Lot 10
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Sheffield Football Club.

800,000 - 1,200,000 GBP
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  • The birth of modern football. The earliest rules and historic archive of the world's first football club
  • ink and paper
including the first version of their laws of football, detailed minute books and other documents recording the development of the game in its earliest years, match reports of some of the first inter-club football matches, and other items. Preceding the foundation of the Football Association by six years and acknowledged by both FIFA and the FA as the world's oldest football club, Sheffield FC played a crucial part in the development of the modern game. Many of football's rules were innovations of Sheffield FC including the indirect free kick, the corner kick, and the crossbar. The club, and the game it inspired in the region in the early 1860s, was also the first expression of modern footballing culture: the first time football was revealed as an unrivalled spectator sport, that the excitement of inter-club competition was first experienced, and that the football fan first revealed his loyalty and passion.

The archive comprises:

1) Manuscript minute book, May 1858 to early 1859, "S[heffield] F[oot] B[all] C[lub] Sports (i) | 1858 | List of Entries | Names of Winners | Prizes | Rules | and | Statement of Subscribers | and Expenses" inscribed on upper cover, including results of the sports day, subscription list, club membership list, audited accounts (expenses including the purchase of footballs, beer, and other sundries), newspaper cuttings ("Athletic Sports Amongst the Gentlemen of Sheffield"), minutes of a series of club meetings held to establish the club rules and the laws of the game of football, beginning with a copy letter by Nathaniel Creswick, 9 October 1858, calling a meeting of the club at his office "on Thursday next at 7 O Clock", continuing with minutes of that first meeting including the resolution that "the following Rules & Laws be submitted to a meeting of the Members to be held at 6 O'Clock on Thursday next the 28 inst. at the Adelphi Hotel", and with a draft of four club rules ("...Rules and Regulations | for the Government of the Sheffield Foot Ball Club, | Established 1857 | 1. That this Club be called the Sheffield Foot Ball Club..."), minutes of a meeting on 14 October appointing club officers and committee signed by the Chairman Frederic Ward , minutes of a committee meeting 21 October with drafts of nine club rules and the first draft of the laws of the game, with 12 laws, extensively revised in pen and pencil, minutes of a meeting on 28 October passing the above rules and laws, and including further revision of the laws, 81 pages plus 29 blanks, 8vo (178 x 113 mm), in grey paper wrappers, covers with nicks, tears, ink and dust stains, spine lost, loss of binding thread leaving some gatherings loose

2) Club minute book, February 1859 to October 1860, "Sheffield Foot Ball Club Season 1858-9" inscribed on title-page, with results of the 1859 sports day, press cuttings on the sports day and on the involvement of the club in the establishment of a militia rifle corps, minutes of meetings, subscriptions and expenses, 109 pages plus 58 blanks, 8vo (180 x 115 mm), limp brown roan, marbled endpapers, light staining to some leaves

3) Club minute book 1864-1868, with full text of annual reports on the previous season ("...In one of the out matches, that with London, you suffered the most severe defeat it has ever been your misfortune to encounter, but it is to be hoped that you will return the compliment this season. It is gratifying to be able to remark that in the match against Notts: played at Sheffield on the 15th of March, you beat the Notts players quite as thoroughly as the Londoners beat you, and in the match which was played at Nottingham on the 25th of January, 12 of your players contended for an hour and a half against 15 Notts men, & when at last a goal was obtained by the latter, your representative also obtained a goal in five kicks...", from the report on the 1865-66 season), and minutes of resolutions at annual general meetings and regular committee meetings including revisions to the laws ("...for the future we play the offside rule, but if the other Sheffd Clubs do not adopt the same rule, we play our Matches with them according to our present rules...", 25 September 1865) and other innovations including the adoption of a club uniform ("...Scarlet cap, Scarlet Jersey,  & White Trousers..."), sports day results, newspaper cuttings, including of the Football Association's AGM on 24 February 1866, c.235 pages, plus blanks, 8vo (180 x 114mm), half calf on marbled boards, marbled endpapers, binding worn with loss at spine, spine cracked, some leaves coming loose

