Sheffield Club

Football was a very popular sport in Sheffield and in 1857 a group of men established the Sheffield Football Club at Bramall Lane. It is believed to be the first football club in the world. Two former Harrow students, Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest, published their own set of rules for football. These new rules allowed for more physical contact than those established by some of the public schools. Players were allowed to push opponents off the ball with their hands. It was also within the rules to shoulder charge players, with or without the ball. If a goalkeeper caught the ball, he could be barged over the line. At first the Sheffield Club played friendly games against teams in London and Nottingham.

In 1862 a new set of rules were established at Cambridge University. These specified 11-a-side, an umpire from each side plus a neutral referee, goals 12ft across and up to 20ft high. An offside rule was added. A man could play a ball passed to him from behind, so long as there were three opponents between him and the goal. It was also decided that each game should only last one hour and a quarter. The first game under these rules took place between the Old Etonians and Old Harrovians in November, 1862.

The Football Association was established in October, 1863. The aim of the FA was to establish a single unifying code for football. The first meeting took place at the Freeman's Tavern in London. The clubs represented at the meeting included Barnes, Blackheath, Perceval House, Kensington School, the War Office, Crystal Palace, Forest (later known as the Wanderers), the Crusaders and No Names of Kilburn. Charterhouse also sent an observer to the meeting.

In 1871, Charles W. Alcock, the Secretary of the Football Association, announced the introduction of the Football Association Challenge Cup. It was the first knockout competition of its type in the world. Only 12 clubs took part in the competition: Wanderers, Royal Engineers, Hitchin, Queens Park, Barnes, Civil Service, Crystal Palace, Hampstead Heathens, Great Marlow, Upton Park, Maidenhead and Clapham Rovers.

Many clubs did not enter for financial reasons. All ties had to be played in London. Clubs based in places such as Nottingham and Sheffield found it difficult to find the money to travel to the capital. Each club also had to contribute one guinea towards the cost of the £20 silver trophy.

The Sheffield Club joined the competition in the 1873-74 season. They reached the 3rd Round before being knocked out by Clapham Rovers. Despite having some good players such as W. H. Stacey, Daff Davy, Peter Andrews, Alf Liddell and T. H. Sorby, the club never did in very well in the Football Association Challenge Cup.

The Sheffield Club was determined to remain an amateur side and refused to join the Football League when it was formed in 1888. They won the FA Amateur Cup in the 1903-04 season.

Sheffield F.C. currently play in the Northern Premier League Division One South.

Primary Sources

(1) Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Sheffield Football Club (1857)

1. That this Club be called the Sheffield Football Club.

2. That the Club be managed by a Committee of five members (three to form a quorum) of which the officers of the Club shall be ex-officio members, to be elected at the annual general meetings.

3. That the annual general meeting of the Club shall be held on the second Monday in October in each year for the purpose of electing officers for the ensuing year and for other purposes.

4. That the Committee shall be empowered to call a special general meeting of the Club on giving seven days notice by circular to each member, specifying the objects for which such meeting is called, and the discussion at such special meeting shall be confined to that object alone. The Committee shall also call a special meeting of the Club on the written request of six members.

5. That each member on his admission to the Club shall pay 2s. 6d. subscription for the current year and that the annual subscription shall be due on the first day of November in each year.

6. That it shall be necessary for members wishing to retire from the Club to give notice in writing to the Hon. Secretary on or before the first day in October.

7. That the Committee shall have power to make a further call in addition to the annual subscription if they shall deem it necessary for the purpose of the Club, such further call not in any case to exceed 2s. 6d. per year.

8. That the Committee shall (during the season) meet once in every fortnight for the dispatch of business.

9. That the season shall commence on the first day in November and end on Easter Eve in each year.

10. That the play day of the Club be Saturday from two o'clock until dark.

11. That every candidate for admission to the Club shall be proposed by one member and seconded by another, his name and usual place of residency having been given to the Secretary, the Proposer and Seconder each subscribing his own name. The candidate will be balloted for by the Committee according to the priority of their nominations.

12. No ballot shall be valid unless three Committeemen vote, and two black balls shall exclude.

13. That all disputes during play shall be referred to the members of the Committee present at the ground, their decision to be final.

14. That the officers for the season be: - President: Frederick Ward; Vice-Presidents: J.A. Sorby and I. Ellison; Committee: Messrs. W. Prest, I. Pierson, W. Baker, J.K. Turner and J.E. Vickers; Honorary Secretary and Treasurer: N. Creswick.

