Football, without a doubt, is the most beloved sport worldwide. It’s a universal language that bridges gaps when words fall short. The United Kingdom, in particular, has been swept up by the allure of this beautiful game having the oldest football club in UK. With leagues like the English Premier League and the Championship attracting millions of fans globally to stadiums and screens, it’s only natural to wonder: Which is the oldest football club in England?
10 Oldest Clubs in England
In our list today, we will be going over the 10 oldest football clubs in England and looking at where they are now. Is the oldest club in England still functioning? Are they still in the top division? Have these oldest football clubs in UK dropped down to the lower division? We will answer them all!
1. Nottingham Forest (1865)
Where are they now?: English Premier League, England football’s top division
Stadium Location: City Ground, Nottingham
Team legends: Taiwo Awoniyi, Brennan Johnson and Stuart Pearce
Iconic moments: 1978 and 1979 European Cup winners
Nickname: The Reds
Starting off with a familiar face for many football enthusiasts around the world, the tenth-oldest club in England happens to be the all-red-clad Nottingham Forest, lovingly called “Forest” or “Tricky Reds”. Located in Nottingham, the club’s red colour originates from the first players’ urge to don “Garibaldi” colours, an Italian revolutionary in the early 19th century who sought to reunify Italy!
Nottingham Forest, recognized as the oldest football club in England, has had a rich history filled with ups and downs. The team achieved remarkable success by winning the European Cup in 1978 and 1979, triumphing over Swedish champions Malmo and German giants Hamburg. Despite these victories, the club faced a challenging period, notably absent from the English top flight for 23 years during the Premier League era. However, in recent times, Nottingham Forest, the oldest football club in the UK, has displayed positive signs of stability and consistency, marking a potential resurgence.
2. Hertfordshire Rangers FC (1865)
Where are they now?: The club was dissolved in 1882
Stadium Location: Cassiobury Park, Hertfordshire
Team legends: Robert Parker, Francis Sparks
Iconic moments: reached third round of the FA Cup in 1880-81. Surprisingly, the club only showed up with 10 players for the game and understandably lost 3-0.
A story that doesn’t quite have the happy ending like Nottingham Forest is that of Hertfordshire Rangers. One of the oldest clubs in England, Hertfordshire Rangers were formed in 1865 and joined the English Football Association in 1866. Herts Rangers often depended on the players it got from Cambridge University, which didn’t have a recognised football team at the time. The club was not doomed to oblivion in the lower leagues, as they had multiple FA Cup runs too. Hertfordshire Rangers FC was dissolved in 1882 after they failed to replace the players who had either left them for other clubs or the students who moved elsewhere for their studies.
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3. Harrow Chequers FC (1865)
Where are they now?: Renamed to “Old Harrovians” and playing in the non-league Arthurian League
Stadium Location: Kennington Oval, Surrey
Team legends: Morton Betts
Iconic moments: Morton Betts renamed himself to “AH Chequer”, essentially “A Harrow Chequer”, to honour his former team and went on to win the FA Cup with his new team, Wanderers FC, in 1972.
The Harrow Chequers Football Club, later known as the "Old Harrovians," is a significant part of football history as one of oldest clubs in England. They are celebrated for scoring the inaugural goal in the first FA Cup Final in 1872, thereby securing their legacy in the sport's history books. The club's journey extended to the first-ever FA Cup semi final, where they notably withdrew from the match against Wanderers FC. The decision not to compete in the semifinal adds a layer of intrigue to their story, leaving football enthusiasts with a historical moment to ponder. Harrow Chequers FC has an involvement in the early years of competitive football, including multiple appearances in the FA Cup, underscores its pioneering role and lasting impact on the sport's evolution during the late 19th century.
4. Wrexham AFC (1864)
Where are they now?: EFL League Two, English fourth division.
Stadium Location: The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham
Team legends: Paul Mullin, Ben Tozer, Ian Rush
Iconic moments: Reached FA Cup third round and took Premier League side Sheffield United to a replay after a thrilling 3-3 draw, which they lost. Amassed 111 points to reach the EFL League Two, the highest amount of points any team in the top 5 English divisions has ever collected.
Nickname: The Dragons
We know that the list states the oldest clubs in England, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to mention Ryan Reynolds darling AFC Wrexham, based in Wales! Situated in Wales and currently co-owned by Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElheney, Wrexham holds a significant place in football history as one of the oldest clubs. This oldest club in England traces back to a club initially formed for members of the Wrexham Cricket Club to engage in a different sport. Over the years, Wrexham has acknowledged millions of fans and substantial financial support. In April of this year, the club achieved a notable feat by rejoining the EFL League Two after a 15-year absence from league football.
5. Brigg Town (1864)
Where are they now?: Northern Counties East League Division One, a semi-professional league
Stadium Location: The Hawthorns, Brigg
Team legends: Andy Taylor, David Mail, and Andy Pettinger
Iconic moments: 8-time winners of the Lincolnshire League
Brigg Town, one the oldest clubs in England, has notably competed in the Northern and Southern Premier League, marking its presence in the seventh and eighth tiers of the English football hierarchy. Established years ago, Brigg Town stands as a resilient and enduring club, showcasing its continuous relevance. Despite residing in the lower tiers, this oldest football club in UK has maintained its viability and even ventured into prestigious competitions like the FA Cup in recent times. This historic participation in the FA Cup reflects the club's commitment to testing its mettle against diverse opponents. Brigg Town's enduring legacy in English football is a testament to its resilience and dedication to the sport, solidifying its place as a respected institution within the football community.
