Crystal Palace F.C. (1861)

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Crystal Palace
Full nameCrystal Palace Football Club
Dissolved1876; 145 years ago (1876)
GroundCrystal Palace Park

Crystal Palace F.C. was an amateur football club formed in 1861 who contributed a major role in the development of association football during its formative years. They went on to become founder members[1] of the Football Association in 1863, and competed in the first ever FA Cup competition in 1871–72.

The amateur club was thought to have disbanded around 1876, however historians have found evidence to support claims that the professional Crystal Palace football club that exists today is directly linked and should be acknowledged as the same club,[2][3] the theory being that the original club was re-formed as opposed to a completely new club being created, as they were both owned by the same Crystal Palace Company. This has led to claims that Crystal Palace should be recognised as the oldest professional football club in the world in existence today.[4]


The Crystal Palace Company who owned The Crystal Palace Exhibition building formed the football club in 1861.

The Crystal Palace Company who owned the Crystal Palace Exhibition building founded the Crystal Palace Club in 1857 to play cricket before turning their attention to football. It had been lobbied by existing members of the cricket club to provide a continuation of sporting activities during the winter months. The company formed the football club in 1861.[5] All of the football club’s management-committee and most of its original players were previously members of the cricket club,[6] and they shared the same pitch within the Crystal Palace Park.[7]

Commercial structure[edit]

Although both the cricket and football clubs were amateur, they formed part of the Crystal Palace Company’s commercial enterprise, which was intended to generate revenue.[8] Membership of the club was by subscription only, at a price of one guinea per season, and spectators who wished to watch the games had to pay the one-shilling entrance fee into Crystal Palace Park.[9]


The football club’s players were not company employees; typical membership was formed from wealthy upper-middle-class businessmen who could afford the subscription and who had the leisure time to participate in sport.[10] Walter Cutbill (1844-1915) and A. Cutbill were prominent members, and both former pupils at Forest School, which was a leading school in the early development of the game.[11]

Committee member and goalkeeper, Croydon-born wine merchant James Turner (1839-1922) became the first proper treasurer of the Football Association after its formation,[12] and numerous Palace players were influential committee-members of the F.A. during its formative decade.[13]

When international football commenced in 1870 and 1872, players from Crystal Palace featured in both the official[14] and the ‘unofficial[15] versions of the first-ever international games.

Four players from the club appeared for the England national team:

Support of Association Rules[edit]

The club became founder members of the Football Association in 1863, and along with Wanderers F.C., Barnes F.C. and the N.N. Club were described by Charles W. Alcock as being the four clubs who formed ‘the backbone of the Association game’ in its early years.[16] Delegates of the club attended every AGM of the F.A. for its first crucial decade, during which time the Laws of the Game were evolved. In 1867, when just five delegates turned up at the AGM, it was only the vote of Crystal Palace’s representative Walter Cutbill which prevented the adoption of two major Sheffield Rules laws. Proposals to adopt rouges (secondary goals either side of the main goal) and the virtual abolition of the offside rule were defeated by a single vote.[17]

Creation of the FA Cup[edit]

The 1871 kit[18]

At the Football Association Committee meeting held on 16 October 1871 to discuss the creation of the FA Cup competition, the Crystal Palace captain and share-registrar Denison Allport (1844-1931) proposed the formation of a committee to draw up the rules for the competition.[19] He was also part of the delegation which selected the trophy.

Palace competed in the first ever FA Cup competition in 1871–72, reaching the semi-final stage, where they lost to the Royal Engineers after a replay.[20] The club also played in the FA Cup in the next four seasons, their last recorded match was a 0–3 defeat to eventual winners Wanderers in the second round of the 1875–76 FA Cup.

Demise of the club[edit]

The Crystal Palace Company experienced a financial crisis in 1875 as a result of being sued by its refreshment contractor.[21] As a consequence it was forced into a number of cost-cutting measures among the attractions being offered in its park, one of those was the football club which is thought to have disbanded the following year. At this time the football club were still very active: they included current England international players in their team,[22] and were also still on the management committee of the Football Association.[23]


The Crystal Palace Company began hosting the FA Cup Final on a regular basis in 1895,[24] which was held at the sports stadium in the Crystal Palace Park. The company then decided in 1905 they wanted a new professional football club to play at the stadium. The current Crystal Palace F.C. played at the Cup Final venue until 1915, when they were forced to leave due to the outbreak of the First World War.



  1. ^ Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle 12 December 1863
  2. ^ Palace at the Palace. Peter Manning 2018.
  3. ^ The Origin of Crystal Palace FC, Volume I. Steve Martyniuk 2016.
  4. ^ Wilson, Paul (22 April 2020). "Crystal Palace launch plan to claim title of oldest Football League club". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  5. ^ Athletics and Football, Sir Montague Shearman, 1887, p276
  6. ^ The Spectator, 18 April 1857
  7. ^ The Origin of Crystal Palace FC, Volume I. Steve Martyniuk 2016.
  8. ^ Morning Chronicle, Monday 25 May 1857
  9. ^ The Origin of Crystal Palace FC, Volume I. Steve Martyniuk 2016.
  10. ^ The Origin of Crystal Palace FC, Volume I. Steve Martyniuk 2016.
  11. ^ Forest School Magazine archive, 1867
  12. ^ Sporting Life 05 November 1864
  13. ^ Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle 24 February 1866
  14. ^ Sheffield Independent 02 December 1872
  15. ^ Pall Mall Gazette, 05 March 1870
  16. ^ Football, The Association Game, by Charles Alcock (1905), p14
  17. ^ Sporting Life 27 February 1867
  18. ^ Moor, Dave. "Eminent Victorians (Southern England)". Historical Football Kits. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  19. ^ The Sportsman 18 October 1871
  20. ^ Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle 24 February 1872
  21. ^ York Herald 17 February 1875
  22. ^ Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser 06 March 1876
  23. ^ Sheffield Independent 01 March 1877
  24. ^ The Times, 30 November 1895

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