Oldest Football Clubs

notts-county-badge
Notts County Est 1862 - By Wikipedia (Wikipedia) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

If football hadn’t become an organised sport then it would just be twenty-two men kicking a pig’s bladder around in a field.

As it happens it not only became organised but became arguably the biggest sport in the world, watched by millions on an almost daily basis. It is now big business, worth billions of pounds and played throughout the world.

We’ve already had a look at the country’s most successful clubs, found out about the first ever games and goals scored and talked about the oldest stadiums. But which teams were the first to cotton on to the fact that people would like to watch those twenty-two men kicking a pig’s bladder around a field?

The table below shows the oldest teams in the world we list on this site, below this you can find the oldest clubs in England.

List Of The Oldest Football Teams

Team Year Founded Current Stadium Previous Stadiums
TSV 1860 München 1860 Allianz Arena Stadion an der Grünwalderstraße, Olympiastadion, Sechzger
Notts County 1862 Meadow Lane Trent Bridge
Stoke City 1863 Bet365 Stadium Victoria Ground
Gent 1864 Ghelamco Arena Carpentierplein, Jules Ottenstadion, Mussenstraat, Albertlaan
Nottingham Forest 1865 The City Ground The Forest, Castle Ground, The Meadows, Trent Bridge, Parkside Ground, Gregory Ground, Town Ground
Sheffield Wednesday 1867 Hillsborough Highfield, Myrtle Road, Heeley, Hunter's Bar, Sheaf House, Bramall Lane, Olive Grove
Chesterfield 1867 Proact Stadium Recreation Ground (Saltergate)
Queens Park FC 1867 Hampden Park Queen's Park Recreation Ground, first Hampden Park, Titwood, second Hampden Park
Kilmarnock 1869 Rugby Park The Grange, Holm Quarry, Ward's Park, Rugby Park
England 1870 Wembley Wembley
Reading 1871 Madjeski Stadium Reading Recreation Ground, Reading Cricket Ground, Coley Park, Caversham Cricket Ground, Elm Park
Scotland 1872 Hampden Park Hamilton Crescent, first Hampden Park, second Hampden Park, Celtic Park, Ibrox Park
Rangers 1872 Ibrox Unknown
Aston Villa 1874 Villa Park Aston Park / Wellington Road
Bolton Wanderers 1874 The Macron Stadium Pike's Lane, Burnden Park
Heart Of Midlothian 1874 Tynecastle The Meadows, Powburn, Powderhall
Hamilton Academical 1874 New Douglas Park Douglas Park
Birmingham City 1875 St Andrew’s Arthur Street, Ladypool Road, Muntz Street
Blackburn Rovers 1875 Ewood Park Leamington Street
Hibernian 1875 Easter Road The Meadows, Hibernian Park
Middlesbrough 1876 Riverside Stadium Linthorpe Road West cricket ground, Ayresome Park
Wales 1876 The Principality Stadium Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff City Stadium, Liberty Stadium, Racecourse Ground
Port Vale 1876 Vale Park The Meadows, Westport Meadows, Burslem Football and Athletic Ground, Athletic Ground, The Old Recreation Ground
Partick Thistle 1876 Firhill Stadium Kelvingrove Park, Jordanvale Park, Muir Park, Meadowside
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1877 Molineux Goldthorn Hill, John Harper's Field, Dudley Road,

Oldest Clubs in England

Here’s a look at the eleven oldest football clubs in England that are still in existence. It’s eleven rather than ten because many of them were formed in the same year as each other, which also means they’re not in an exact order…

Number Eleven: Port Vale - 1876

Based in Stoke-on-Trent, Port Vale are one of just a few football clubs in the land that isn’t named after a geographical location. According to the club’s own history it took the name from Port Vale House, the building in which it was formed in 1876. Presumed to have been an offshoot of Porthill Victoria Football Club, the name was changed to Burslem Port Vale when it moved to the Burslam area in 1884. The Burslam was dropped in 1907, however.

Number Ten: Middlesbrough - 1876

Also formed in 1876 was Middlesbrough, the North-East club oft forgotten about by people obsessed with Sunderland and Newcastle. The Smoggies didn’t turn professional until 1889, though they had a good basis having won the FA Amateur Cup in both 1895 and 1898. Interestingly they went back to being an amateur side in 1892 and turned professional permanently in 1899. Presumably some fans often tell the players they’re amateurs even today, but that’s not technically true.

Number Nine: Blackburn Rovers - 1875

The Lancashire side was formed in 1875 and was a founding member of the Football League thirteen years later. Blackburn are one of just three sides who founded both the Football League and the Premier League, with Everton and Aston Villa making up the trio. Founded following a meeting at a Blackburn hotel, they surprised many when they became the first team other than Manchester United to win the newly formed Premier League in 1995.

