He was instrumental in forging football as we know it, within Sheffield, yet 100 years since his death his contribution is little heralded and he lies in an unmarked grave.
John Charles Shaw was the founder and captain of Hallam FC, the world’s second oldest football club, and as president of the Sheffield FA helped draw up a nationally accepted set of rules for the beautiful game.
New research suggests he may have played a bigger role than previously thought in shaping the 1858 Sheffield Rules, described as the sport’s ‘holy grail’ from which the modern game evolved.
Yet, ahead of the centenary of his death on November 23, 2018, it has been discovered he rests in an unmarked grave in Kings Heath, Birmingham, which is no more than a patch of grass.
A campaign is now under way to create a more fitting tribute and spread awareness of his crucial contribution to the world’s best-loved sport.
His achievements are due to be celebrated at Hallam FC’s home game against Ollerton Town on November 17, which is where efforts to raise the funds for a permanent memorial will also get under way.
Extensive research by Kevin Neill suggests Shaw may have played a bigger role in the birth of modern football than he was previously credited with.
That includes importing to Sheffield the Penistone brand of football which involved mostly dribbling but, due to the local topography, allowed some handling to prevent the ball bobbling out of control on the uneven ground and rolling into the River Don.
In his ‘untold story’ of Shaw’s life, Mr Neill concludes: “If all the aspects of the early development of football in Sheffield are taken into account, then it is his name that emerges, directly or indirectly, as the most prominent.”
However, he goes on to remark: “One has to trawl very hard to find the name of John Charles Shaw, which is a sad irony when his achievements are taken into consideration.”
Football historian Martin Westby said: “This research argues that Shaw deserves much more credit than he currently receives for the work he may have done in the writing of the 1858 Rules and what he definitely contributed to Sheffield FC and the Sheffield FA, as well as the foundation of Hallam FC.”