15. That each member shall have the privilege of introducing one or more friends in company with himself during each season if within six miles of Sheffield; such friends shall be introduced once only.

16. That the Committee shall take immediate cognizance of any infringement of these Rules, and it shall be their special duty in case any circumstances shall occur likely to endanger the stability or to interrupt the harmony and good order of the Club to call a general meeting in the mode above described. In the event of two thirds of the members present at such meetings deciding by ballot on the expulsion of any member such member shall cease to belong to the Club.

17. That the Rules, together with the Laws relating to the playing of the game, shall be forthwith printed and afterwards, as often as the Committee shall think fit, and one copy shall be delivered to any member on application to the Secretary. Any member may obtain additional copies at the rate of sixpence each copy on a like application.

(2) Sheffield Playing Rules (21st October 1858)

1. The kick off from the middle must be a place kick.

2. Kick Out must not be from more than twenty-five yards out of goal.

3. Fair catch is a catch direct from the foot of the opposite side and entitles a free kick.

4. Charging is fair in case of a place kick (with the exception of a kick off as soon as a player offers to kick) but he may always draw back unless he has actually touched the ball with his foot.

5. No pushing with the hands or hacking, or tripping up is fair under any circumstances whatsoever.

6. Knocking or pushing on the ball is altogether disallowed. The side breaking the rule forfeits a free kick to the opposite side.

7. No player may be held or pulled over.

8. It is not lawful to take the ball off the ground (except in touch) for any purpose whatever.

9. If the ball be bouncing it may be stopped by the hand, not pushed or hit, but if the ball is rolling it may not be stopped except by the foot.

10. No goal may be kicked from touch, nor by a free kick from a fair catch.

11. A ball in touch is dead, consequently the side that touches it down must bring it to the edge of the touch and throw it straight out from touch.

12. Each player must provide himself with a red and dark blue flannel cap, one colour to be worn by each side.

(3) The Sheffield Daily Telegraph (27th December, 1860)

This match was played on Wednesday upon the Hallam cricket ground in the presence of a large number of spectators. Owing to the severe weather several players were absent from each side, but the spirit exhibited by those who were present prevented the game from flagging or becoming uninteresting to the observers, who were extremely liberal with their plaudits on the successful charge or quiet dodge; and equally unsparing in their sarcasm and Country "chaff" on the unfortunate victims of the slippery ground or the pure scientific.

The day was beautiful and the uniform of the men contrasting with each other and the pure snow had a most picturesque appearance. The Sheffielders turned out in their usual scarlet and white, whilst most of the Country players wore the blue garment of the Hallam Club. It would be invidious to single out the play of any particular gentleman when all did well, but we must give the palm to the Sheffield players as being the most scientific and also more alive to the advantage of upsetting their opponents. No serious accidents however occurred - the game was conducted with good temper and in a friendly spirit - and when darkness closed upon the scene, the Sheffield Club, not withstanding their inferior numbers, counted two goals to nothing, and went home fully satisfied with their victory.

(4) The Sheffield Independent (3rd January, 1862)

Hallam played with great determination. They appeared to have many partisans present, and when they succeeded in "downing" a man their ardent friends were more noisily jubilant.

At one time it appeared that the match would be turned into a general fight. Major Creswick had got the ball away and was struggling against great odds - Mr Shaw and Mr Waterfall (of Hallam). Major Creswick was held by Waterfall and in the struggle Waterfall was accidentally hit by the Major. All parties agreed that the hit was accidental. Waterfall, however, ran at the Major in the most irritable manner, and struck him several times. He also "threw off his waistcoat" and began to "show fight" in earnest. Major Creswick, who preserved his temper admirably, did not return a single blow.

There were a few who seemed to rejoice that the Major had been hit and were just as ready to "Hallam" it. We understand that many of the Sheffield players deprecated - and we think not without reason - the long interval in the middle of the game that was devoted to refreshments.

(5) The Sheffield Independent (10th January, 1862)

The unfair report in your paper of the... football match played on the Bramall Lane ground between the Sheffield and Hallam Football Clubs calls for a hearing from the other side. We have nothing to say about the result - there was no score - but to defend the character and behaviour of our respected player, Mr William Waterfall, by detailing the facts as they occurred between him and Major Creswick. In the early part of the game, Waterfall charged the Major, on which the Major threatened to strike him if he did so again. Later in the game, when all the players were waiting a decision of the umpires, the Major, very unfairly, took the ball from the hands of one of our players and commenced kicking it towards their goal. He was met by Waterfall who charged him and the Major struck Waterfall on the face, which Waterfall immediately returned.