World's oldest football club Sheffield FC hopes to buy back copy of historic 162-year-old rule book it printed in 1859

Historic Sheffield FC is hoping to buy back one of the most important documents in sporting history – 162 years after the club printed it.

Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 3:20 pm

The club has decided to try to raise the money to buy a copy of the rules of football that it drew up in 1859, which has come up for auction.

It is a copy of the earliest printed rules of football and is expected to fetch more than £50,000 later this month.

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Undated Sotheby's handout photo of a copy of the earliest printed rules of football, which will be auctioned later this month and is expected to fetch more than ??50,000. Issue date: Tuesday July 6, 2021. PA Photo. One of two surviving copies of the rules printed in 1859 by the world???s first football club, Sheffield Football Club, will be sold at Sotheby???s on July 20, with online bidding opening from July 12. See PA story SALE Football. Photo credit should read: Sotheby's /PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

One of two surviving copies of the rules printed in 1859 by the world’s first football club, Sheffield FC, it will be sold at Sotheby’s on July 20.

The other copy was sold by the club 10 years ago as part of a package of items being sold to keep the club afloat. Some of the money was used by the club to buy its current ground, in Dronfield.

Club chairman Richard Tims today told The Star club officials had discussed the matter today and decided to make a bid for the document.

He said they planned to launch a crowd funding page to raise the money.

Sheffield FC Ground at Dronfield Sheffield

The 16-page pamphlet, which was discovered in a Victorian scrapbook, was created after Sheffield FC’s committee met in October 1858 to formalise the rules of the game, which had been created at public schools and universities.

The indirect free kick, corner kick and the crossbar were all elements of the game developed by the club.

Sheffield FC was founded in 1857, six years before the Football Association, and is recognised by the FA and Fifa as the world’s oldest football club.

The pamphlet is signed in pencil by William Baker, the committee member who signed off the formal rules in club minutes on October 21 1858.

Undated Sotheby's handout photo of a copy of the earliest printed rules of football, which will be auctioned later this month and is expected to fetch more than ??50,000. Issue date: Tuesday July 6, 2021. PA Photo. One of two surviving copies of the rules printed in 1859 by the world???s first football club, Sheffield Football Club, will be sold at Sotheby???s on July 20, with online bidding opening from July 12. See PA story SALE Football. Photo credit should read: Sotheby's /PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Every member of the club was given a copy of the rules and the only other surviving copy was sold by Sotheby’s as part of Sheffield FC’s historic archive for £881,000 in July 2011.

Baker also played for the club and took part in a match against an FA side at Battersea Park in March 1866.

The copy of the rules was found in a scrapbook compiled by local clergyman the Rev Greville John Chester, who died in 1892 at the age of 62.

Dr Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s manuscripts specialist, said: “As well as being an important artefact in its own right, the pamphlet also gives us a unique insight into the development of the rules of the game through handwritten annotations, presumably added by its first owner, as the rules continued to be developed and altered in the early years.

“This exceptional piece of sporting history takes us straight back to the origins of ‘the beautiful game’ over 160 years ago.

“It was in Sheffield that football was first revealed as an unrivalled spectator sport, that the experience of interclub competition was first experienced, and that football fans first revealed their loyalty and passion.

“This was the earliest expression of the modern footballing culture we know so well today.”