4) Notebook of match reports 22 February 1862 to 13 January 1866,
detailing date, opposition, number of players, names of Sheffield players, occasionally the names of opposing team-members, location, results, comments such as the use of unusual rules (e.g. 9 May 1863 v. Garrison "allowed striking & throwing the ball", 28 October 1865 v. Mackenzie "played the offside rules", 11 November 1865 vs. Norton "Played at East Bank to the old rules"), and cuttings including perhaps the earliest accounts of the boisterous behaviour of football fans ("...[Hallam] appeared to have many partisans present, and when they succeeded in 'downing' a man, their ardent friends were noisily jubilant. At one time it appeared likely that the match would be turned into a general fight...", Sheffield FC v. Hallam, 29 December 1862 ) and other comments ("...some smart play ensued when Chesterman for Sheffield cleverly obtained a goal amidst the cheers of the spectators...", Sheffield FC v. Lincoln, 25 February 1865), detailing fixtures against Lincoln, Notts County, Norton, Hallam, Pitsmoor, York, Garrison, Norfolk, and Mackenzie, with the name and address of H.W. Chambers, Honorary Secretary of the club, on rear free endpapers, 63 pages, plus blanks, 8vo (154 x 96mm), limp roan, some damp staining, marginal tears to three leaves affecting text, loss of binding thread leaving one bifolium almost loose

5) Rules, Regulations, & Laws of the Sheffield Foot-Ball Club, a list of members, &c. Sheffield: Pawson and Brailsford, 1859first edition, 16mo (122 x 77 mm), the only known surviving copy of the first printing of the first club's laws of football

6) Rules, Regulations, & Laws of the Sheffield Foot-Ball Club, and List of Members, &c. Sheffield: Pawson and Brailsford, 1862, revised edition, 16mo (120 x 80 mm), the only known copy of the revised and expanded laws of football

7) The Laws of Football, as Re-Settled by the Sheffield Football Association, At the General Meeting, held at the Adelphi Hotel, February 25th, 1875. Season 1875-6. Sheffield: J. Robertshaw, [1876], 16mo (100 x 75mm), lilac wrappers

8) File of later correspondence and draft articles on the early history of Sheffield Football Club, comprising: A.J. Creswick, autograph letter signed, to H.B. Willey, "...I remember the first game in Mr [Thomas] Turners field at East bank and played in it in /57...", 1 page, 8vo, 28 October 1907; John Charles Shaw, two autograph letters signed, to J.C. Bingham, reminiscing on the beginnings of Sheffield FC and the writer's foundation of Hallam FC, and arranging an interview, 6 pages, 8vo, 18-31 October 1907; John C. Bingham, typed letter signed, to H.B. Willey, forwarding Shaw's letter and with his own memories of the sports days, 1 page, 4to, 23 October 1907; William Chesterman, autograph note signed, to H.B. Willey, with enclosed typescript note of his recollections of the birth of football, 2 pages, 28 March [c.1907]; Henry Pawson, typed letter signed, to H.B. Willey, on photographs of early members of the club, 2 pages, 4to, 20 November 1907; H.B. Willey, autograph letter signed, to Pawson, 1 page, 8vo, 6 December 1907; John N. Deansfield, autograph letter signed, to Henry Chambers, on the club's origins ("...Nathaniel Creswick was their first captain. I believe John Charles Shaw a Penistone man and who before going to Sheffield ... was in my father's office at Penistone and regularly played football ... in one of my father's fields ... Soon after the formation of the Sheffield Club he went to reside at Sandgate and formed the Hallam Club..."), 4 pages, 4to, 2 March 1928; Henry Chambers, typed letter signed, to J.S. Lycett, forwarding Dransfield's letter, one page, 4to, 20 February 1934; Thomas Vickers, autograph letter signed, to J.S. Lycett, emphasising the roles of Prest and Creswick in the foundation of the club, 2 pages, 8vo, 27 October 1934; manuscript historical notes on the history of the club, 3 pages, foolscap, c.1907; typescript notes on the history of the club written at the time of its 50th anniversary, two copies, manuscript revisions, in total 17 pages, foolscap, 1907, dust staining to some items and occasional nicks and tears


Curry, Graham, 'The Trinity Connection: An Analysis of the Role of Members of Cambridge University in the Development of Football in the Mid-Nineteenth Century', The Sports Historian (November 2002), 22, 2, pp. 46-73
Harvey, Adrian, Football: the First Hundred Years (London, 2005)
Hutton, Steven, Graham Curry and Peter Goodman, Sheffield Football Club: 150 Years of Football (Altrincham, Cheshire, 2007)
Sanders, Richard, Beastly Fury: the Strange Birth of British Football (London, 2009)
Seddon, Peter J., A Football Compendium (Boston Spa, 1999)
Walvin, James, The People's Game: the History of Football Revisited (London, 1994)

Sotheby's is grateful to Dr Graham Curry, and also to Mike Morrogh of Shrewsbury School, for their assistance in cataloguing this lot.


