Sheffield and the Rugby code: How Alfred Cattell (Lord Mayor & S.U.F.C. chairman) eventually introduced rugby to the town in 1884, following a long resistance to the ball-carrying code.

By Graham Williams and Martin Westby

Graham Williams is the author of ‘The Code War: English Football Under the Historical Spotlight’.

Martin Westby is the author of‘‘A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom’ and ‘England’s Oldest Football Clubs 1815-1889: A new chronological classification of early football (Folk, School, Military, County, Rugby, & Association)’.

‘And the fact that the Association game is almost exclusively cultivated in and around Sheffield ought not to blind us to the popularity of the Rugby Union game in other parts of England. Probably, if a census could be taken, it would be found that the Rugby Union game owns the greater number of devotees. If we ask why the dribbling game has a virtual monopoly among Sheffield players, we shall have further to ask whether there is any rule regulating the distribution of Association players and Rugby Unionists throughout England! The answer is that the distribution, where its origin is not historical, is arbitrary. That is to say, we believe that in whatever form football was first introduced into a district, in that form it flourished, and has continued to flourish. … But few will dispute that the Association game is the prettier and defter, and the more intelligible to the uninstructed spectator.”

‘Sheffield Daily Telegraph’ Tuesday 21 April 1885

The above quote encapsulates Sheffield’s early relationship with the ball-dribbling-code (Sheffield Rules & Association rules) as opposed to the ball-carrying (Rugby) game. It was the former more ‘scientific’ game that originated in Sheffield and subsequently flourished in Sheffield. Whilst Manchester and Leeds were rugby towns from the beginning, Sheffield was always an Association football playing centre. For 25 years, from 1857 until 1882, Sheffield was the home of Association football and was the was the centre of early world football. Their importance eclipsed the London Football Association and as Graham Curry says in his book ‘Early Sheffield Football: A source book’:

‘It is an interesting point of conjecture to wonder why the Sheffield Association, or Sheffield FC as it was in the early 1860s, even bothered to join the F.A. It is difficult to think of any real advantages for them in being linked to an albeit like-minded body some 150 miles distant. Even as early as 1863 Sheffield possessed a relatively thriving football scene and had no obvious need of support from their London counterparts’.

Such was the strength of the Sheffield Association game and the local hostility to the ball-carrying code that a Sheffield’s first Rugby Union Football club was not formed until November 1884, some 27 years after Sheffield FC’s foundation  in 1857 ;only surviving for around three years before failing.

From the beginning Sheffield was always against the intrinsic physicality of the rugby game. They made strong representations against hacking at the inaugural meetings of the fledgling Football Association at the Freemason’s Tavern in 1863. Sheffield FC’s William Chesterman presented an important letter that was read out at the decisive 5th meeting when the crucial hacking debate was in full swing. Enclosed with their FA membership subscription the letter detailed suggestions for the final layout of the laws and included the following sentence:

‘Nos. 9 and 10 are, I think, directly opposed to football, the latter especially being more like wrestling. I cannot see any science in taking a run-kick at a player at the risk of laming him for life.’

Sheffield’s footballing pre-eminence was replaced in the mid-1880s by professional football, fuelled by Lancashire teams with their newly recruited Scottish Professors. Sheffield, alongside the Midlands and London, believed devoutly in the game’s amateur ethos and when professional football was legalised by the FA in July 1885, their star waned. It would take Sheffield fifteen long years to recover their authority in the Association game. This success was fuelled by the joint success of newly professional clubs Wednesday FC and Sheffield United FC, wresting power back from the North West, the Midlands and the North East.

