Furniss' football career began in the 1880s, before the advent of formal League football, when he played for the team which later became Ardwick AFC and Manchester City. Whilst in his mid-twenties, Furniss suffered a leg injury which meant he could no longer play football. However, Furniss wished to remained part of the formative club, and took on organisational tasks. By the time the club had named itself Ardwick AFC in 1887, Furniss had gained considerable influence within the club, and was largely responsible for Ardwick's move to a new ground at Hyde Road.
In 1889, Furniss was named secretary-manager of Ardwick, and led the team to win the Manchester Cup in successive years. This success played a large part in Ardwick gaining admittance to the Football League as members of the newly formed Second Division in 1892. Under Furniss, Ardwick finished fifth in the inaugural Second Division season. At this point Furniss relinquished his duty of managing the team in order to concentrate on off-the-field affairs, handing the management role to Joshua Parlby.
Ardwick became embroiled in financial troubles in 1894, resulting in the club reforming as Manchester City F.C., and Furniss took on the responsibility of resolving the financial situation. He used his own money to pay many Ardwick creditors, and had to postpone his wedding for three years as a result.
Furniss was twice chairman of Manchester City, first for a brief period in 1916, and also from 1921 to 1928. As chairman, Furniss again oversaw a move of ground, as Manchester City moved from Hyde Road to Maine Road in 1923.
In addition to his football interests, Furniss also ran a tourist attraction in Marple.
Furniss died in 1941 in Fallowfield, and was survived by three daughters.
- James, Gary - Farewell to Maine Road ISBN 1-899538-19-4