Item 1: Covers worn with nicks, especially to upper cover, with dust and ink stains. The spine has been lost and the binding threads are in a delicate state: the binding thread to the first gathering is loose but holds the gathering intact, and the final gathering is only attached to the body of the manuscript by a single thread. If the volume is extensively handled during views, this final gathering may become completely detached by the time of the sale. There is some splitting at the gutter. A few pages are slightly discoloured and there is occasional browning. Item 2: There is scattered staining throughout the volume. One or two pages splitting at gutter. It appears that a cutting has been lost or removed. Item 3: Hinges splitting. One leaf detached. Several leaves laid down, including cuttings and also revisions laid down over the original deleted text. A few pages lightly stained. Item 4: Splitting at hinges. Crude tape repair to front endpapers. Some scattered staining. Loss of binding thread leaving one bifolium almost loose. Fours leaves are torn where the adhesive used for inserting cuttings has adhered to the adjoining page. Item 5: Tiny nicks to title-page. Very small tears at the gutter of the outer leaf. Item 7: Covers frayed at edges and marginal nicks. Item 8: Dust staining to some items, a few minor nicks and tears.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This group of documents chart the emergence of the game of Association Football, or soccer, known to most of the world simply as football, which originated in mid-nineteenth century Britain. The sport's rules developed organically in a complex and collaborative process over a period of years, and  Sheffield Football Club, with its distinct and highly influential rules based on practical experience, was absolutely crucial to this development. The men who founded the club and codified their game's rules could not possibly have imagined that football would become the great world sport, played by hundreds of millions of people in every continent (even the scientific survey teams in Antarctica have football teams) and watched by billions more.

It is fitting that the laws of the game emerged in tandem with the sport's most important institution, the football club, and the importance of Sheffield FC, as the first club, goes beyond its role in framing the rules. Clubs have always been at the heart of football: from them stem football's fierce loyalties and rivalries, its club colours and traditions, its league and cup competitions, and its spectators and stadia. These features were first seen in the football culture that rapidly grew up around Sheffield FC and the rival clubs it spawned in the region, a culture that is vividly preserved in the club's archive.

The birth of football

Victorian England provided fertile ground for the development of sports, with its culture that combined a high respect for physical sports – raised to a religious duty in the muscular Christianity movement – and a relentless appetite for codifying the world and all that took place in it. This is not to say, of course, that there had been no earlier sports that bore some similarity to the modern game – after all, give any two-year-old a ball and they will soon start kicking it. Ancient Greece and Rome had their ball games as, most famously, did pre-Colombian America, while "mob" football was a well-documented part of life in Medieval Europe. But it was the Victorians who developed the modern game, easily comprehensible but with scope for great tactical subtlety, allowing the flow of play with few breaks, a passing and dribbling game that is physically demanding without violence.

The main early impetus for the development of sports was provided by the elite public schools. In the first decades of the 19th century  schools such as Eton, Harrow, Rugby, and Shrewsbury began to make playing fields available to their students, and increasingly formalised field sports became an important feature of life at these institutions. All schools played by their own codes, which tended to be idiosyncratic and often closely connected with the specific spaces available – the Eton Wall Game and Charterhouse's "Cloisters" football being examples. The laws of some of these sports were published, although often using terms impenetrable to an outsider, but there was very little in the way of inter-school competition. Even when they went to the universities, old boys from the public schools mostly continued for the most part to play by their old school rules. A number of attempts to reach a compromise code were made in the 1840s and in 1848 old boys of four public schools at Cambridge University came together and produced a common code that would give scope for greater competition. The code is said to have been printed but no copy is known to survive, however a later printing of "The Laws of the University Foot Ball Club" survives in the archive of Shrewsbury School. This pamphlet is undated but the printed signatories are of men at the University in the latter 1850s allows it to be tentatively dated to 1856, a date confirmed by recent research by Dr Graham Curry. This code had play beginning with a kick-off from the centre, included a strict offside rule, largely excluded handling of the ball, and limited physical contact between players. It was a crucial step towards the development of modern football. The rules were still very primitive, however, and it was exclusively a code for the use of old public schoolboys at the university. Furthermore its impact was limited even within the university as many students continued to prefer to play according to the rules of their old school.

The Sheffield Rules

The foundation of Sheffield Football Club took the game beyond the preserve of the public schools and universities. There were a tiny number of organisations in the first half of the 19th century known as football clubs outside educational institutions, but they are far less significant to the history of the game. Records of Edinburgh Foot-Ball club survive from 1824, but the nature of the game they played is not known. Surrey Football Club was founded in 1849, but few documentary details survive, it had little wider impact, and its very basic rules had no significant influence on the development of what became association football. The importance of Sheffield Football Club was of a different order of magnitude from any of these other clubs: there is a direct and demonstrable link between the Sheffield game and modern football, and the rapid and extraordinary development of football in Sheffield from the 1850s onwards had a massive impact on how the game of association football developed.