Black &White Budget Magazine 1901

In his book ‘How Football Began’ Tony Collins argues that rugby had an important role in the development of the Sheffield Rules. He correctly points out that four of the subsequent 1858 Sheffield Rules mirror the 1845 Laws of Football played at Rugby school. I argue in the second edition of my book ‘‘A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889’,that this is not because they used the Rugby School rules as a template when they received them, but because a rugby-type game was played by a lot of the future Sheffield FC members when they attended the local Collegiate School. A comparison between Peter Wallis’s biographical register of Sheffield’s Collegiate School and the eighty-eight members from the 1859 Sheffield FC handbook shows that the number of Collegiate alumni that played for the club is in fact thirty-one. This new research confirms just how important the Collegiate School was in the formation of Sheffield football club. An analysis of the 1858 Sheffield Rules does show a high similarity to the Rugby school code as do the first eight Laws the Football Association initially passed in 1863.

We also know that the only reason the Sheffield Rules allowed ball catching for as long as it did was because of the very hilly pitches that Sheffield football was played on. Sheffield Independent 12th October 1871

Tony Collins goes on to say in his book that Sheffield FC continued playing rugby-style games up to the late 1860s and that their rouge system for scoring (an Eton School invention) mirrored a touchdown in rugby:

 ‘The touchdown became such an important part of Sheffield football during this period that it often became the most important way of scoring, as in 1860 when Sheffield FC defeated the 58th Regiment club by a goal and 10 rouges to a goal and 5 rouges’. ‘How Football Began’ Tony Collins

Most historians believe that Sheffield’s adoption of the rouge came from the Eton educated officers that Sheffield FC played in 1858, 1859 and 1860 against the 58th Regiment (the game Collins refers to in his quotation).

The number of rugby style games that Sheffield FC played as a percentage of their overall heavy schedule of games was almost non-existent. Between 1857 and their FA Amateur Cup win in 1904, Sheffield FC competed in 823 games and of those, just two were to the rugby code, all of them ‘missionary-work’ to popularise the ball-dribbling code:

1868 Manchester FC

1876 Hull FC

The only other rugby games that I can find involving other Sheffield teams are for 1864 when Norfolk FC played Leeds FC and in 1870 five Sheffield FC players played for a combined Yorkshire team against Lancashire:

Sheffield Independent – Saturday 02 April 1870

Finally, in 1870 Sheffield’s Garrick FC played Manchester’s Free Wanderers in Didsbury in a game played under rugby rules, met with disdain by the reporter from the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent:

The Manchester club played Rugby rules and it was arranged that each club’s rules should be played on its opponent’s ground, so that a novelty was provided for all lovers of football in Sheffield, the Rugby rules being played here for the first time.  In about a week’s time three distinct sets of rules have been exhibited in the town viz. The Sheffield Association, the Football Association (London) and Rugby.  With the merits or demerits of the two former codes our football readers are doubtless cognisant, the two rules providing against the use of hands, and making it foot-ball in the literal sense of the word.  Penalties are also imposed for foul play such as charging behind, hacking, tripping etc. and everything done to promote skill and judgment in preference to brute force.  In the rules played on Saturday, however, a marked contrast to this is shown, as the heaviest and roughest side will invariably have the advantage…Several cases of deliberate hacking, or, in other words, kicking at an opponent’s shins as he is running with the ball, did not convince either us or the spectators of the superiority of the Rugby over Association rules.  They are quite suitable for schoolboys, who are proverbially impervious to accident, but we should have thought that adults would prefer a game with more skill and less roughing.  (Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 11 March 1872)

Sheffield’s first rugby playing club? York Athletic Sports and Football Club (1861-1863)

Given the importance of the influence that the Collegiate School football code exerted over the drawing up of the Sheffield Rules of 1858 it is interesting to find out which club they felt comfortable playing in their first ‘foreign’ match.The club they chose was the York Athletic Sports and Football Club in 1862. Founded very early in 1861, York AFC were never listed as a member of the Sheffield Association, nor were they included in early editions of Alcock’s Football Annual. All of which suggests they played by a code that did not resemble the Sheffield Rules and was more based on ball-carrying. There is very little information about York AFC. They were formed in the autumn of 1861:

Sheffield Independent – Thursday 07 November 1861

In the next article we discover that the club’s name comes from the hotel they use as headquarters:

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Tuesday 19 November 1861
The York Hotel, Broomhill, Sheffield, 1904

At their Athletic Sports day in 1862 both Creswick and Prest (founders of Sheffield FC) were present, as clerk of the course and judge, respectively:

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Tuesday 07 October 1862

The York AFC athletic sports day at Endcliffe was reported as having ‘better arrangements and being far more satisfactory than at the sports of the Sheffield Football Club at Bramall Lane’. The ongoing relationship between Sheffield FC and York AFC is less surprising when you discover from Nathaniel Creswick’s (Sheffield FC’s co-founder) personal diary that on the 14th September 1863 he attended the York AFC annual general meeting in his capacity as President of their club.

Interestingly York AFC did play an early game against Sheffield FC on 15th November 1862 :

Sheffield Independent – Saturday 15 November 1862
Sheffield Independent – Monday 17 November 1862

Later in the same month York AFC play Collegiate School in the latter’s first outside game. Note that the game is eleven a side:

Sheffield Independent – Saturday 29 November 1862

Another Athletic Sports day was organised in 1863 (Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Tuesday 08 September 1863). Unfortunately, after a practice match on 24 October 1863, York AFC cease to appear again in the local press. Cricket matches continue in the name of the York Cricket Club so perhaps the winter sport of football was dropped in 1863? In the following 1863 report the York CC change their name to the Endcliffe Cricket Club:

The people and newspapers of Sheffield had few good words to say about the rival football code of rugby.  Their objections ranged from the dangerous nature of the game for working adults to the complicated nature of its many rules.  The following reports are examples of how local journalists viewed the game when compared to their beloved Sheffield rules. (With thanks to Graham Curry)

Many in this neighbourhood had a dim sort of idea that the Rugby game was a barbarous and almost brutal exhibition of play, that a contestant could hack, or in other words deliberately kick, an opponent, trip him when at full speed, and, in fact that almost anything was fair.  This is altogether a fallacious idea as hacking and tripping (formerly allowed), knocking on the ball deliberately and other things, are now distinctly prohibited under the rules of the Rugby Union.  That the game is dangerous enough the spectators of Saturday can amply testify, as, when a player obtains possession of the ball, the opponents who tackle him stand not upon the order of grassing him, but bring him down with a run at once.  Manufacturers of jerseys should support these rules, as whole ones are rather the exception than the rule after the match.  The attendance on Saturday would reach about 1800, and for a short time the spectators were evidently amused with the scrimmages etc., but after a time little enthusiasm was aroused, and when rain began to fall many left the scene of the action who would doubtless have stood their ground had the association rules been in force.  Many people are apt to ridicule what they don’t understand, but we imagine the association rules are in no danger of being set aside in favour of Rugby.  Although it appears such a rough and tumble affair, there are no less than 50 rules for the guidance of players. (Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 6 March 1876)

Chiefly through the instrumentality of its indefatigable officers, Sheffield now holds without doubt the premier position among towns, although Nottingham, as in cricket, would prove a very formidable antagonist.  Still, at the Association game, we make bold to state that no other town or city in the kingdom could vanquish twice successively a team of bona fide Sheffielders, the opposing team to be likewise bona fide citizens of the place they profess to represent.  Hull, York, Bradford, Huddersfield and other Yorkshire towns have players possessing no mean qualifications; but the rules played in these towns are not, as is well known, anything akin to those adhered to by our own townsmen. The rough and tumble horseplay in which many Yorkshiremen profess to find so much healthy exercise and invigoration is scarcely worthy the name of football when compared with the Association game.  The presence of danger in a pastime assuredly gives excitement, but where a participant may be wilfully lamed, and the laws of the game still remain inviolate, it is not too much to suggest that all good citizens, having the well being of their fellow men at heart, should cease to patronise such relics of barbarism.  (Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 2 January 1877)

According to an 1884 press report there was an aborted attempt in 1879 to form a Sheffield Rugby club; describing a ‘fiasco’ during the attempt to form it some ‘5 years or so ago’:

‘Sheffield Daily Telegraph’ 25 November 1884

Ultimately the new Sheffield Rugby Union Football Club would not merge with Sheffield FC.

