The Oldest Football Club in the World

Football is the world’s best and most popular sport. It is a multi-billion-dollar business that is followed on every continent by supporters who figuratively live and die by the weekly results of the football team that they’ve claimed allegiance to. People from all walks of life love this game, love the club they support and ofte ensure their children grow up following the same team with the same amount of passion. Football is in many ways, a religion.

Which is the oldest Football Club in the World? Sheffield Football Club (Sheffield FC) is the oldest football club in the world, according to the Football Association and Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). It was formed in 1857 by Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest, and the club developed the Sheffield Regulations, which became the first set of official football rules. However, in 1878, the club officially accepted the Football Association’s (FA) rules and regulations. 

Sheffield Football Club is an English football club located in neighboring Dronfield, Derbyshire, and was founded in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. They are presently in Division One East of the Northern Premier League. The club was recognized by FIFA as the world’s oldest active football club. Sheffield FC first competed under the Sheffield Regulations and did not formally accept the new FA rules until 1878. Sheffield FC was just the second team in history, after Real Madrid, to be awarded the FIFA Order of Merit in 2004 and was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

Sheffield FC – History

Sheffield F.C. team from 1857, still playing under the “Sheffield Rules”. Initially, all Sheffield FC games were contested among club members, with the format “Married v Singles” or “Professionals v the Rest.” The Laws for the Guidance of Playing Members, was published in 1859 and two of their founder members Creswick and Prest were responsible for developing the club’s rules of play, which were agreed upon at the club’s AGM on October 21, 1858, and published the following year.

They were known as the Sheffield Regulations, and they were the first comprehensive set of football rules to be published by a football club (as opposed to a school or university). Many distinct types of “football” were popular in England before the establishment of the Football Association (FA). 

The Football Association

They joined The Football Association on November 30, 1863, but continued to play under their own set of regulations. The club played its first match outside of Sheffield on 2 January 1865, at the Meadows Cricket Ground, against Notts County, then known as Nottingham Football Club; the match was played eighteen-a-side under “Nottingham Rules.” Sheffield triumphed by a solitary goal.

By this point, the club had chosen to exclusively play clubs from outside Sheffield to provide a greater challenge. Sheffield played a “London” team under FA regulations at Battersea Park on March 31, 1866. London won the game, played as an eleven-a-side, by two goals. 

The issue of regulations, however, remained a concern, with Sheffield clubs continuing to play under their own set of rules. The FA rejected many of the club’s rule suggestions in February 1867, and the London Committee was hesitant to commit to future matches due to Sheffield’s reluctance to play strictly by FA regulations. In 1878, Sheffield clubs officially accepted the FA regulations and were now allowed to enter League and Cup competitions under the auspices of the Football Association.

Sheffield United – The Highs and the Lows

They entered their first league competition, the Midland League, in 1889, but departed after just one season after finishing bottom of the table. They were also founding members of the first Yorkshire League in 1898, although they only competed for one season. Sheffield participated mostly in local leagues after the turn of the century. 

In 1949, fifty years after quitting the Yorkshire League, the team rejoined it. Three years later, they were promoted to Division One, only to be demoted to Division Two in 1954. They returned to the top flight at the first opportunity before their centennial year in 1957. The celebrations featured games versus England B at Hillsborough and Queen’s Park F.C. at Bramall Lane.

Sheffield was demoted to Division Two in 1961, only to return to the top division in 1967, and then only for one season before being relegated again. They were demoted again three years later, in 1970, to the newly created Division Three. The team would spend six seasons in the Yorkshire League’s bottom tier, falling as low as tenth in 1974. 

The Phoenix Rises

They began to turn their fortunes around in 1976 when they returned to Division Two, and a year later, they were named Division Two champions, allowing them to return to Division One. Sheffield reached the final of the newly created FA Vase the following season. They drew 1–1 with Billericay Town at Wembley Stadium before losing 1–2 in the rematch at Nottingham’s City Ground.

Sheffield was assigned to Division One South of the Northern Counties East League (NCEL) after the Yorkshire League and the Midland League combined to create the Northern Counties East League (NCEL) in 1981. They remained in this tier for three seasons until the league was reorganized and the team was transferred to the newly created Division One. 

Sheffield won the Division One championship again at the first attempt, this time staying in the NCEL Premier Division for 15 years. For the first time, the club won the Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior Cup in 1994, defeating Workshop Town on penalties at Hillsborough. They would go on to win the title four more times throughout the 2010s.

Sheffield United’s vs Inter Milan & Pele

Sheffield Football Club celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2007. They finished as league runners-up, gaining promotion to the Northern Premier League (NPL) for the first time. FIFA President Sepp Blatter attended the club’s jubilee dinner in October 2007, and the following month, the club hosted anniversary celebration games against Internazionale and Ajax at Bramall Lane. 

The club was honoured to receive Pelé as a guest of honour during the inaugural game, and he was presented to the teams and spectators before the game. The game finished 5–2 in favor of Inter, with 18,741 fans in attendance. Inter had World Cup champion Marco Materazzi and a youthful Mario Balotelli in their squad. During his visit, Pelé launched an exhibition that featured the first public display of the original hand-written football rules.

The fortunes of Sheffield FC have ebbed and flowed from its inception in the nineteenth century to the current day. The club has played Inter Milan at Bramall Lane, has received awards from Sepp Blatter, and has had Pele grace their home ground. The cherry on the cake is that they will also remain the oldest Football Club in the world, as recognised by FIFA and the FA for as long as they exist.


Life long Portsmouth Fan and have followed football since 1993. Is there a better sport on earth?

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