Sheffield FA Cup: World's oldest football club gets its first live match in 164 year history - and we won't stop there

Between the Owls’ away game against Rotherham and the Blades’ match against Huddersfield at Bramall Lane, Sheffield found time to see a bit of football history made.

Monday, 23rd August 2021, 6:51 pm
At 164 years old, Sheffield FC is the oldest club in the world and is even older than the FA Cup it is competing in.

It was a chance that was a long, long time coming, but viewers on BBC Red Button and iPlayer were able to tune in to a heated, scrappy match on Saturday to kick off the preliminary round of the FA Cup.

And across the back off the pitch, framed by more than 200 supporters, were the words “Home of Football”.

It somehow took 164 years, but the camera crews finally paid a visit to the BT Business Stadium in Dronfield on Saturday so Sheffield FC – the oldest club in the world – could play its first ever live match.

Spectators at the nearby Coach & Horses pub before the game.

The game against Sherwood Colliery was a rough and tumble affair, and despite an eagerly celebrated goal by Mark Newsham the home team sadly walked off with a 3-1 loss.

But outside the pitch, it was another chance to remind the country that Sheffield is the home of football, and broadcasting this match is just the start.

One supporter of nine years, David Lax, was sat near the scaffold tower where where a cameraman from the BBC had set up.

He said: “I think it’s a good idea for us to be on the telly. It’s important to show that we as a club are still here and that the grassroots are still here.

Sheffield FC broadcasted a live match on Saturday for the first time in its 164 year history.

"I must admit I enjoy coming out here to watch the games. I go to league matches where I can but you can’t beat coming out here to your local game and meeting people I would never meet usually.”

And the match really was a day for the community as much as for the game. At half time, members of the crowd took part in a penalty shootout against Sheffield FC Ladies as part of a fundraising raffle for the Children’s Hospital Charity. A commentator took to the PA when the junior players took shots at the goal during the break.

One supporter, Stuart Bell, turned out for the day after watching football all through lockdown and realizing he wanted to support his local clubs. As he put it: “It’s got so much more of that personal touch compared to when we watch Tottenham in North London. Here, we get to meet the people who serve us the tea.”

It bears repeating that SFC is 14 years older than the cup it is competing in, which itself is the oldest competition in the game. 2021 marks the 150th anniversary of the tournament, but as the oldest club in the world, the red-and-blacks has the FA beat after forming 164 years ago.

Three young lads out to support their Sheffield FC.

It’s almost baffling that in that time the cameras have never paid a visit to the Dronfield pitch. Several fans the Star spoke to noted with ire how the local level games are lost amid the attention paid to the Blades and the Owls.

"I reckon it will be a one off,” said one fan, Richard Payling. “I’ve been following this club 23 years and if it was in Liverpool or Manchester or Leeds it would have stupid amounts of money thrown at it.

"It’s only taken them 165 years to get a camera down here. It might never happen again.”

Some would say the city’s pride as the home of football is wounded. It has the opportunity to capitalise on the history of being the place where the rules of the game were set down, but it lives in the shadow of Manchester where the National Football Museum is located.

The BBC broadcasted the match on iPlayer and its red button service.

That isn’t the vision for SFC chairman Richard Tims, however. The club – which currently sits outside the city limits in Dronfield – has set out to remind the football world that Sheffield is the birthplace of the beautiful game and is working to build a new 4,000-seat stadium and tourist centre at a site in Meadowhead. The BBC’s vote of confidence at Saturday’s game is another step in realising the club’s goals.

Richard: “There’s been 150 years of the FA cup and it makes absolute sense the world’s oldest club is the right place kick it off live on camera.

"Everybody in the city knows we want the brand of being the home of football. SFC is the jewel in the crown of that.

“We’ve trying to build a brand that represents the ultimate grassroots football club experience.

"We have been supported so far, both by the city and the council, but it is in the last couple of years people have woken up to it. The city has started to wake up to the proposition we have to build a brand around the biggest game in the world.

"There has been a marked changed in the last few months of the council getting behind the move.

The match was a preliminary round for the 150th FA Cup.

"We’re on an upwards trend now but it’s been a long time coming.

"It’s up to the public to get behind us and local clubs, to come to home games and be supportive. Show some support, put a bit of cash into the merchandise and put into practice what we keep talking about."

Sheffield FC’s defeat on Saturday was a disappointment. But don’t let it detract from the momentum the city is building to remind the nation it has football at its heart. Take the BBC’s coverage at Dronfield as this weekend’s win and look forward to how the city is also one of the hosts for the EUFA Women’s EUROS in 2022. It’s not about putting Sheffield “on the map” – the rest of the map happened around us in the first place.

The Sheffield FC has 5,000 members across the world in 59 countries.
Sherwood Colliery and Sheffield FC players line up before kick off.
Sheffield FC sadly lost the prelim match to Sherwood Colliery 3-1.