Sheffield Rugby Union Football Club (19 November 1884-1888?)

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Wednesday 12 November 1884

In the 1880s Sheffield was said to be the fastest growing provincial town with a population approaching 300,000. It had a huge reputation as a sporting centre being the capital of English professional sprinting, providing the home of Yorkshire cricket and enjoying enormous kudos as one of the pioneers of Association football. Yet, it had never shown much interest in the Rugby version of football. That was about to about to change with the arrival of Albert Cattell in Sheffield.

Taken from ‘Official Illustrated Catalogue of the Yorkshire and North Midlands Model Cottage Exhibition’, High Wincobank, August to October 1907.;EQUALS;y05583&pos=1&action=zoom&id=96028

Alfred Cattell (27 April 1857 – 10 September 1933) who was by then aged 27, had taught in Llanelli and St. Mark’s College, although English born in Cottesmore, Rutland , played in the Welsh pack against England in December 1882 and Scotland the following month. Not long afterwards he had moved to Sheffield and become a master at St. Paul’s elementary school. It had been announced in the ‘Dewsbury Reporter’ on 20 September that he would join Dewsbury, but this proved incorrect. Instead, he would become the instigator of an entirely new club and in his later life became Lord Mayor of Sheffield and was at one time the Chairman of Sheffield United F.C.

It was Cattell who penned the letter that was published in the ‘Sheffield Daily Telegraph’ on 11 November 1884 asking for indications of interest in the rugby game:

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Tuesday 11 November 1884

Such sufficient interest was forthcoming for a meeting to be called in the schoolroom at St Paul’s on Wednesday 19 November (Map location of school as guesstimated by the author):

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Tuesday 18 November 1884

A well-attended and enthusiastic gathering’ resolved to form the Sheffield Rugby Union Football Club:

Sheffield Independent – Friday 21 November 1884

At short notice a ground was secured on Brightside Lane and ten days a practice match was held there. The ‘Sheffield Daily Telegraph’ reported that “a capital muster of players” were in attendance:

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Tuesday 02 December 1884

On Wednesday 3rd December Cattell, the honorary secretary, was able to announce at the first general meeting “that matches have been arranged with such clubs as Doncaster, Leeds Parish Church, Holbeck, Dodworth, Derby County, Huddersfield and Barnsley.” Three days later the new team made its debut at Doncaster where predictably it suffered its first defeat by 2 tries and 11 minors to 2 minors.

Following the fixture with Nottingham on 10 January 1885 the ‘Yorkshire Post’ noted that “The Sheffield club turned out two teams (which) augurs well for the future of the new organisation.” Even better was the news that both teams had enjoyed their first wins – the first team at Brightside and the A team at Nottingham. There were promising signs that within that pool were some players with potential. After the match against Pontefract two weeks later the same newspaper felt able to comment that although the ‘blades’ were “rather easily defeated their play begins to show improvement.”  Aware of its limitations the club did not enter the Yorkshire Cup competition. (It is interesting to note that three Sheffield football clubs were given the nickname of the Blades over the course of history. First Wednesday FC in 1867, then the Sheffield RUFC and finally for keeps, Sheffield United in 1889).

The first AGM was held in the St Paul’s schoolroom on Wednesday 2 September. It was reported that a new and improved ground had been taken on Ecclesall Road, Hunter’s Bar for 1885/86. It had also been possible to arrange a stronger fixture-list. Alfred Cattell continued as honorary secretary and the Reverend J.H. Twining was elected as captain.

It soon became clear that when the club was able to field its strongest XV they were capable of testing the strongest opponents. Cattell needed them to be a strong combination if rugby was going to make a big impression on Sheffield in a very short time. To help achieve that, three fixtures were booked to take place at the town’s most noted sports ground on Bramall Lane. A practice was held at Brightside on 5 September before the season got underway the following Saturday. They did well in the opening matches, putting up a good show against Leeds Parish Church at Crown Point on 28 September before losing by a goal, a try and five minors to two minors.

