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Football’s first-ever local derby: Sheffield FC vs Hallam FC

Football's first ever local derby

Matches between two rivals are perhaps the truest representation of everything the sport of football is supposed to be. There is arguably nothing more enthralling than a local derby, with its unique combination of tension, anticipation and passion from the players and fans alike difficult to match in any other situation.

These rivalries can be found across the globe, with the Old Firm derby, played by Rangers and Celtic, the North London derby, played between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, and the Dockers derby, which involves West Ham United and Millwall, among the most famous in Britain.

However, the question remains: What is football's first-ever local derby? Given the rich heritage of Sheffield in a footballing context, it is perhaps no surprise to learn that the derby took place there, but who were the two sides involved in the iconic clash?

Sandygate Sports Ground
Sandygate Sports ground played host to the first ever local derby in football / Photo by Crosspool News

The Rules Derby

The Rules derby, contested between Sheffield FC and Hallam FC, was the first-ever local derby in the world and was first played on 26 December, 1860.

The fixture was known as the ‘Rules derby' because the match adhered to the Sheffield Rules, and would continue to do so until 1878, when the Sheffield FA merged with the rest of the Football Association.

The match took place at Sandygate Sports Ground, widely accepted to be the oldest football ground in the world, and resulted in a 2-0 win for Sheffield FC.

Nowadays, we have become accustomed to the spectacle of Sheffield United vs Sheffield Wednesday – but it was the lesser-known Rules derby that started the phenomenon of local rivalries.

Where are both clubs now?

Despite their permanent places being secure in football folklore, neither of the two sides involved in this derby are currently playing professional football.

Sheffield FC are plying their trade in the Northern Premier League division, while their rivals, Hallam FC, are playing in the Northern Counties East League Premier Division.

As a result, this fixture is not played regularly in the modern era. However, the two sides did compete once again in 2021 for the Alan Cooper Memorial trophy, in which Hallam FC emerged with a 2-1 victory.

However, a huge bonus for Sheffield FC is that they are preparing to submit plans for a brand-new 5,000-seater stadium in Sheffield, which is expected to be opened in 2025. In recent years, the team have played their football just outside Sheffield, but this new stadium would see them once again return to their home.

The new ground would make facilities available for the local community to use, and will also be used by rugby club Sheffield Eagles on Sundays.

Sheffield's many claims to footballing fame

Hosting the first-ever local derby in football is just one of many claims to fame the town of Sheffield can make in a footballing context.

Just as impressive as the above is the fact that Sheffield Football Club, founded in 1857, are officially recognised by FIFA as the oldest football club in the world, and were inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2007 to commemorate their 150th anniversary.

Another claim to fame for Sheffield is the fact that the City has played host to arguably the greatest footballer of all time, Brazilian legend Pele, on multiple occasions.  The three-time World Cup winner – who passed away in 2022 –visited Bramall Lane in 2007, for a friendly between Sheffield FC and Inter Milan that celebrated the Yorkshire club's 150th anniversary.

Sheffield not only has the oldest football club in the world, but also the oldest ground in world football – Sandygate Stadium. Opened in 1804, it has been the home ground for Hallam FC since 1860 and has an approximate capacity of 1300.

Sheffield FC and Hallam FC are the oldest and second oldest football clubs in the world respectively, and both are extremely proud of their rich heritage and are keen to celebrate their history, with their iconic past a common theme on both the club's official websites.

Sheffield may not be one of the most glamorous footballing cities in the world, but it is undoubtedly one of the most significant.

Harry Dowsett

Freelance football writer with experience writing for multiple digital platforms, such as GIVEMESPORT. Recently graduated from Portsmouth University with a media studies degree - completing a dissertation on the evolution of sports journalism in the process. He has a love for Arsenal Football Club and a passion for football as a whole.

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