and the picking up of the ball.[5] Other documents describe a game involving 39 players and "such kicking of shins and such tumbling".

Other early clubs include the Great Leicestershire Cricket and Football Club present in 1840[6] In 1841 two clubs are documented in a contemporary challenge to play "foot-ball" in Lancashire: "The Body-Guard club" (Rochdale) and the "Fear-noughts Club" [7] A club for playing "cricket, quoits and football" was established in Newcastle on Tyne in or before 1848.[8] The Surrey Football Club was established in 1849 and published the first non-school football list of rules (which were probably based upon the eighteenth century Gymnastic Society cited above[9])

Continuous Clubs

Drawing from the first football game played between Rutgers and Princeton.

It is has been claimed that the Barnes Club (later Barnes Rugby Football Club), from Barnes in London, was formed in 1839[10]. However, this has not been conclusively documented. It is also argued, and supported by the Guinness Book of Records, that Guy's Hospital Football Club, founded by staff at Guy's Hospital in London in 1843, is the oldest club. While a rugby club still exists at Guy's Hospital, the connection between the present club and the one formed in 1843 is poorly-documented[11].

The oldest football club with a well-documented, continuous history is the Dublin University Football Club, founded in 1854 at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. The club plays rugby union.

Sheffield Football Club, in Sheffield, England is the oldest documented non-university club, and was founded in 1857. It initially played a code of its own devising. The club joined the English Football Association (FA) in 1863 and is recognised by both the FA and FIFA as the world's oldest club now playing association football. The club's rules influenced the FA including handball, free kicks, corners and throw ins; it did not adopt the Association's code in full until 1877.

Cambridge University Association Football Club has been described by both the university and the BBC as the oldest club now playing Association football (soccer).[12] Other sources take the foundation date back earlier. For example : "Salopians formed a club of their own in the late 1830s/early 1840s but that was presumably absorbed by the Cambridge University Football Club that they were so influential in creating in 1846"[13] According to Charles Astor Bristed, in the early 1840s at Cambridge, there were games played between clubs from different colleges and houses.[14] Cambridge rules dates from 1848 and football is documented as being played on the original club ground, Parkers Piece, as early as 1838.[3] The earliest existing evidence of the Cambridge University Football Club comes from "The Laws of the University Football Club" dated 1856, and held at Shrewsbury School.[15]

German side 1860 Munich was founded as a gymnastic and fitness club in the year indicated by its name. But it did not play football until 1899. English club Notts County, formed in 1862, is the world's oldest fully professional Association Football club.[16]

The first football club in France was established in Paris in 1863 by English expatriates, as the following excerpt from a contemporary newspaper shows: "A number of English gentlemen living in Paris have lately organised a football club... The football contests take place in the Bois de Boulogne, by permission of the authorities and surprise the French amazingly [17]>

Gridiron football was not invented until the 1870s; Harvard University was the first to devise the game and it quickly spread, with innovations added by Yale University student Walter Camp. A few Canadian football teams predate the invention of the sport itself, though they began as rugby football teams and later converted. The oldest existing non-university semiprofessional football club is the Watertown Red & Black, which was founded in 1896. In 1899, the oldest professional football club was founded; it is now known as the Arizona Cardinals.

