Today is the Sheffield F.C. 160th birthday. But it is not a simple birthday. Because it is also the 160th anniversary of the “game of football” since Sheffield F.C., founded on October 24th 1857, is the oldest club now playing association football. Sheffield F.C. initially played games under the Sheffield Rules and did not officially adopt the FA rules until 1878. The club competes in the Rules derby with near neighbors Hallam. In 2004 they were given the FIFA Order of Merit – an award given to only one other club: Real Madrid – and in 2007 they were inducted into the English football hall of fame, to commemorate their 150th anniversary. On the pitch, the club’s finest hour came in 1904 when they won the FA Amateur Cup, a competition conceived after a suggestion by Sheffield. They also finished as runners up of the FA Vase in 1977. The inaugural meeting of the club took place on 24 October 1857 at Parkfield House in the suburb of Highfield. The original headquarters was a greenhouse on East Bank Road lent by Thomas Asline Ward, father of the first club president Frederick Ward, and the adjacent field was used as their first playing ground. Initially, Sheffield FC games were played among club members themselves and took the format of “Married v Singles” or “Professionals v the Rest”.
Creswick and Prest were responsible for drawing up the club’s rules of play, which were decided upon at the club’s AGM on 21 October 1858. They were referred to as the Sheffield Rules, and were the first official set of rules and laws for the game of football. At the time, before the formation of the Football Association (FA), many different kinds of football were popular in England. For example, each of the various public schools played football according to their own individual rules, and these varied widely. The Sheffield Rules were later adopted by the Sheffield Football Association when it was formed in 1867.
Sheffield’s near neighbor, Hallam, was formed in 1860 and in the same year the two clubs first met each other in a local derby which is still contested today. By 1862 there were 15 clubs in the Sheffield area. They became members of The Football Association on 30 November 1863 but continued to use their own set of rules. On 2 January 1865, the club played its first fixture outside Sheffield against Nottingham, playing eighteen-a-side under Nottingham Rules. By this time the club had decided only to play teams outside Sheffield in order to seek a bigger challenge. On 31 March 1866, there was a match between a team representing the city of Sheffield and one representing London, at Battersea Park. Rules that differed only slightly from the FA rules were used. The game, played as an eleven aside, was won by London by 2 goals and four touchdowns to nil. However the matter of rules remained a problem with Sheffield clubs continuing to play by their own rules. A number of rule proposals by the club were rejected by the FA in February 1867 and the London Committee were reluctant to commit to further fixtures over Sheffield’s refusal to play strictly to FA rules. Sheffield clubs finally adopted the FA rules in 1878. In 1873 the club entered the FA Cup for the first time, their first ever tie in the competition, against Shropshire Wanderers, being decided after a replay by a coin toss; the only time in the history of the competition that a tie has been decided in this way. They would reach the 4th Round of the competition in 1877–78 and 1879–80. Back to our days, 2007 was a momentous year for Sheffield F.C. as they entered their 150th year. They finished as runners-up in the league to secure promotion to the Northern Premier League (NPL) for the first time. In October 2007, FIFA president Sepp Blatter attended the club’s anniversary dinner, and the following month the club played anniversary celebration matches against Internazionale and Ajax at Bramall Lane. Football legend Pelé was guest of honour at the first game and was introduced to the teams and the fans before the game. The match ended 5–2 to Inter, with 18,741 supporters attending the match. Inter’s side included World Cup winner Marco Materazzi and a young Mario Balotelli. As part of his visit, Pelé opened an exhibition which included the first public showing in 40 years of the original hand-written rules of football. A special edition home shirt was released to mark the 160th anniversary of the The World’s First Football Club and worn in the 17-18 Northern Premier League Division One South campaign and in the FA Women’s Super League. The shirt was designed by team’s sponsor “Classic Football Shirts” and made by Joma. The shirt is an old-style design shirt with lace neck collar, the 160th Anniversary logo on chest and the coordinates of the “home of football” inside the collar. The shirt can be pirchased on the team sponsor’s website www.classicfootballshirts.co.uk for 24,99£.