Edinburgh takes on Sheffield in 'oldest club' row

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For more than 150 years, Sheffield Football Club has proudly claimed to be the oldest football team in the world. Queen Victoria was still on the throne when it was formed in 1857.

Just to seal their credentials as the world's oldest club, Fifa, football's governing body, has always recognised them as such.

But now the club's claim to the title has been challenged by a club from Edinburgh that claims it was formed 33 years before Sheffield FC came into existence and says it has discovered documents from the national archives to prove it.

The papers show that the Foot-Ball Club of Edinburgh was formed in 1824. They further reveal that it was originally made up of lawyers, doctors and accountants, and played its home games at Edinburgh's Dalry Park, now Dalry Place, before moving to a new site at Greenhill Park in 1831. Also revealed is the fact the team had 78 members at one point and, before every game, they paid a man to blow up footballs.

The club later folded in 1841, meaning Sheffield FC is without a doubt the oldest continually active football club in the world but the manager of the newly-reformed Edinburgh side, which plans to play its first match for 166 years next month, says the recently-discovered proof of the club's 17-year existence should be enough to persuade Fifa to officially declare the Foot-Ball Club of Edinburgh as the world's oldest football team.

The team's cause was further aided this week when its reformation and attempt to be named the oldest team in the world received backing from George Burley, the manager of the Scottish national football team. Also supporting their bid is Alistair Darling, Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Labour MP for Edinburgh South West.

It was Kenny Cameron, 27, the Edinburgh side's new manager, who made it his crusade to reform the defunct team. He was inspired after visiting the football museum at Scotland's national stadium, Hampden Park, and learning about how the team was formed by an Edinburgh student named John Hope.

"John Hope set up the club to help local kids, and we want to keep that aspect going. It was something that has stayed in the back of my mind since I learnt about it at Hampden, and we wanted to start up a football club anyway, so this all made sense. It is tremendous that such prominent figures are supporting the club and its aims to raise money for charity, as well as play football. It also helps us in our goal to show we were the first football club in the world," said Mr Cameron.

The club have already arranged their first match, which will be held at Tynecastle Stadium, the home of Heart of Midlothian, next month. Alistair Darling has been invited to this match and the Fifa president Sepp Blatter is to be invited to the club's first gala dinner in October.

But as one might expect, the challenge to Sheffield FC's crown has caused some friction in Yorkshire.

The current Sheffield FC team plays in the Northern Premier League Division One South and Richard Tims, the chairman, said: "Over the years, various organisations, clubs, countries and towns have come out of the woodwork and said, 'we are older than you, blah, blah, blah' and most of them have failed to be recognised as such."

Mr Tims added: "Obviously it's not up to us or them to decide, it's up to Fifa and we'll look forward to hearing their decision.

"You need to meet a lot of criteria [to prove you are the oldest club] and it's very difficult. I'd advise the Edinburgh lads not to waste too much money trying.""

Sheffield FC was set up in 1857 by two local cricketers, Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest, who saw football as way of keeping fit in the winter. They set up the side and organised matches and devised teams along the lines of married men against single men or professionals against the rest. They did not manage to find proper opposition until three years later when 1860 Hallam, another Sheffield team, was formed.

Contenders for the title

* Sheffield FC

Formed: 24 October 1857

Ground: Coach and Horses Ground, Dronfield, (capacity 1,500)

League: Northern Premier League Division One South

Manager: Dave McCarthy

Kit: Red shirts, black shorts, red socks

*The Foot-Ball Club of Edinburgh

Formed: 1824 (folded 1841, reformed 2008)

Ground: No official home ground

League: Edinburgh Sunday League

Manager: Kenny Cameron

Kit: Dark blue shirts, white shorts, red socks