The earliest football clubs can be hard to date and many football clubs dating back to the late 1850s and 1860s claim that their team is the oldest. Another factor adding to the difficulty of dating football clubs is that many early rugby clubs did, and still continue to, call their teams football clubs as well.
However, this list consists of what are believed to be the nine oldest association football (soccer) clubs in the world. All of them were formed around the same time and many lack proper records of their exact founding dates. This has led to many of the clubs claiming that they are older than others on this list – which has been arranged in an order we felt was best based on our research.
Since there are no records of the club’s exact formation, it is disputed whether or not the Melbourne University Football Club is the second or third oldest football club in Australia. The club’s first recorded match took place in June 1859, around the same time as the Castlmaine Football Club’s first game, but no one knows for sure which team was formed first.
The university’s club played in the Victorian Football Association from 1885 – 1888, which was Australian football’s governing body at the time. In 1907, the eight founding clubs of the Victorian Football League (now the Australian Football League) voted to include Melbourne University as the league’s ninth team.
4. Castlemaine Football Club
The Castlemaine Football Club was the second oldest Australian football club and formed a few months after the Melbourne Football Club. The club was formed on June 15, 1859, but the team’s first game was delayed a week because the ball did not arrive on time from Melbourne – the team had its first official game on June 22 on the Cricket Ground Barkers Creek.
Castlemaine’s founding date was only discovered in 2007, making it older than the Geelong Football Club, which was believed to be formed earlier. The club joined the Bendigo Football League in 1925 and remains a part of that league today.
3. Melbourne Football Club
The Melbourne Football Club is the oldest football club in Australia and is one of the founding clubs of the Australian Football League. The origin of the team dates back to 1858 when members of the Victoria cricket team formed a loosely organized football team. Tom Wills, the captain of the cricket team called for the formation of a “foot-ball club” with its own “code of laws” to keep cricketers fit during winter.
The following year, Wills and a few other cricketers drafted “The Rules of the Melbourne Football Club”, which formed the basis of Australian rules football. The football club celebrated its 150th birthday in 2008 and released a list of “150 Heroes” as well as a special birthday logo that appeared on the official jerseys.
2. Cambridge University Association Football Club
According to Cambridge University, its association football club is the oldest club now playing association football. However, the club’s founding is often disputed and believed to either be in 1856 or 1857. Due to the uncertainty over the date of the club’s formation, it is not widely recognized as the oldest football club.
According to certain sources, the club may date back further than 1856 as there is confirmation that games were played between football clubs from different colleges and universities at Cambridge in the 1840s. The Cambridge University Association Football Club did receive a special award from the the National Football Museum in 2016 that recognizes it as the oldest football club in the world.
1. Sheffield Football Club
Sheffield Football Club is the oldest football club in the world, dating back to the fall of 1857. The club is officially recognized by FIFA and The Football Association of England (FA) as the world’s oldest football club.
Prior to the formation of the FA, early football clubs used their own rules and the Sheffield Rules were the first official set of rules and laws used for football games – the Sheffield Rules even influenced the rules of the FA. Sheffield became a member of the FA in 1863, but continued to use its own rules. The club finally adopted the FA’s rules in 1878.
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