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The First Football Club Depends on What “Football” and “Club” Mean

The history of football clubs is quite fascinating. There is much debate about which clubs were the first ones in the world, and which ones were the first ones in various nations. One reason is that the first football clubs excluded the word “football” from their club’s name. That differs from today, in which clubs typically include “club” or “FC” in their names. Another factor is that rugby clubs often referred to their clubs as “football.” Yet another issue is that “club” usually refers to an independent group. However, the first football clubs typically weren’t independent of the schools they were connected with. That said, historians generally give credit to Dublin University Football Club as being the world’s first football club. In 1854 it was founded at Trinity College. Some historians believe that Guy’s Hospital Football Club was actually founded one year early, making it the world’s first football club.

The first football clubs started in Britain, perhaps as far back as the 1400s. However, little documentation exists about these clubs, and now they’re defunct. Organizations that existed during this time included The Brewers’ Company (1421-1423) and The Gymnastic Society (1700s). However it’s important to note that these “football clubs” were not strictly dedicated to football. The first documented club that was 100% football and referred to itself as a football club could have been The Foot-Ball Club in Edinburgh, Scotland. It existed from 1821-1841. Interesting rules of the club allowed holding and pushing, but prohibited tripping. An account of one game mentioned almost 40 players participating. Other historical accounts refer to other clubs, such as ones in Leicestershire, Lancashire, and Newcastle.

thumb_561__auto_4fb81bc0bc2a85d281608d82feb22f4eMeanwhile, other historians believe that different football clubs were actually the first ones in the world. According to some, Sheffield F.C. (1857) was the first football club established. This was six years before The Football Association met to record the rules of the sport. It was also three years before Sheffield F.C. had a team to play against! Their first competitor was Hallam F.C. And today those teams have the oldest football rivalry in the entire world. In 2004 Sheffield F.C. became one of two football clubs to receive the Order of Merit from FIFA, due to their being the world’s first football club. The only other team to have received his award was Real Madrid. Hallam F.C. was established in 1860. It seems that in 1867 Hallam won the first football tournament. Also, the team holds the Guinness Book of Records for playing on the world’s oldest sport ground.

While the history of the first football clubs isn’t completely true, it’s certainly fascinating.  There were even issues at first about what “football” and “club” meant. For that reason there’s some debate about what was the first football club was. Arguably it was Sheffield F.C., followed a few years later by Hallam F.C. Other experts argue that the first football club was The Brew’s Company. Regardless of how the world of football clubs started, there’s no doubt that they’re certainly an outstanding spectator sport today.