Timeline, 1824 – 1870

Year Date Club Original code Current code Location Current status/league Notes
1839* Barnes Club unknown Rugby union Barnes, London, England London
Division 1
The club claims formation in 1839, while other sources say 1858 or 1862. Its first recorded result was in 1862. A founding member of the Football Association (F.A.) in 1863 and one of the first two clubs (the other being Richmond) to play a game of Association football.
1843* Guy's Hospital Football Club Rugby football Rugby union Southwark, London, England RFU London and South East - Kent Division 1 See above. There is no documentation for the claim to continuous existence since 1843 and the club may have been inactive for one or more seasons.
1850 Durham School Football Club Rugby Football Rugby Union Durham, England Fourth oldest recorded Rugby Club
1850* now University of Wales, Lampeter rfc Rugby football Rugby union lampeter, Ceredigion, Wales was also a founding member of WRU.
1854 Dublin University Football Club Rugby football Rugby union Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland AIB League Oldest documented football club and the oldest to later play Rugby union. Now playing in AIL Division 2.
1857 24 October Sheffield Football Club Sheffield rules Association football Sheffield, England Northern Premier League, Division One South English FA and FIFA officially recognise this club as the oldest now playing Association football[18], although some sources say Cambridge University is the oldest (see above).
1856/1857* Cambridge University Football Club Cambridge rules Association football Cambridge University, Cambridge, England BUSA Midlands Division 2A See above. The 1856/57 foundation date has been claimed by both the university and the BBC, which would make it the oldest club now playing Association football. However some sources state that the club was founded in 1866.
1857 26 December Edinburgh Academical Football Club Rugby football Rugby Union Edinburgh, Scotland Scottish Hydro Electric Premiership Division 1 Oldest football club in Scotland. Oldest documented rugby club in the U.K.
1858 Blackheath Football Club Rugby football Rugby union Blackheath, London, England National Division Two Foundation member of the F.A.
1858 Liverpool Football Club (later known as Liverpool St Helens F.C.) Rugby football Rugby union Liverpool, England North 2 West The club claims 1857[19]. Merged with another club in 1919.
1858 University of St Andrews Rugby Football Club Rugby football Rugby union St. Andrews, Scotland BUSA Scotland Div. 1, Scottish Hydro Electric Regional Leagues Division 1 (Caledonia) Founder member of the SRU.
1859 May 14 Melbourne Football Club Australian rules football Australian rules Melbourne, Australia Australian Football League The club was officially formed on 14 May 1859. On 17 May 1859, members of the club codified Australian rules football. Melbourne has participated at the highest level of its code longer than any other club.
1859 < April 27 Knighton Cricket and Football Club Knighton Town Cricket and Football became separate indenties 1887 Knighton, Powys,Wales Mid Wales League South
1859* June 15 Castlemaine Football Club unknown Australian rules Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia Bendigo Football League Foundation date recently rediscovered, but dormant for a period[20].
1859* * Melbourne University Football Club Australian rules Australian rules Melbourne University, Melbourne, Australia Victorian Amateur Football Association Section A Records of its formation are lost, however there are references of the club dating back to June 1859 and its first match was also in June 1859. Won Australian rules first ever trophy in 1861 by defeating Melbourne FC. Disbanded during World War I, but later reformed.
1859 July 18 Geelong Football Club Australian Rules Australian rules Geelong, Australia Australian Football League The club's own code was played in the Geelong region and influenced the rewriting of the laws of Australian football in 1866.
1860 20 May Ballarat Football Club unknown Australian rules Ballarat, Australia Ballarat Football League Formed as a junior club; senior club established in 1862.[21]
1860 Adelaide Football Club unknown defunct Adelaide, Australia defunct Played its first match against another club in 1862; disbanded in 1873. Not related to present-day Adelaide Football Club.[22]
1860 Cray Wanderers Football Club unknown Association football Bromley, London, England Isthmian League Premier Division oldest existing association football club in Greater London
1860 Hallam Football Club Sheffield rules Association football Sheffield, England Northern Counties East League Premier Division Took part in first ever football tournament
1860 Forest Football Club (later Wanderers F.C.) unknown Association football Leytonstone, London, England defunct Won the first-ever FA Cup, 1872.
1860 Manchester Football Club (now known as Manchester Rugby Club) Rugby football Rugby union Manchester, England National Division Two No connection to Manchester United F.C. or Manchester City F.C..