Sheffield Football Club was founded in 1857 by a group of educated professional men who wanted to meet regularly and play football against each other (there were, of course, no other clubs to play). The club counted solicitors, manufacturers, merchants, and doctors as the most common occupations of its members. Many of these men were educated at the local Sheffield Collegiate School and had probably played primitive versions of football at school. There were two men primarily responsible for the creation of Sheffield Football Club, Nathaniel Creswick (1831-1917) and William Prest (1832-1885). Both were local businessmen, Creswick a solicitor and chairman of a silver-plate company, Prest a wine merchant. They were also, of course, keen sportsmen. Both men featured prominently in the athletic events that were the annual highlight of the season in the early days of Sheffield FC, and Prest had also been involved in Sheffield United Cricket Club from 1854. Intriguingly, Prest's brother, Edward, was at St John's College, Cambridge where he was an exact contemporary of one of the framers of the Cambridge University football rules, John Charles Thring. Indirect knowledge of the Cambridge game may therefore have influenced the overall shape of the Sheffield rules.

A typescript history of the club's early years, produced for the club's jubilee in 1907 and incorporating reminiscences from surviving original members, gives a strong impression of how the first rules came to be framed:

"...The time was ripe for such an organisation [as Sheffield Football Club] because many of the ex-public school men engaged in professions or business felt the want of opportunities to pursue the game in their leisure ... A knotty subject was the drafting of a set of rules. Copies of the rules in force at all the public schools were procured, and a new code, comprised of what was regarded as the best points of the whole, adopted. These rules were the forerunners of the present day 'Soccer' rules, as the latter embody the main features of the former. It was then customary to play 20 men a side, and the duration of a game was two hours.
"The scientific method of playing now observed had not then been developed. Certain players were expected to keep in definite positions ... There was a goal keeper, and the positions corresponding to those of our backs were known as 'cover goals', and there were five or six flying players who went wherever they chose..."

The remarkable survival of club minute books and other records from the earliest days of Sheffield FC makes it possible to trace the development of the Sheffield football rules in fascinating detail. The first minute-book of the club begins with a full record of the first annual sports day. It then lists subscribers and members of the club (some 62 by the end of the season) and the club's audited accounts, including a payment of £2 6s for six footballs.

There then follow minutes of a series of meetings held in October 1858 that must surely rank as among the most important in the history of sport, in which the laws of the game were deliberated and drafted. The first meeting was held at the office of Nathaniel Creswick on 9 October, when it was agreed that rules for the club itself and, most importantly, the laws of their game of football, should be formulated and agreed at a forthcoming meeting of members at the Adelphi Hotel in the centre of Sheffield on the 28th of that month. The first of the club rules ("...That this Club be called the Sheffield Foot Ball Club...") were also drafted at that first meeting on the 9th. A meeting on the 14th appointed club officers, and another meeting followed on the 21st of October, at which the rules were first drafted. Firstly, a further 12 club rules were drafted, concluding with the following:

"That these rules together with the Laws relating to the playing of the Game shall be forthwith printed; and afterwards as often as the committee shall think fit; & one copy of them shall be delivered to any member on application to the Secretary – And members may obtain additional copies at the Rate of 6d each Copy on the like Application."

The meeting continued with the draft set of "laws" that were to be put forward for agreement by the wider membership at the Adelphi Hotel one week later. Unlike the club rules, the laws of the game are extensively revised, clear evidence that they were closely examined and argued over by the membership. The first football club played by the following rules:

1. Kick off from Middle must be a place Kick
2. Kick out must not be from more than twenty five yards out of goal.
3. Fair Catch is a Catch direct from the foot of the opposite side and entitles a fair kick
[revised in the course of the meetings to read: Fair Catch is a Catch from any player provided the Ball has not touched the ground and has not been thrown from touch and entitles a free kick]
4. Charging is fair in the case of a place kick (with the exception of a kick off) as soon as the player offers to kick, but he may always draw back unless he has actually touched the Ball with his foot
5. No pushing with the Hands or Hacking is fair under any circumstances whatsoever
[revised in the course of the meetings to read:  Pushing with the Hands is allowed but no Hacking (or tripping up) is fair under any circumstances whatsoever]
6. Knocking or pushing on the Ball is altogether disallowed. The side breaking this Rule forfeits a free kick to the opposite side.
[extensively revised in several stages in the course of the meetings, finally reading: Holding the Ball (excepting in case of a free kick) is altogether disallowed.]
7. No player may be held or pulled over
8. It is not lawful to take the Ball off the ground (except in touch) for any purpose whatsoever
9. If the Ball be bouncing it may be stopped by the Hand (not pushed or hit) but if rolling it may not be stopped except by the foot
[extensively revised in several stages in the course of the meetings, and eventually expunged - see below
10. No Goal may be kicked from touch nor by a free kick from a catch.
[revised in the course of the meetings to read: A Goal must be kicked but not from touch nor by a free kick from a catch.]  
11. A Ball in touch is dead. Consequently, the side that touches it down, must bring it to the edge of touch, & throw it straight out at least six yards from touch
12. Each player must provide himself with a Red and dark blue flannel Cap – one colour to be worn by each side.
[signed] William Baker"

At the meeting of the 28th of October it was resolved that the rules and laws should be passed, but with one important amendment:

"...That Laws 6 & 9 be struck out & instead a new Law 'That the Ball may be pushed or hit with the Hand – but holding the ball (except in the case of a fair kick) is altogether disallowed..."

The amended version of these eleven rules (with the original laws 6 and 9 removed, and the addition of the new law agreed on the 28th of October 1858) were then printed for the use of club members, as had also been agreed. Only one copy of this pamphlet is known to survive, bearing the ownership inscription of Thomas Pierson, a member of the original committee that drafted the rules, and that is included in this lot.

The game of 1858 is instantly recognisable as football. It was a game that started with a kick-off from the centre, and incorporated throw-ins, free kicks, and goal kicks. Play was robust with pushing and charging being allowed, but holding or deliberately kicking (hacking) an opposing player were forbidden. The revision of Law 5, which originally outlawed all deliberate physical contact, strongly suggests differences of opinion about the extent to which football should be a contact sport. This was to be a crucial point of dispute in the coming decades, and the restrictions on physical contact distinguished what became association football from other versions of the game (notably rugby, Australian, and American football). The other major point of argument in football's early decades was the extent to which handling should be allowed. Again, the revision to the original draft of the laws governing the use of the hand may suggest disagreements within the club, but the changes seem to have been made primarily for the sake of clarity and simplicity. All football games originally allowed handling but the Sheffield code, although less strict than those of football today, allowed only for limited use of the hands. Originally, law 6 outlawed knocking or pushing the ball but law 9 allowed it to be stopped with the hand when bouncing, but at the Adelphi meeting these two laws were replaced with a single law allowing the pushing or hitting of the ball, but not holding it. Picking the ball up was also disallowed (Law 8). So whilst some play with the hands was allowed – for example, players could protect their goal in the manner of the modern goal-keeper – this was a game primarily played with the feet, unlike many other versions of football that developed in the mid-19th century.

A notable absence from the Sheffield code is any form of off-side rule. This was in contrast to the Cambridge University rules (and most most of the public school games from which that code was derived), which included the following: "If the ball has passed a player, and has come from the direction of his own goal, he may not touch it till the other side have kicked it, unless there are more than three of the other side before him." The size of the pitch, the width of the goal, the presence of a crossbar (or tape) and its height, are not specified in the Sheffield code, and neither is the length of a match or the number of players on a team. The number of players ranged considerably, more players allowed for the less experienced team as a form of handicap, but was usually between ten and fifteen.

Football's First Home

Sheffield Football Club was an immediate success, establishing itself as a part of the local culture. In large part this was no doubt due to the quality of the sport made possible by the 1858 laws, but the social make-up of the club was also very important.  Creswick, Prest and their team-mates were pillars of the local community. For example, club men took leading parts in the formation the Hallamshire Rifles, a local militia battalion. The highlight of the earliest seasons was the annual May sports day at which members of the club competed in a range of events from the 100 yard dash, to the longest kick of a football, to wrestling. This was a hugely popular event in Sheffield society which attracted several thousand mostly well-to-do spectators and was extensively reported in the regional press, no doubt in large part because the competition involved the cream of local society. The sports day also provided a useful source of revenue for the club. Sheffield pioneered football as a spectator sport in the 1860s, but in the earliest years of the club the idea of spectators paying to watch an organised football match was totally unknown: the club was founded to provide opportunities for men to play football amongst themselves – there were, after all, no other clubs for them to play against – and their matches were arranged along such lines as first versus second half of the alphabet.

