Who are the oldest football clubs in the world? The top clubs in the world? Maybe, but not necessarily. Here we’re going to see which football clubs are the oldest ever. The foundation of some of them even dates back to more than 150 years ago. Let’s take a look at them.
Being the oldest football club in the world, Sheffield FC was actually founded in 1857 by Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest, two members of the Sheffield cricket club. The club’s headquarters was actually a greenhouse located at the East Bank Road in Sheffield. The adjacent field to the greenhouse was used as the club’s first playing ground. On November 30, 1863, Sheffield FC became a member of the Football Association (FA) in England.
One interesting fact about Sheffield FC is that they played a match against Nottingham Forest in January 1865 where each team had 18 players instead of 11! Sheffield FC’s first appearance in FA Cup was in 1873 in a match against Shropshire Wanderers. Another interesting fact about Sheffield FC is that they were awarded the FIFA Order of Merit - the most honorable award given by FIFA to people or clubs who have made a significant contribution to the game - in 2004. The only team besides Sheffield FC who have been honored by the same award in the history of football are Real Madrid.
Although Sheffield FC were first established in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, they are now a Dronfield-based club in Derbyshire county. The league in which they currently compete is the Northern Premier League - an English league founded in 1968 with three divisions. Sheffield FC are in fact older than football rules! The club was founded 6 years before the rules of the game were decided upon in the first meeting of the Football Association.
The second oldest football club in the world, Hallam FC was founded in 1860 in Crosspool, Sheffield, by John Charles Shaw who became Hallam FC captain and later the president of the Sheffield Football Association. Hallam FC playing ground, Sandygate Road, has been recognized as the oldest football ground in the world by the Guinness Book of Records, since it has been used since the foundation of the club in 1860 up until now. Hallam FC has a longtime rivalry with Sheffield FC which is known as Rules Derby.
The first trophy Hallam FC won was the Youdan Cup which was one of the first ever established tournaments in the history of football. Although in 1870s, football was taking a turn toward professionalism, Hallam FC remained an amateur club. The club was even dissolved in the summer of 1886, probably for financial issues, but a year later it was reformed and re-registered again.
Hallam currently compete in the Division One of the Northern Counties East League which is actually a level-10 league in the English football league system. Hallam is honored to be one of the legs in the first ever interclub match in the history of football - the other leg which you may have probably guessed was Sheffield FC. And one interesting fact about the match is that again it was played by more than 11 players on each side – each team had 16 players on the pitch.
A London-based football club, Cray Wonderers FC is as old as Hallam FC, so not the third oldest football club in the world, the club sits on the second place in the list of world’s oldest football clubs jointly with Hallam FC. Their current playing ground is Hayes Lane with a capacity of 5000. One of the club’s honors is that they have won the Kent League four times in their history. For now, they are competing in the Premier Division of the Isthmian League which is actually the 7th tier of the English football league system.
Between 1895 and 1905, Cray Wonderers were among professional football clubs in England, and after World War I, they moved to the London League and remained there until 1934. Although a semi-professional club, Cray Wonderers have not been able to rise to the higher-tier leagues, however, they are a strong force in the league they play. How the club originated is also interesting: Migrant workers who worked on the construction of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway line between 1858 to 1860 played football in their leisure time in the St Mary Cray village. The pitch they played on, namely Star Lane pitch, has now turned to a cemetery.
Nicknamed the Tigers and with a logo that portrays a tiger’s head, Worksop Town FC was actually founded just one year after the world’s oldest football clubs in 1861 in Worksop, Nottinghamshire. They currently compete in the Northern Premier League Division One South East, and have a shared playing ground (Sandy Lane) with another football club in the same league, namely Handsworth FC. Since one of the oldest teams in the world, Worksop Town FC have a history behind them.
After the World War One that put an end to football in Worksop, Worksop Town and Manton Athletic merged and formed Worksop and Manton Athletic in 1919, however, the new club remained mostly known as Worksop Town than Worksop and Manton Athletic. Maybe one of the club’s honors is that they drew once against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup in 1923, although that was followed by a 9-0 defeat in a replay match at Tottenham’s home ground, White Hart Lane. Worksop Town are also the twelve-time winners of Sheffield & Hallamshire Senior Cup.