1860* * Lausanne Football and Cricket Club unknown defunct Lausanne, Switzerland defunct The first club to play first Association football in continental Europe.
1861 Worksop Town Football Club Sheffield rules Association football Worksop, England Northern Premier League
1861 Sandhurst Football Club Australian rules football Australian rules football Bendigo, Australia Bendigo Football League Founded by J.B Thompson, one of the inventors of Australian rules football.
1861 Richmond Football Club Rugby football Rugby union Richmond, London, England London Division 1 One of the first two clubs (with Barnes) to play a game of Association football, despite not being a member of the FA.
1861 Sale Football Club Rugby football Rugby union Manchester, England. Guinness Premiership Currently in the peak domestic competition for rugby union in England.
1861* Crystal Palace Football Club unknown defunct London, England. defunct No connection to the later Crystal Palace F.C. Foundation member of F.A.
1861* Name unknown, at University College, University of Toronto Rugby football Canadian football Toronto, Ontario, Canada defunct No connection to the college Canadian football team[23].
1861* Oneida Football Club unknown (possibly the Boston Game) defunct Boston, Massachusetts, United States defunct
1862* Williamstown Football Club Australian Rules defunct Williamstown, Victoria, Australia. defunct The first club from Williamstown (not related to current club), which folded a few years after formation
1862* Kangaroo Flat Australian Rules defunct Kangaroo Flat, Victoria, Australia. defunct [24]Not related to current club in the Bendigo Football League
1862 Nottingham Football Club (later Notts County F.C.), own code Association football Nottingham, England Football League Two NCFC official site history[25]
1863* Bradford Football Club Rugby football Association football Bradford, England Northern Premier League Division One North Now known as Bradford Park Avenue A.F.C. Founding member of rugby league in 1895. Entered top soccer league in 1907 in what was known as the "great betrayal".
1863 Christchurch Football Club own code Rugby union Christchurch, New Zealand Division One — Telecom Cup Oldest club now playing rugby union in NZ.[26]
1863* Sydney University Football Club Rugby football/
Australian rules football[27]
Rugby union University of Sydney, Sydney Australia New South Wales Rugby Union Foundation date disputed by historican Tom Hickie who argues that it was actually 1865[28]. The oldest Australian rugby union club; according to fullpointsfooty.net, it "flirted with 'Victorian Rules' [Australian rules] in its formative stages."[27] The current Australian rules club at the university, Sydney University Australian National Football Club, claims to be a spin-off of SUFC, although the university did not play an inter-club Australian rules game until 1887.
1863 Royal Engineers Football Club unknown Association football London, England. British Army competition Won the FA Cup in 1875.
1863 or 1868 Stoke Ramblers Football Club unknown Association football Stoke-on-Trent, England. English Premier League Some accounts say the club was founded in 1868.
1863* Civil Service Football Club Association football Association football London, England. Southern Amateur League Foundation member of F.A. Sometimes referred to as the "War Office Club".
1863* N.N. Club unknown defunct Kilburn, London, England. defunct N.N. stood for "No Name". Foundation member of F.A.
1863* Crusaders Football Club unknown defunct London, England. defunct Foundation member of F.A.
1863* Percival House Football Club Rugby football defunct Blackheath, London, England. defunct Foundation member of F.A.
1863* Surbiton Football Club Rugby football defunct Surbiton, London, England. defunct Foundation member of F.A.
1864 July Carlton Football Club Australian rules football Australian rules Carlton, Melbourne, Australia Australian Football League Source: Carlton Football Club[29]
1864 Huddersfield Athletic Club various sports Rugby league Huddersfield, England Rugby Super League
1864* South Yarra Football Club unknown defunct South Yarra, Melbourne, Australia. defunct Merged with the St Kilda Cricketers' Club in 1873 to form the present-day St Kilda Football Club.[30]
1864 Williamstown Football Club Australian Rules Australian Rules Williamstown, Victoria, Australia. Victorian Football League The second club from Williamstown which exists to this day
1864 Montevideo Cricket Club Cricket, rugby football Cricket, rugby union, association football et al. Montevideo, Uruguay. Club Championship
1864* Name unknown unknown defunct New Town, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. defunct A short-lived club.[31]
1864 Brigg Town F.C. Association football Association football Brigg, Lincolnshire, England. Northern Premier League Division One South
1865 West of Scotland F.C. Rugby football Rugby union Glasgow, Scotland. Scottish Hydro Electric Premiership Division 2 One of the founder members of the SRU.
1865 Bath Football Club Rugby football Rugby union Bath, England. Guinness Premiership Currently in the peak domestic competition for rugby union in England.