The success of Sheffield FC led to the remarkably rapid development of a footballing culture in the area. Late in life one original member of Sheffield FC,  John Charles Shaw, recalled the beginning of Sheffield's football culture:

"...For many years we had to arrange alphabetical sides to make the games interesting. Subsequently I started a Club at Hallam, inducing many Sheffd Club members to join, for the purpose of getting a team to play against the old club. These matches were most interesting & enjoyable, and in a few years led the Wednesday, Pitsmoor, and other Cricket Clubs to form Football Clubs – Previous to this we had been able to arrange friendly matches with the Officers and men at the garrison, and rough matches they were..." (Shaw to J.C. Bingham, 18 October 1907, included in the current lot)

The first recorded inter-club football match was played between Sheffield and Hallam FC on Boxing Day 1860. Press reports of this historic match describe the "scientific" Sheffield play – almost certainly a reference to their adoption of distinct playing positions – and also give probably the first reference to football kits, describing Sheffield in "their usual scarlet and white" against the Hallam blue.

By 1862 there were eleven teams active in the Sheffield area, playing by the rules developed by Sheffield FC. Included in this lot is a notebook kept by the club's Honorary Secretary H.W. Chambers recording the fixtures of Sheffield FC from February 1862 through to January 1866. There were regular matches against local teams such as Norton, Hallam, Pitsmoor, York, the Garrison, Norfolk (a suburb of Sheffield), Mackenzie, and, above all, Hallam. Sheffield v. Hallam was the great local derby and even in the early 1860s it stirred up passions familiar in club football today. Newspaper reports of the match of 29 December 1862 (once again included in the current lot) recorded that Hallam "appeared to have many partisans present, and when they succeeded in 'downing' a man, their ardent friends were noisily jubilant. At one time it appeared likely that the match would be turned into a general fight..."

In 1865 more ambitious fixtures were played that took the team out of south Yorkshire. In a meeting of 17 December 1865 the secretary "introduced the subject of a Match with the Notts County Football Club who had sent a Challenge through him", and a few days later it was agreed "for us to go there & play to their rules on Jany 2nd 1865 ... The return Match to be played in Sheffield to Sheffd Rules". This match, which was drawn 1-1 (Sheffield winning the return match 1-0), was especially significant as Notts County is today the oldest club playing football professionally – both Sheffield and Hallam FC continue to this day as semi-professional teams. This season also saw two matches against Lincoln, where it was reported that "some smart play ensured when Chesterman for Sheffield cleverly obtained a goal amidst the cheers of the spectators". On 31 March 1866 Sheffield FC went to London and played against a team of the nascent FA, discussed in more detail below, where they they were beaten by two goals and four touchdowns to nil (the touchdown was an early FA secondary scoring system similar to Sheffield's rouge), a result described at the club's next AGM as "the most severe defeat it has ever been your misfortune to encounter". The 1866-67 season saw Sheffield taking on a Manchester team for the first time, and the first reference in the minutes to the club uniform of "Scarlet cap, Scarlet Jersey,  & White Trousers".

The level of development that was reached by football in Sheffield in the 1860s is indicated by the Youdan Cup, the world's first inter-club football competition, fought out in 1867. It was played in Sheffield by the Sheffield code and was sponsored by a local music hall owner, Thomas Youdan. The final, between Hallam and Norfolk, attracted 3000 spectators who each paid 3 pence entry; this was the highest profile football match ever staged and an early indication of the phenomenal attractiveness of the game as a spectator sport and thus its financial potential. It is ironic that Sheffield FC itself declined to participate in the Youdan Cup, the greatest flowering thus far of the game it had created, probably because it was trying to limit its commitment to local matches in favour of inter-county fixtures.

The laws of the game continued to develop in the early 1860s, after their first codification in October 1858. Sheffield FC seems to have had a decidedly pragmatic approach to its rules, and were happy to change them if the results improved the game. These developments are revealed in a second printed pamphlet of Rules, Regulations, & Laws of the Sheffield Foot-Ball Club which survives from 1862, the only known surviving copy of which is included in the current lot. By this time the number of laws had expanded to 17. The 1862 laws hardened the rules against handling the ball and introduced the hand-ball: "Holding the ball (except in the case of a free kick) or knocking or pushing it on with the hand or arm is altogether disallowed. The side breaking this rule forfeits a free kick to the opposite side." They also introduced the switch of goals at half-time (but only if the match was goalless) and specified the size of the goal for the first time: "In setting out the ground, the goal sticks must be placed 12 feet apart, and the cross bar 9 feet from the ground." This was half the width of a modern goal, and consequently matches frequently concluded in goalless draws. This goes a long way to explain the greatest change in the 1862 rules, the adoption of a secondary scoring system, the rouge. The rouge originated at Eton College. Flags were placed twelve feet to the side of each goal post and a rouge was scored by one of the attacking side when he touched the ball after it had been kicked between the flags. It was purely a secondary system, with a single goal outweighing any number of rouges. It was rather as if, in the modern game, a draw was decided in favour of the team that had been awarded the most corner kicks.

