My night with Sheffield FC – the world’s first football club

The world's first football club

Like many of you, I am pretty bored of the hype and frustration that comes with supporting England.

While I must admit to getting a tad excited by the Spain performance, I was not enthused by the prospect of watching 90 minutes against Sweden.

Instead, I swapped the dulcet tones of Adrian Chiles & Co to head down to the world’s first football club.

While few of you will have heard of Sheffield FC, the club’s influence on the modern game cannot be understated.

Founded in 1857, they brought order to chaos, laying down a set of standardised laws that became the foundation of the modern game.

Furthermore, they were a major catalyst in the formation of the Football Association and brought a host of other innovations to the game (the first crossbar, the first comer, the first free kick and the first floodlit match, to name but a few).

Sheffield FC’s impact on football saw them recognised by FIFA in 2004 for their services to the sport with a Centennial Order of Merit. To put the award into context, the only other club recognised was Real Madrid.

That, though, is about as close as the ties between Sheffield FC and los Blancos goes.

While Real Madrid enjoy the riches brought by being one of the world’s most famous clubs, Sheffield FC ply their trade in the catchily-named Evo-Stik League First Division South.

Players' tunnel meets the snack bar

The club averages 304 spectators for league game at their BT Local Business Stadium home, nestled away on the outskirts of the Steel City in Dronfield.

Sheffield FC have been based there for a decade now after a largely nomadic existence, which saw them play across the city at several different venues.

The place they now call home is comprised of two small stands and two grass banks, while the east side is adjoined to the Coach and Horses pub.

The players’ tunnel comes through the snack bar and is part of a stack of portakabins that acts as home to the dressing rooms, boardroom, club shop and undoubtedly much more.

In other words, it is your standard non-league ground – and the ideal venue for a Tuesday night out.

Kidsgrove Athletic were the visitors on a bitter evening in downtown Dronfield and, after a few pints of local ale with my good friend – and Britain’s orienteering extraordinaire – John Rocke, I was fortunate enough to witness a cracking game of football.

The visitors started at a pace that belied their poor league standing, before Sheffield FC began to show why they were in the hunt for promotion.

Warren Burrell cracked home the opener on his first start for the club, before fellow debutant James Knowles doubled their advantage.

Sheffield FC continued in similarly-impressive form after a break that was marred by the announcement over the tannoy that the mushy peas had run out.

BT Local Business Stadium

Club stalwart Matt Roney netted the only goal of the second period to wrap up an impressive 3-0 win, which pushed the home side second in the table and two points behind leaders Ilkeston FC.

Promotion would still leave Sheffield FC three tiers below the Football League, but I am not sure that bothers too many of the locals.

The club were on the dangling dangerously over the precipice before chairman Richard Tims took over in 1998 and helped they get the recognition they have deserved for their impact on modern day football.

Sheffield FC’s recent 15oth anniversary was celebrated with matches against Inter Milan and Ajax, with the former attended by the likes of Pele and Sir Bobby Charlton.

Football figures of similar figures ilk are part of the club’s membership scheme, which helps to keep the club on an even keel.

The recent sale by the club of the world’s earliest set of rules for £881,250 has also boosted the club’s coffers dramatically.

But while the club is quick to draw on its past to raise funds, it is also still helping the wider footballing world.

The ‘Boots for Africa‘ campaign was founded to collect your old football boots and deliver them to the children in Africa, which has distributed 23,548 boots since its inception.

That, along with everything else, helps makes this club special.

Sheffield FC has given the footballing world more than you can imagine and is still having an impact despite its current standing.

For many of you a trip to Dronfield may not be high on your list of priorities, but for me it certainly beats watching England eke out a 1-0 victory.

Sheffield FC v Kidsgrove Athletic

The smallest press box in the world

Non-league football at its finest

The best pie in non-league?

There is only one way to find out...


3 thoughts on “My night with Sheffield FC – the world’s first football club

  1. Great article Simon , will always be a warm welcome, come back soon !

    Ps Just for the record …………we celebrated our 150th Birthday in 2007 (not 125th )

    Always a touchy subject age isn`t it 🙂

    Up The Club !

    [Thanks for the comment, Paul. Article updated with correct information. Must have had Southampton’s recent 125th anniversary on my mind!]

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