The oldest professional association football club in the world and indeed among the oldest football clubs ever, Notts County was founded in 1862 in Nottingham. Their first playing ground was Park Hallow, at Park Estate, where they only played for one year, before they moved to Meadow Lane in 1863. Notts County are considered to be as one of the pioneers of the modern game of football; they are also one of the 12 founders of the English Football League (EFL) in 1888 which remained England’s top-level football league until 1992 before 22 teams moved away from it to form the Premier League.
Notts County performed the best in the EFL in 1890-91 season when they finished the third in the league table; in the same season, they also reached the FA Cup final for the first time, but lost 3-1 to Blackburn Rovers to finish runners-up, however a few years later, in March 1894, they beat Bolton Wanderers 4-1 in the FA Cup final and not only won the FA Cup for the first time in their history but also became the first team not in the EFL - they were in Division Two that season - to have won the trophy.
Notts county are nicknamed “the Magpies” for the black and white color of their jerseys, which they say inspired the Italian club, Juventus, to adopt the same style. They were relegated from the EFL in 1926 and couldn’t get back to the top-tier English league for more than 50 years. Although Nott County have even relegated to Third Division in their history, but they have always been an unpredictable team, imposing defeat on top-tier teams such as Aston Villa and Manchester City.
Stoke City had two name changes before actually being called Stoke City! The club was founded in 1863 as Stoke Ramblers, then it changed its name to Stoke Football Club in 1870 and finally in 1925 it was named Stoke City, the name it has kept up until today. Like Notts County, Stoke City is also among the clubs who founded the English Football League (EFL) in 1888. The club currently competes in the Championship, the highest division in the EFL.
Stoke City once beat Chelsea in 1972 to win the EFL Cup (known as Cabaro Cup these days) which is their first and only major trophy up to date. Among their other honors is reaching FA Cup semi-finals three times and FA Cup final once where they lost to Manchester City to finish runners-up. Before their 30,000 seater stadium, bet365 Stadium, Stoke was based at Victoria Ground, which was actually their home ground since 1878. Unfortunately, the name Stoke City was associated with hooliganism in the past, namely in 1970s, 80s, and 90s.
One of the most notorious firms that associated itself with the club was Naughty Forty formed by a supporter named Mark Chester. That actually gave the club a bad reputation. Stoke City was even described once by BBC as having “one of the most active and organized football hooligan firms in England”. However, that bad reputation has gone today, and Stoke’s fans are known for their friendliness and passion these days.
Based in Brigg in 1864, Brigg Town FC is one of the oldest football clubs in the world and in England. They have had several relegations and promotions throughout their history, however, they currently compete in Northern Counties East League Division One which is actually the 9th tier of England’s football league system. And although in 9th tier, Brigg Town FC are a strong force in their own league having won 8 league titles from 1949 to 1976.
Brigg Town’s current home ground is the Hawthorns, where they moved to in 1959. Before that, they were at Brocklesby Ox, and before that, at Old Manor House Convent, actually until 1939. Brigg Town FC are nicknamed the Zebras for their black-and-white-striped jerseys. In 2017, they became a Community Interest Company which means any profit that the club makes is reinvested in it for more growth and development of it.
Founded in 1865 in Nottinghamshire, Nottingham Forest are now the oldest club in the English Football League (EFL) since the relegation of Notts County to the National League in 2019. Among their honors are one EFL title, two FA Cups, four League Cups, and one UEFA Super Cup. They say in their early years, Nottingham Forest was a charitable club helping the clubs such as Liverpool and Arsenal to establish themselves. Forest have played two times in the Premier League in one of which, namely in 1995, they finished third in the league table, however, they relegated again in 1999, and since then have not been back in the England’s top-tier league.
Nottingham Forest’s first official game after being established was against Notts County which took place on March 22, 1866. In early times, the same team (Notts County) were their rivals and matches between the two was known as Nottingham Derby, however, since Forest have promoted to higher leagues since, they’re no more in rivalry with Notts County, but with Derby County, and the matches between the two are now known as East Midlands Derby.