Sheffield FC's AGM of 25 September 1865 recorded another important development in the rules: "...P[roposed]. Earnshaw S[econded]. Chambers | That for the future we play the offside rule, but if the other Sheffd Clubs do not adopt the same rule, we play our Matches with them according to our present rules. Carried | Resolved that a letter be written to Notts Secretary saying that we will adopt the offside rule if they will give up making the mark in case of a free kick, & also the free kick at goal..." This change in the rules, which stipulated that there had to be one defending player between an attacking player and the goal for that player to be in play, like others before it, appears to have been made for pragmatic reasons. It prevented attackers hovering around the goal, of course, and it also facilitated matches over a wider geographical area as most other teams played with an offside rule. As the club minutes make clear, the rule was adopted primarily to facilitate matches against Nottinghamshire, but the newly founded Football Association also played with a (very different) offside rule.

Sheffield and the Football Association

As the archive of Sheffield FC amply reveals, by 1863 there was a vibrant culture of football in South Yorkshire, playing under a unified code and stemming from the early success of the world's first football club. In the October of that year the Football Association held its inaugural meeting at the Freemason's Tavern in London's Covent Garden, its aim being to establish a unified playing code for the various clubs that had sprung up in metropolitan area in the early 1860s. The first meetings of the FA were London affairs, included representatives from no further north and west than Kilburn, east than Leytonstone, and south than Surbiton. The first exception to this was Sheffield FC, who joined the FA in its inaugural year but continued to play under its own code. The tumultuous meetings that followed to establish a code revealed a schism between those teams that preferred a game influenced by that of Rugby school, that allowed handling of the ball and extensive physical contact including hacking, and those that wanted to play a kicking game. In the end it was the latter that won out. The new rules were printed in Bell's Life in London and the same publication carried an advertisement for a pamphlet of the rules on 2 January 1864, published by Lillywhite's (a specialist in sporting publications) and for sale at  sixpence, but we have found no record of any surviving copies of this pamphlet.

The rules agreed by the FA in December 1863 were in many ways similar to those being played in Sheffield. Indeed, although it is usually claimed that the FA rules were based on those of Cambridge University, they were surely derived in part from the Sheffield game. Chesterman, the Sheffield FC secretary, sent the FA a copy of the Sheffield rules along with advice on the game successfully being played in Yorkshire, and the FA law on the throw-in is worded almost identically to the parallel Sheffield law. In important respects the FA laws of 1863 provided for a game that was less like modern football than the earlier Sheffield rules. Crucially, they included a highly restrictive offside rule that prevented any forward passing (like modern rugby). This rule, influenced by a version of football played at Uppingham school (where J.C. Thring, one of the framers of the Cambridge rules, was a master), promoted individual dribbling skills whereas the Sheffield code fostered the development of a more fluid passing game closer to that played today. The original FA rules did not include a crossbar or half-time switch of sides, both of which were found in the Sheffield game from 1862, and they were also slightly less restrictive over handling the ball. Under the FA rules the ball could not be thrown, passed, or carried, but, unlike under the 1862 Sheffield rules, it could be knocked or pushed by hand and there was no forfeit for handling the ball. The FA rules did, however, outlaw pushing an opponent and gave the size of the pitch for the first time.

In fact the codification of rules by the FA had only a modest short-term influence on the development of football. The rules alienated those clubs that preferred a rugby-style game, who soon withdrew from the FA. Even within the metropolitan area only a minority of clubs adhered to the Association rules, and it had no presence in the wider country. At a meeting of the FA on 22 February 1866 (its first meeting for almost two years) it emerged that only three teams were regularly playing by the Association's rules. In that year revisions were made to the FA code, several of which bought it closer to the Sheffield rules. This influence is hardly surprising since Sheffield was leading the way in revealing the potential popularity and success of football. Sheffield, as has been seen, adopted an offside rule in the 1865-66 season, and probably the most significant change in the FA code in 1866 was the loosening of the highly restrictive offside rule, almost certainly the main reason for the FA code's unpopularity. Where the original FA rules had forbad all forward passing, the new rule stated that: "A player is not offside provided that he has three opponents between himself and the opponent's goal". In 1866 the FA added the requirement of tape across the top of the goal, following Sheffield's adoption of the crossbar by 1862. A secondary scoring system similar to the Sheffield rouge was also introduced. Chesterman of Sheffield FC wrote to the FA giving their support for these changes in the rules, with the FA's secretary observing that "Their rules were nearly the same as the association, and like the latter were decidedly against hacking, throttling, or wrestling".