1865 Hull Football Club Rugby football Rugby league Hull, England. Super League (Europe)
1865 Nottingham Forest Football Club unknown (possibly bandy) Association football Nottingham, England Football League Championship
1865* Sydney Football Club Rugby football defunct Sydney, Australia defunct No connection to Sydney FC, the Sydney Roosters, or Sydney Swans.
1866 Glasgow Academical Football Club Rugby football Rugby union Glasgow, Scotland. Scottish Hydro Electric National Division 2 One of the founder members of the SRU
1866 Kapunda Football Club Australian rules football Australian rules football Kapunda, South Australia Barossa, Light and Gawler Football Association
1866 Rochdale Football Club Rugby football Rugby league Rochdale, England Lower league
1866 Swinton and Pendlebury Football Club Rugby football Rugby league Swinton, England Lower league Won 3 Challenge Cups and 6 championships
1866* Brisbane Australian Football Club Australian rules football defunct Brisbane, Australia defunct No connection to Brisbane Bears or Brisbane Lions.[32]
1866 Garrick Football Club Sheffield rules defunct Sheffield, England defunct
1866 Thursday Wanderers Football Club Sheffield rules defunct Sheffield, England defunct
<1867 Mechanics Football Club Sheffield rules defunct Sheffield, England defunct Took part in the first ever football tournament.
<1867 Norton Football Club Sheffield rules defunct Norton, Derbyshire defunct Took part in first ever football tournament.
<1867 Mackenzie Football Club Sheffield rules defunct Sheffield, England defunct Took part in first ever football tournament.
<1867 Pitsmoor Football Club Sheffield rules defunct Sheffield, England defunct Took part in first ever football tournament.
<1867 Fir Vale Football Club Sheffield rules defunct Sheffield, England defunct Took part in first ever football tournament.
<1867 Norfolk Football Club Sheffield rules defunct Sheffield, England defunct Took part in first ever football tournament.
<1867 Broomhall Football Club Sheffield rules defunct Sheffield, England defunct Took part in first ever football tournament.
<1867 Milton Football Club Sheffield rules defunct Sheffield, England defunct Took part in first ever football tournament.
<1867 Wellington Football Club Sheffield rules defunct Sheffield, England defunct Took part in first ever football tournament.
1867 September 4 Sheffield Wednesday Football Club Sheffield rules Association football Sheffield, England Football League Championship The Wednesday Cricket Club formed in 1820
1867 October 19 Chesterfield Football Club unknown Association football Chesterfield, England Football League One
1867 July 9 Queen's Park Football Club own code Association football Glasgow, Scotland. Scottish Football League Second Division
1868 Fordingbridge Turks Football Club unknown Association football Fordingbridge, England. Bournemouth Saturday Football League
1868 Gawler Football Club Australian rules football Australian rules football Gawler, South Australia defunct formed in 1868, joining the SAFA in 1887 until 1890, folding by 1894. The Gawler Football Association was created out of its demise.
1868 Woodville Football Club Australian rules defunct Woodville, Adelaide, Australia defunct Founding member of the South Australian National Football League. Disbanded in 1877.[33] No connection to the later Woodville Football Club.
1868* Montreal Foot Ball Club Rugby football Canadian football Montreal, Canada defunct Rugby Canada states 1868[34], while Football Canada states 1872[35].
1868 Perthshire Rugby Football Club Rugby Football Rugby Union Perth, Scotland Scottish Hydro Electric Premiership 3
1868 York Football Club Rugby football rugby league York, England National League Two York FC was formed in 1868 and joined rugby league in 1901. They went bankrupt in 2002. A new club, York City Knights, was formed in 2003.
1869 Glasgow University Rugby Football Club Rugby Football Rugby Union Glasgow, Scotland Scottish university competitions
1869 November 3 Hamilton Foot Ball Club (later Hamilton Tiger-Cats) Rugby football Canadian football Hamilton, Canada Canadian Football League The HFBC were nicknamed the "Tigers" in 1873. Merged with the Hamilton Flying Wildcats in 1950 to form the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.[35][36][37][38] Oldest current professional gridiron football team.
1869 North Melbourne Football Club Australian rules Australian rules North Melbourne, Australia Australian Football League Was briefly known as the 'Hotham Football Club' between 1877 and 1888, due to a change in the town's name.
1869 Kilmarnock Football Club Rugby football Association football Kilmarnock, Scotland Scottish Premier League
1870 May 13 Port Adelaide Football Club Australian rules Australian rules Port Adelaide, Australia Australian Football League Formerly played in the SANFL as the Port Adelaide Magpies until 1997 before awarded a licence to enter the AFL in 1996. Entered AFL in 1997 as the "Power". A new club known as the Port Adelaide Magpies Football Club was formed in 1997 to fill its void in the SANFL
1870 Abingdon Town F.C. Abingdon, Oxfordshire