One interesting fact about Sheffield Wednesday is that they were originally established as a cricket club in 1820 and the “Wednesday” in their name comes from the fact that they played their matches on Wednesday. The football branch of the club was formed in 1867 and just within 20 years they went professional. They were called The Wednesday until 1929, before they adopted their new name: Sheffield Wednesday. The club currently plays in the Championship which is actually the 2nd tier of English football league system.
Sheffield Wednesday is also the third oldest professional association club in England and one of the founders of the Premier League in 1992, where they competed until 2000 before they were relegated to the Championship in the same year. And since then, they have remained in the same league, not having a chance to promote again to the English top-tier league. Nicknamed the Owls - as it’s also been portrayed on the club’s logo, Sheffield Wednesday have also competed in UEFA Cup and even once in 1963 reached the quarter finals of the tournament. Among their honors are four league titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup, and one FA Community Shield.
And finally a non-English team which is among the oldest football clubs in the world! Kilmarnock FC, simply known as Killie, is a Scottish football club founded in 1869 that unlike all the other English clubs previously mentioned has made its way to the top-tier league of its country, Scotland, namely in 1994. Drawing similarities to Nottingham Forest, Kilmarnock was formed by a number of cricket players who had decided to try another sport in their free time. The club is actually a cricketer-made club.
Not only the oldest professional football club in Scotland but also the oldest club in the Scottish Premiership, Kilmarnock have a longtime rivalry with Ayr United who play in the Scottish Championship, the second tier of the Scottish professional league system. The matches between the two clubs are known as Ayrshire derby, and since Kilmarnock play in a higher league, it is quite expectable that they have won more derbies, as it is actually so: 189 wins in 256 derbies against Ayr United since 1910.
It took 50 years for Reading to join the English Football League (EFL). The club, founded in 1871 and among one of the oldest football clubs in England, did not join EFL up until 1920. They could also promote once to the Premier League, namely in 2012-13 season, but they were relegated in the same season and since then have been trying hard to find a place again in the English top-tier league. The club’s playing ground was Elm Park from 1896 to 1998, before they moved to Madejski Stadium in the same year, a stadium which is named after the club’s former chairman, Sir John Madejski.
Reading have two nicknames: The Royals for their location in the Royal County of Berkshire and the Biscuitmen for the association of the town they are located in with biscuit businesses. Reading won the Championship twice: Once in 2005-06 and once in 2011-12 season. In the former, they actually made a new record with 106 points and 99 goals scored throughout the season. They only lost twice in the whole season.
Another Scottish club to be among the oldest football clubs in the world, Rangers was founded in 1872 in Glasgow. They are considered as one of the Scottish Premiership giants along with Celtic with whom they have a longtime rivalry. Rangers are not only among the oldest football clubs in the world but also have a large fan base: There are more than 600 Rangers supporters' clubs in 35 countries all around the world. The club is also a record holder in regard to the number of travelling fans: in 2008 UEFA Cup final between Rangers and Zenit Saint Petersburg, around 200,000 Rangers fans arrived in the city of Manchester to support their club.
After a financial crisis in 2011-12 season that saw Rangers in the fourth tier of Scottish football league system, the club worked their way again up to the Scottish Premiership just in four years winning all the domestic trophies in each of the leagues they competed in and became the only Scottish club to have done so - they were actually in the Scottish Premiership again in 2016-17 season.
One of the founders of the English Football League (EFL) in 1888 and the Premier League in 1992, Aston Villa was founded in 1874 in Birmingham. The club has had only 3 home grounds throughout its history: Aston Park from 1874 to 1876, Wellington Road from 1876 to 1897, and from 1897 up until now (123 years) Villa Park which is the eighth largest stadium in England and the largest one in the Midlands - the central part of England that corresponds to the early medieval kingdom of Mercia.
Before the Premier League, Aston Villa competed in the Football League First Division which was the top-tier division in the English football league system between 1888 and 1992. They won the aforementioned league division title five times. They are also the seven-time winners of FA Cup and five-time winners of League Cup. And concerning the intracontinental trophies, they won UEFA Super Cup once. Since 1879, Villa have had a local rivalry with Birmingham City which is called the Second City Derby or Birmingham Derby.