According to the ‘Sheffield Independent’ 5 October 1885 that weekend’s rugby match at Bramall Lane was the first since 1878:

‘Sheffield Independent’ 5 October 1885
Sheffield Independent – Tuesday 06 October 1885

To popularise a game that was said in the ‘Leeds Times’ to be “at present absent from the minds of the majority of players in Sheffield”, the match against Huddersfield on 3 October was played at Bramall Lane – the first ever game of Rugby to be played there seven years. For ‘Centre-Forward’ in the ‘Sheffield Independent’ the match provided the public with “an opportunity of judging the merits of the two codes of rules”. Recognising that, the club stated its intention of presenting everyone attending with a copy of the laws of the rugby game for them to study.  That would have require a lot of copies as the ’Yorkshire Post’ reported that there were 2,000 present to see Huddersfield suffer an unexpected defeat by a goal, a try and two minors to a goal and a minor.

One week later a young Sheffield team again travelled to Leeds where they beat Holbeck. According to the ‘Yorkshire Post’ columnist “Sheffield gave still further proof of the likelihood of their becoming in time a really first-class lot.”

Bramall Lane’s second fixture was against Thornes, a Wakefield-based club that had won the Yorkshire Cup four seasons earlier. Originally scheduled for 31 October, the match had to be postponed, bad weather having left the pitch waterlogged. It was re-arranged for the afternoon of Monday 16 November when there was only a moderate attendance to see Thornes dominate proceedings to win by 2 goals, a try and 9 minors to three minors.

After Sheffield put up a gallant struggle at home before being defeated by Leeds Parish Church by a try and five minors to a minor on 7 November, a local journalist wrote that the “Sheffield Rugbeians have a glorious future before them.” (source unknown)

Bramall Lane provided the venue for the visit of arguably the North’s leading rugby club, Manchester, on Monday 14 December. After losing heavily at Whalley Range a month earlier (by a goal, a try and six minors to three minors) the ‘blades’  once again rose to the occasion, winning by a goal, a try and two minors to two tries and a minor. ‘Centre-Forward’, writing in the ‘Sheffield Independent’ thought that a deserved victory would “give an impetus to the club to persevere, and another season I have no doubt they will to hold their own against the best clubs that can be brought against them.”

Recognising certain strains within the club ‘Centre-Forward’ wrote in the ‘Sheffield Independent’ on Tuesday 22 December that “it is most difficult for the secretary of any club to get the best men to go away from home so often as the Rugby players have to do on account of there being no opponents in the town”. Something was not right and the promise of the first half of the season was rapidly lost as defeat followed defeat in the New Year.

According to the ‘Nottingham Journal’ (2 February) on Saturday 30 January Sheffield should have met Nottingham at the County Ground in Derby. This was to have been the first rugby match since Derby County’s rugby team had collapsed but Sheffield never arrived. In their absence the Nottingham players with the aid of a few locals arranged a scratch Association match which can hardly have helped the rugby cause. It appears that Sheffield lost to Heckmondwike at home that day.

Hopes of progress in their first and as it proved only entry into the Yorkshire Cup did not last long either. Drawn to face a relatively unknown village club, Alverthorpe from near Wakefield, away at the end of February, they contrived to lose by a try and six minors to nil. There seemed little left to excite the players or supporters before the season ended.

Cattell’s play drew attention and he was chosen as a reserve for Yorkshire against Durham at Hull on 14 November 1885 and Northumberland at Newcastle two weeks later. D.D. Dryden who was appearing in the Sheffield three-quarter line had played full-back for the South the previous season while appearing for Tiverton and Devon.