Not only did the second half of the 1860s see the two main strands of football – Sheffield and the FA – coming increasingly into alignment, it also saw Sheffield supporting the smaller London association. In a crucial act of support for the FA, Sheffield FC suggested that they come down to the capital and play a match against an FA team in March 1866. This match was played at Battersea Park on 31 March 1866 and was won decisively by the home team. By the following year FA membership had declined even further: only six people attended the FA annual meeting 12 February 1867 and the association discussed whether it should dissolve itself. However, one of those attending was Sheffield's Chesterman, who brought with him a letter of support and encouragement for the FA not just from his own club but the recently founded Sheffield Association, an umbrella body of the clubs that played regularly under the Sheffield rules, representing fourteen clubs and in excess of 1000 members. This decisive support gave the FA the fillip it needed to continue. A return match taking a London team to Sheffield was also agreed in 1867 but it did not take place until 1871; the match was played at Bramall Lane (now the home of Sheffield United) and was won 3-1 by the home side. 

After 1867 the FA began to grow and in subsequent years association football rapidly became a hugely popular sport, now irrevocably split from Rugby football which created its own governing body, the Rugby Football Union, in 1871. In 1868 John Lillywhite issued the first Football Annual, including the laws of the various codes then in use, increasing the visibility of the game and its rules. Sheffield FC continued to play a crucial part in the growth and increasing sophistication of the game. The Sheffield Football Association continued to innovate in developing laws to improve the game and in 1869 introduced the corner kick, a rule adopted by the FA at Sheffield's suggestion in 1872. When Sheffield Football Association came to publish its Laws of Football for their 1875-76 season (included in this lot) they could list 33 associated clubs, and the 12 published laws – by now closely in line with those of the FA – contain most of the elements that are familiar in association football today.

Sheffield FC played in the third FA Cup competition in 1873-4 and have continued to play in the competition ever since. In 1876 Sheffield FA established its own Challenge Cup and the crowd attendance of 8000 at the competition's final (won by Wednesday, originally a cricketing club that had taken up football in 1867) was a record for any football match in England; it was not equalled by an FA Cup final match until 1883. In fact the largest attendances for football matches in the 1870s were in Glasgow: when Sheffield played a match in the city on 2 February 1875 it was attended by a crowd of 10,000. On 15 October 1878 Bramall Lane hosted the first ever football match to be played under floodlights. In 1877 the Sheffield FA adopted the national rules and this extraordinary period in which Sheffield FC was at the heart of the developing game drew to a close. The club declined in national importance with the advent of professionalism, as it remained resolutely amateur, although it was still an important institution within the city of Sheffield. Their greatest sporting triumph came in 1904 when Sheffield FC won the first FA Amateur Cup, and they have a long history of international tours stretching back to the 1890s. The greatest acknowledgement to date of the unique status and importance of Sheffield FC came in 2004 when the club was awarded the FIFA Centennial Order of Merit. The only other football club to have been honoured in such a way is Real Madrid. The club's unique position in the history of the game is now widely acknowledged, and the original rules were exhibited at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. When Sheffield FC celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2007 FIFA President Sepp Blatter wrote, "Sheffield FC is where it all began and their position is unique within the game. When the club was launched 150 years ago, I'm sure no-one would have thought how successful and global football would become."


Our vision is to develop Sheffield Football Club into a worldwide iconic grass-roots football club based on the club's founding values of Integrity, Respect and Community. Using the power of sport to encourage social interaction, we hope to spread our message locally, nationally and internationally, through diversity programmes in disadvantaged communities to continue our long history of innovating and protecting the 'beautiful game'.

We have always been enthusiastic about expanding our community outreach and heritage programme, however, there are inevitably financial constraints that stand in the way of both of these aspirations which we hope can be overcome with the sale of the original rules of football.

We consider ourselves guardians of the Club and the decision to sell such a cherished collection was tough, but it will allow us to continue and build for another 150 years for the 'Love of the Game'. Sheffield FC will continue to work tirelessly to create a society in which every child and adult is celebrated as a unique and valued member of our community, encouraged to fulfil their potential and offered a place of belonging.

Yours in Sport,

Richard Tims
Sheffield FC – The World's First Football Club