Number Eight: Birmingham City - 1875

The Midlands side has been one continuous club since 1875, though they were formed under the name of Small Heath Alliance. In 1888 they decided to drop the ‘Alliance’ and became simply Small Heath and then in 1905 they changed their name to Birmingham. By 1943 they’d decided to add the ‘City’ to their title, perhaps as an attempt to wind up their bitterest rivals Aston Villa by suggesting they were the city’s main team. They helped to found the Second Division and were also its first ever champions.

Number Seven: Bolton Wanderers - 1874

Bolton Wanderers is another team that was formed with a different name to being with. Christ Church Football Club came together in 1874 and changed its name three years later. They were a founding member of the Football League but have a rather more disappointing record attached to their name: They have spent the most amount of seasons in the top-flight without ever winning the title. They’ve won the Second Division title three times and they’ve also picked up four FA Cup trophies over the years.

Number Six: Aston Villa - 1874

A year before Birmingham City was formed another team had been created in the second city. Aston Villa was the brainchild of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel in the town of Handsworth, which is now part of Birmingham itself. The Villa have won seven first division titles over the course of their existence and they’re one of just five English teams that have won the European Cup. Villa’s chairman, William McGregor, is widely considered to be the father of the Football League.

Number Five: Reading - 1871

Considering football is a working class sport there’s something a bit odd about a team nick-named The Royals. Then again, they are based in Berkshire and that’s never been a hotbed of socialist revolutions. Huntley & Palmers biscuit makers were based in Reading and that led the team to be nicknamed The Biscuitmen for a time. Founded in 1871 after a meeting at the Bridge Street Rooms in the city, they’ve won the Second Division title twice.

Number Four: Sheffield Wednesday - 1867

The Wednesday Cricket Club was one of the most successful cricket establishments in Sheffield following its formation in 1820 or so. It was named after the day of the week that the club’s founding members had off from work. In 1867 members decided to form a football club in order to maintain their fitness during winter when they couldn’t play cricket and it became Sheffield Wednesday. The football team was soon far more popular than the cricketing side of affairs and the two sports decided to become completely separate entities in 1882.

Number Three: Nottingham Forest - 1865

Some shinty players in Nottingham decided to form a football team as a response to the formation of Notts County several years before. The team was called Nottingham Forest Football and Bandy Club when it was first formed in 1865. You may well have noticed from their name, but to begin with they were a multi-sports club rather than specialising in just football. There were bandy and shinty teams as well as a baseball club. Along with Aston Villa, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea they are one of five English sides to have won a European Cup.

Number Two: Stoke City - 1863

Another team based in Stoke-on-Trent like Port Vale, Stoke City Football Club was named Stoke Ramblers when the club was formed in 1863. The club was made up of pupils from Charterhouse School who decided to make a team when they were apprentices at North Staffordshire Railway. The Ramblers merged with Stoke Victoria Cricket Club to become Stoke City in 1878, meaning that some people don’t think that they should be on this list. They are though, so get over it.

Number One: Notts County - 1862

Philosopher’s like to muse over whether or not a falling tree can be heard if there’s no-one there to hear it fall. A more interesting question might be, why did Notts County form a football club when there were no other clubs to play against? Records show they played matches as early as the 28th of November 1862, meaning that they are officially recognised as the oldest club still playing in the Football League. Interestingly the club actually dates back to before the formation of the Football Association and to begin with played a game that they’d made up for themselves.

Oldest Clubs No Longer In Existence

Wimbledon FC in 1896
Wimbledon FC in 1896 - See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A quick look around the site will lead you to several articles of interest when it comes to the early days of football. You can read about the founding members of the football league, for example. There’s also an in-depth piece about the history of football in general. Perhaps the most relevant, however, is the piece about the first ever football team, which explains about how football was formed out of the sport of rugby.

That article is relevant because whether a team was ever a ‘football team’ is up for some debate. What we do know is that numerous teams are no longer in existence but at one point or another were considered to be ‘football clubs’. An example of this would be The Foot-Ball Club from Edinburgh, which existed from 1824-1841. The club rules said that ‘tripping’ was forbidden but you could ‘hold or pick up’ the ball, so the extend to which it was a football club is debatable.

The Great Leicestershire Cricket and Football Club existed back in 1840 but is no longer around. Similarly The Body-Guard Club of Rochdale and The Fear-noughts Club were documented as having played a game against each other in Lancashire in 1848. The Surrey Football Club was formed in 1849 and they came up with the first set of rules that weren’t from a school setting.

Football clubs a come and go and will continue to do so. Teams enter into administration or are moved to entirely different areas, such as when Wimbledon Football Club became the MK Dons. The important thing is that the love of the sport exhibited by supporters throughout the world means that every time one does disappear another one pops up in its place, such as AFC Wimbledon. Some clubs have been in existence since as long ago as 1862, surviving two World Wars and any number of other threats. Long may the continue to thrive.