The club AGM was held on Wednesday 5 May at the Maunche Hotel. It was reported that fixtures for 1886/87 had been arranged with Hull, Manchester, Huddersfield, Leeds, Nottingham, Doncaster and Goole. Alfred Cattell took over as captain. The problem in the summer of 1886 was that Bramall Lane vetoed Sheffield RUFC from playing at the ground in the future:

Athletic News – Tuesday 06 July 1886

Colonel Vickers who is better known as the co-founder of Hallam FC (1860) came to the rugby club’s aid when they had no ground to play on in 1886; the problem was solved in early October when Colonel Vickers allowed the use of the well-known Hyde Park Grounds but on the condition that a ‘gate’ could not be taken. The Grounds had been bought by the Hallamshire Volunteers in May 1886, since when they had been used as a parade ground:

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Tuesday 19 October 1886

The report of the match against Leeds Parish Church at Crown Point on 16 October in the ‘Leeds Times’ described the outcome as a phenomenal defeat for the visitors. The ‘Parishioners’ had beaten a Sheffield team missing four regulars by 10 goals, 6 tries and 8 minors to nil, which the paper thought was “surely sufficient to cause the Sheffielders to altogether ‘hide their diminished heads’ and play Rugby football no more.”

A weakened team became a normal feature of Sheffield’s matches. At Selby on 11 December they lost by 2 goals, 6 tries and 4 minors to nil.

Snow and ice disrupted the game in the New Year; postponements on 18 January, 1887.

On Saturday 22 January 1887, Huddersfield was listed as the opposition at Hyde Park. Because of the block on taking a ‘gate’ there, Sheffield’s funds were very low. To ease the financial pressure the match was switched to Fartown where the Sheffield club could take the proceeds as the ‘home’ side. Only eight Sheffielders travelled which led the ‘Leeds Mercury’ to comment that “The Rugby organisation in Sheffield seems to be on the wane.” The visiting team had to be made up with local substitutes. The numbers were equalised at 13-a-side but there the equality ended as Huddersfield won by 6 goals, 2 tries and 8 minors to 2 minors. Two weeks later there was a better turnout, thirteen travelled to Ashton-under-Lyne where a one-sided game produced another heavy defeat by a goal, 7 tries and 9 minors to a minor.

On the following Saturday, 12 February, the visit of Doncaster to Hyde Park was called off seemingly without any notification to the Sheffield public.They did not enter the Yorkshire Cup.

It would be fifteen years before a new rugby club would be formed to carry what would be by then a city’s name. By then Cattell had left teaching and embarked upon a career in business which saw him become the managing director of a steel company, rise through local politics to become Lord Mayor of Sheffield in 1917/18.

Alderman Alfred Cattell, Sheffield Lord Mayor. Sheffield Yearbook and Record 1918 (page 69) (Local Studies ref. 032. 74 SST)

In the sporting world he also assumed the chairmanship of Sheffield United FC:

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Wednesday 19 July 1899

Sheffield Rugby Union Football Club Fixtures and Results 1884/85

6 Dec 1884      Doncaster – @ Belle Vue Doncaster 2 tries and 11 minors to 2 minors

13 Dec 1884    Leeds PC

20 Dec 1884    Holbeck

10 Jan 1885     Nottingham -@Brightside Lane

17 Jan 1885     Derby Count – @Derby Derby won by a goal to 2 tries

24 Jan 1885     Pontefract

7 Feb 1885      Doncaster

14 Feb 1885    Nottingham – Sheffield won

7 Mar 1885     Hull

Mar 1885        Holbeck

4 Apr 1885      Huddersfield ES

6 Apr 1885      Pontefract EM

25 Apr 1885    Hull

Sheffield Rugby Union Football Club Fixtures and Results 1885/86

12 Sep 1885    Halifax?

28 Sep 1885    Leeds PC – @Leeds Sheffield lost by a goal, a try and 5 minors to 2 minors

3 Oct 1885      Huddersfield – @Bramall Lane Sheffield goal, try & 2 minors to goal & minor

10 Oct 1885    Holbeck – Sheffield won

12 Oct 1885    Halifax Free Wanderers?

17 Oct 1885    Mirfield – @Hunter’s Bar

24 Oct 1885    Ossett

31 Oct 1885    Thornes – rescheduled for 16 November

7 Nov 1885     Leeds PC – @Hunter’s Bar Sheffield lost by a try and five minors to a minor

14 Nov 1885   Manchester @ Whalley Range Sheffield lost by goal, try & 6 minors to 3 minors

16 Nov 1885   Thornes @Bramall Lane Thornes won by 2 goals, a try and 9 minors to a minor

21 Nov 1885   Thornes

28 Nov 1885   York

5 Dec 1885      Heckmondwike – @Heckmondwike Sheffield lost 1 goal and seven minors to nil

14 Dec 1885    Manchester – @ Bramall Lane Sheffield won by a goal, a try & two minors to 2 tries & a minor

19 Dec 1885    Halifax Free Wanderers

Dec 1885         Cleckheaton

1 Jan 1886       Castleford – @Hunter’s Bar, Sheffield lost by 7 goals and 14 minors to 1 minor

23 Jan 1886     Castleford – @Castleford Cas won by 4 goals, 3 tries, 11 minors to a minor

30 Jan 1886     Heckmondwike/Nottingham – @Sheffield H eck won by 4 gls & 6 mins to 1 min

6 Feb 1886      Mirfield

27 Feb 1886    Alverthorpe (YCR1) – @Alverthorpe Sheffield lost by a try and six minors to nil

9 Mar 1886     Salterhebble

13 Mar 1886   Goole

27 Mar 1886   Hull – Sheffield lost by a goal & 4 tries to nil

3 Apr 1886      Cleckheaton?

10 Apr 1886    Salterhebble

17 Apr 1886    Doncaster

24 Apr 1886    York (ES)

Sheffield Rugby Union Football Club Fixtures and Results 1886/87

25 Sep 1886    Hull

2 Oct 1886      Manchester Free Wanderers

9 Oct 1886      Selby

16 Oct 1886    Leeds PC – @Leeds Sheffield lost by 10 goals, 6 tries and 8 minors to nil

23 Oct 1886    Goole

30 Oct 1886    Huddersfield

6 Nov 1886     Ashton-under-Lyne – @ Sheffield goal & 2 minors to 3 tries & a minor

20 Nov 1886   Nottingham – @Sheffield 5 minors to 3 minors; a fair attendance

27 Nov 1886   Doncaster

11 Dec 1886    Selby – @Selby Selby won 2 goals, 6 tries and 4 minors to nil

18 Dec 1886    Leeds PC

22 Jan 1887     Huddersfield @ Fartown Huddersfield won 6 goals, 2 tries and 8 minors to 2 minors

5 Feb 1887      Ashton-under-Lyne @Ashton Sheffield lost by a goal, 7 tries and 9 minors to a minor

12 Feb 1887    Doncaster – not played

5 Mar 1887     Hull

12 Mar 1887   Holbeck

19 Mar 1887   Goole

By the end of 1888 the Sheffield Rugby Club was described as ‘now defunct’:

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Tuesday 18 December 1888

In Alfred Cattell’s 1933 obituary it is mentioned that “in his old political fighting days he seemed to be always at daggers drawn with William Clegg”. William was the younger brother of Charles Clegg with whom he played at Sheffield Wednesday. After retiring from football through injury, William became president of Sheffield Wednesday and vice president of Sheffield and Hallamshire Football Association. In a successful political career, he became Lord Mayor of Sheffield in 1898 and was known as ‘the uncrowned king of Sheffield’.  William Clegg was knighted in 1906.

The current Sheffield Rugby Union Football Club based at Abbeydale Sports Club in Sheffield, lists on its website a foundation date of 1902, so the rugby code took some fourteen years to recover enough popularity to launch a new full time Sheffield Rugby Club.

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Monday 15 December 1902

More information can be found about early Sheffield football , of both types, in ‘A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889: Speed, Science and Bottom’ by Martin Westby.