Football News

Crystal Palace can claim to be the world’s oldest professional league football club, says historian

By Ben Green

Published: 15:22, 21 April 2020

Crystal Palace have thrown their hat in the ring to be recognised as the oldest professional football club in existence.

According to the Football Association, Notts County — founded in November 1862 — currently hold the title, but research carried out by author Peter Manning, on behalf of Crystal Palace, suggests this may not be the case.

Are Crystal Palace the oldest professional football club? Five things to know…

  • Non-league Sheffield F.C., founded in October 1857, are recognised as the world’s oldest club.
  • Notts County on the other hand are currently considered by the Football Association as the oldest professional football club in existence.
  • However, Crystal Palace have staked a claim that their inception came prior to Notts County’s.
  • The current perception by Palace fans is that their club was established in 1905.
  • But, research carried out by author Peter Manning suggests the club have ties dating back to 1861.

The current perception among Palace fans is that their club came into existence during the early 20th century, but Manning’s research claims the football club was first established in 1861, with their first match taking place a year later in March 1862.

It is believed the Crystal Palace Company, set up in 1852 to oversee the management and relocation of the Palace from Hyde Park to Sydenham in 1854, has direct links with the football club we know today.

As part of the company’s business model all those years ago a cricket field was constructed in Sydenham, which ultimately led to the birth of the Crystal Palace Club. And, the story goes that in the off-season, members of the club would keep fit by playing football.

And so, despite Crystal Palace Club originally forming as an amateur side, the Eagles have claimed that Manning’s research suggests their lineage traces back and has direct links with the original outfit.

Manning told the club’s official website“The Crystal Palace was the world’s first major theme park. It was owned and run by the Crystal Palace Company.

“Everything within the Palace and its grounds was part of the Crystal Palace’s and the Crystal Palace Company’s business, including the Crystal Palace Cricket Club, set up in 1857, the emergence of the football club in 1861, through to the setting up and the taking of a majority share stake in the professional football club in 1905.

“Without the Crystal Palace and the Crystal Palace Company there would have been no Crystal Palace Football Club. It was always one club and always part of the Crystal Palace Company’s business. As the founding of the football club dates back to 1861, it can claim to be the oldest professional league club in the world.

“It’s ironic that today the one surviving remnant of the Crystal Palace Company, Crystal Palace Football Club, is now the big crowd puller, the big money earner that the Crystal Palace Company always wanted it to be. I’m sure it would have been extremely proud of what it has now achieved as a football club.”

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“A fascinating tale” — Steve Parish

Palace chairman — and lifelong fan – Steve Parish gave his two cents on the recent discovery and was naturally elated by Manning’s extensive work.

He said: “As a lifelong supporter of Crystal Palace, it’s amazing that we have a legitimate claim to be the oldest professional league club still in existence, that we were in the very first FA meetings, and that our history dates all the way back to the Victorian cricketers of 1861 at the Palace even involving the great W.G. Grace.

“I would like to thank Peter Manning for the incredible work he has undertaken researching the definitive history of the club. It’s a fascinating tale and one I hope supporters will very much enjoy seeing brought to life in this film.”