* = disputed, poorly documented or dormant for a period.

See also

References

  1. ^ Magoun, Francis Peabody (1929) "Football in Medieval England and Middle-English Literature." The American Historical Review, v.35, no. 1
  2. ^ M. Marples, 1954, A History of Football, Secker & Warburg, London, p. 36
  3. ^ Football The First Hundred Years: The Untold Story by Adrian Harvey, Routledge 2005, page 54
  4. ^ John Hope, Accounts and papers of the football club kept by John Hope, WS, and some Hope Correspondence 1787-1886 (National Archives of Scotland, GD253/183)
  5. ^ The Foot-Ball Club in Edinburgh, 1824-1841 - The National Archives of Scotland
  6. ^ Football The First Hundred Years: The Untold Story by Adrian Harvey, Routledge 2005, page 60
  7. ^ Football The First Hundred Years: The Untold Story by Adrian Harvey, Routledge 2005, page 85
  8. ^ The Guardian, June 10, 1848.
  9. ^ Football The First Hundred Years: The Untold Story by Adrian Harvey, Routledge 2005, page 78-79
  10. ^ "My assumptions about 'oldest' were confounded by Barnes". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=&xml=/sport/2005/11/02/srinve02.xml. 
  11. ^ "GKT Gazette – March 2004 – A history of rugby". Guy's, King's & St.Thomas's Hospitals Medical & Dental Schools Gazette. http://www.gktgazette.com/2004/mar/features.asp#2. 
  12. ^ Cambridge University Newsletter July/August 2006 (p. 4) & BBC Cambridgeshire, "Cambridge... the birthplace of football?!" (June 13, 2006) Access date for both references: July 11, 2007.
  13. ^ Adrian Harvey, Football: The first hundred years. Routledge 2005, page 251, reference no. 187
  14. ^ Charles Astor Bristed (1852) Five Years in an English University, page 365
  15. ^ Cambridge... the birthplace of football?! (last updated: 13/06/06) see video clip
  16. ^ The five oldest football clubs in the world are: 1.Sheffield F.C. (1857), members of the Northern Premier League Division One South; 2. Hallam F.C. (1860) also a Sheffield football club, playing a division below the oldest club (Northern Counties East League Premier Division) 3. Cray Wanderers F.C. (1861) 4. Worksop Town F.C. (1861); 5. Notts County(1862). Notts County - A Pictorial History ISBN 0954783034 page 8
  17. ^ The Scotsman Newspaper, 22nd December 1863, page 8
  18. ^ "Famous Sons". Sheffield F.C.. http://www.sheffieldfc.com/famous_sons.htm. 
  19. ^ "Brief History". Liverpool St Helens F.C.. http://www.liverpoolsthelensrugby.co.uk/page9.html. 
  20. ^ "Goldfields club endures". The Age. http://www.theage.com.au/realfooty/news/afl/old-but-in-demand/2005/06/04/1117825103656.html. 
  21. ^ Ballarat Football Netball Club - Club History
  22. ^ Adelaide (original)
  23. ^ "Brief History Of Varsity Blues Football". Varsity Blues. http://varsityblues.ca/sports/football/history/. 
  24. ^ Bendigo Advertiser, 1862.
  25. ^ "The History Of Notts County". Notts County F.C.. http://www.nottscountyfc.premiumtv.co.uk/page/HistoryDetail/0,,10426~1028224,00.html. 
  26. ^ "Rugby Union Football - History". The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. http://www.teara.govt.nz/1966/R/RugbyUnionFootball/History/en. 
  27. ^ a b "Sydney University". http://www.fullpointsfooty.net/sydney_university.htm. 
  28. ^ Hickie, T. A Sense of Union
  29. ^ "History of the Blues". Carlton Football Club. http://www.carltonfc.com.au/carltonfc/Season2007/News/NewsArticle/tabid/4311/Default.aspx?newsId=2467. 
  30. ^ "South Yarra Football Club (Vic)". http://www.footypedia.com/00000044.htm. 
  31. ^ "The First 60 Years of Australian Rules football in Tasmania". http://www.footballlegends.org/first_sixty_years.htm. 
  32. ^ "Other Competitions". http://www.footystamps.com/ot_other_competitions.htm. 
  33. ^ Woodville (original)
  34. ^ "History of Rugby Canada". http://www.rugbycanada.ca/index.php?lang=en&page_id=4. 
  35. ^ a b "Canadian Football Timelines (1860 – Present)". http://www.footballcanada.com/history_timeline.asp. 
  36. ^ "Tiger-Cats History". http://www.ticats.ca/index.php?module=page&id=4014. 
  37. ^ "Grey Cup 06 Newsletter". http://www.cfl.ca/cflinsider/greycup06/02/news.html. 
  38. ^ "Here's hoping the Ticats turn it around". http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Football/CFL/Hamilton/2006/09/03/1798424.html. 

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