AFC Wimbledon’s bid to return home will be known to all Dons fans. Another club, which played a pioneering role in the emergence of the game of football as we know it, is embarking on a similar venture.
The Dons Trust has lent its support to Sheffield FC, the oldest existing association football club, by publicising its efforts to return to a new ground in its home city. Sheffield FC was formed in 1857, and its founders played a pivotal role in shaping the game as we know it today, laying down some of football’s first sets of rules. After its formation the club led a nomadic existence within its home city, and since 2001 it has played outside the city boundaries, at the Coach & Horses Ground in nearby Dronfield. But now Sheffield FC has the chance to return to Sheffield itself, with a new ground in the offing at Olive Grove — the same field where the club’s initial kickabouts took place in the mid-1800s and from where the modern game evolved.
Olive Grove is located in a traditional working-class district of the city and is used today as a ground for local cricketers. In June, Sheffield FC was granted a free land lease by Sheffield City Council with a view to relocating to the site. Unfortunately, at present the site does not contain the facilities to host senior non-league football matches.
Still an amateur club, Sheffield FC has launched a fundraising campaign under the “Home of Football” banner, with plans for the new ground to “celebrate the true values and original spirit of the beautiful game”. As well as providing a home for Sheffield FC, it is proposed to use the ground to celebrate the game’s heritage and history, including creating a football museum.
Club chairman Richard Tims explains: “The hope is that we can raise £2 million in total, which will allow us to create a ‘Home of Football’ for the sport as a whole to enjoy and be proud of. Our vision for this centre includes a museum and a tribute to pioneers Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest, who formed the ‘Sheffield Rules’ at Olive Grove which involved a host of innovations that shaped football, such as the first crossbar, corner kick, free- kick, throw-in and floodlit match.”
The club’s unique role in shaping the modern game has already brought it worldwide attention. Sheffield FC celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2007 by playing friendly matches against Inter Milan and Ajax, and the club is one of only two to have received the FIFA Order of Merit, the other club being Real Madrid — not bad for a side currently playing in the Evo- Stick League First Division South!
The campaign has already received support from clubs around the world, including Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund, while Aston Villa became the first Premier League club to donate to the campaign when they pledged £1,874 (in recognition of the year that Villa were formed).
Other clubs who have supported the campaign include Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United, as well as clubs from around Europe such as St Gallen and St Pauli. Fans from across the globe have also donated, and Sheffield FC are already one-third of the way towards their initial £150,000 target.
Although the crowdfunding element of their campaign is currently closed for donations, you can read more about their bid to return to Sheffield by visiting their The World’s First website.
This article originally appeared in the matchday programme for the home game against Morecambe, played on October 17, 2015.