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6. Royal Engineers AFC (1863)
Where are they now?: Army Football Association, amateur league
Stadium Location: Number One Ground, Chatham
Team legends: Henry Renny-Tailyour
Iconic moments: They won the 1875 FA Cup final after Henry Renny-Tailyour put the Engineers up 1-0.
Nickname: The Sappers
Founded in 1863 in Chatham, Kent, Royal Engineers AFC was the oldest club in England to have reached the FA Cup final. The team eventually reached two more finals, where they lost twice in total and won one in 1875. In the contention for being the oldest football club in UK, Royal Engineers AFC discontinued their participation in the League divisions in 1882-83 but continued playing amateur football. They currently play for the Army Football Association.
7. Stoke City FC (1863)
Where are they now?: The Championship, English second division
Stadium Location: bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
Team legends: Ryan Shawcross, Steven Nzonzi, Jack Butland and Peter Crouch
Iconic moments: Reached the FA Cup final in the 2010/11 season by beating Bolton 5-0 in the semifinals and eventually losing to Manchester City.
Nickname: The Potters
Stoke City stands as one of the oldest football club in UK, tracing its roots back to its establishment as Stoke Ramblers, proudly holding the status of one of the country's oldest football clubs. In the contemporary landscape of the Premier League, Stoke City has garnered admiration for its remarkable prowess, earning a reputation as one of the league's most formidable contenders. This oldest club in England is synonymous with the inquiry, "Can a player excel on a chilly, wet night in Stoke?" encapsulating the challenging ambiance of competing against Stoke City. Notable for its fluctuation between the second and first divisions, this oldest football club in UK is equally recognized for its distinctive long-ball football approach, contributing to its distinctive identity in the football realm.
8. Barnes FC (1862)
Where are they now?: Amateur non-league football
Stadium Location: Quintin Hogg River Pitches, London
Team legends: Porfirio Delgado, Alex Bloomer, Nathan Battisti
Iconic moments: Despite poor upkeep of the club’s history, Barnes FC has now been re-established by its supporters!
Barnes FC, a founding member of the English Football Association and one of oldest club in England rooted in London, has a history shrouded in limited documentation, making it challenging to pinpoint its dissolution date and historical match count. In 2021, the grandchildren of former chairmen, alongside local enthusiasts, successfully fundraised to revive this historic club. Presently, Barnes FC enjoys substantial support from local sponsors and fans, guided by Ranko Davidov as the chairman and Daniel Da Silva as the manager, adding a contemporary touch to this venerable English football institution. The efforts to resurrect this oldest football club in UK underscore the enduring significance and community spirit associated with preserving the heritage of one of the world's oldest football clubs.
9. Notts County (1862)
Where are they now?: EFL League Two, England football fourth division
Stadium Location: Meadow Lane, Nottingham Forest
Team legends: Macaulay Langstaff, Dan Crowley, and Ben Davies.
Iconic Moments: Notts County managed to win the 1893-94 FA Cup after thrashing the favourites Bolton Wanderers 4-1. James Logan, the Notts County striker, scored a hattrick to carry his team to victory.
Nickname: The Magpies
Another well-known name in this list of the oldest football clubs in England, Notts County, is the second Nottingham club in the countdown. If you ask someone in England, “what is the oldest football club in England?” they would probably mention Notts County and rightfully so. This oldest football club in UK have been through many ups and downs, which include a possible dissolution of the club in 2003!
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10. Sheffield FC (1855)
Where are they now?: Northern Premier League Division One
Stadium Location: Tuffnells Home of Football Ground, Derbyshire
Team legends: Samuel Ashworth, David Faulkner, and Matthew Lowton.
Iconic moments: Sheffield FC played Hallam FC in 1860f, a clash of the oldest clubs in the world!
Nickname: The Club
The oldest football club in the world began as an organised “kick-about” session for the Sheffield Cricket Club. It was then made an official club by two of the team’s members. As one of the oldest football club in UK, Sheffield FC used to play by their own rules and were so adamant about it that they proposed various revisions to the Football Association regularly since it preceded the foundation of the FA. Once the English FA established a set system for the teams to face off against each other, Sheffield FC began to struggle against some of the powerhouses, such as Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest and eventually slid down the divisions.
That concludes our list of the oldest football clubs in England and even the oldest football club in the world. Football, steeped in traditions and a robust culture of camaraderie, perseveres through time. Its enduring appeal lies in a history woven with sportsmanship. Whether witnessing a live match or tuning in on television, exploring the origins of these clubs adds an intriguing layer to the experience. So, the next time you engage with a football game, consider delving into its roots for a deeper understanding of the sport's rich heritage and the timeless spirit that keeps it alive today.