Crystal Palace F.C. (1861)

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Crystal Palace
Full nameCrystal Palace Football Club
Dissolved1876; 144 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. The club is thought to have disbanded around 1876 due to a cost-cutting measure by the Crystal Palace Company.[2]

The book called "Palace at the Palace"[3] released in 2018 has made claims that the original amateur club is directly linked to the professional Crystal Palace football club that exists today and currently competes in the Premier League. The book has provided supporting evidence that they should be regarded as the same club, 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 would make the current professional club the oldest professional football club in the world. However to date, the claims have not been officially ratified, although the current professional club does include the early years of the amateur club in its own chronicled history.


The club was formed in 1861[4] by the Crystal Palace Company who owned the Crystal Palace Exhibition building. It had been lobbied by existing members of the Crystal Palace Cricket Club to provide a continuation of sporting activities during the winter months. All of the football club’s management-committee and most of its original players were previously members of the Cricket Club, which had been founded in 1857[5] by the Crystal Palace Company and played on the same pitch within Crystal Palace Park.[6]

Commercial Structure

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.[7] 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.[8]


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.[9] Walter Cutbill and A. Cutbill were prominent members, and both former pupils at Forest School, a leading school in the early development of the game.[10]

Committee member and goalkeeper, Croydon-born wine merchant James Turner (1839-1922) became the first proper treasurer of the Football Association after its formation,[11] and numerous Palace players were influential committee-members of the F.A. during its formative decade.[12]

When international football commenced in 1870 and 1872, Crystal Palace footballers featured in both the official[13] and the ‘unofficial’[14] versions of the first-ever international games.

Four players from the club appeared for England:

Support of Association Rules

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.[15]. Delegates of the club attended every AGM of the Football Association for its first crucial decade, during which time the Laws of the game were evolved. In 1867 when only five delegates turned up at the AGM, it was only the vote of Crystal Palace’s representative Walter Cutbill (1844-1915) 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 offside were defeated by a single vote.[16]

Creation of the FA Cup

At the F.A. Committee meeting held on 16 October 1871 to discuss the creation of the FA Cup competition, Crystal Palace Club captain and share-registrar Denison Allport (1844-1931) proposed the formation of a committee to draw up the rules for the competition.[17] He was also part of the delegation which selected the trophy. Palace competed in that first competition, reaching the semi-final stage where they lost to the Royal Engineers after a replay.[18] The club 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

The Crystal Palace Company experienced a financial crisis in 1875 as a result of being sued by its refreshment contractor.[19] As a consequence it engaged in a number of cost-cutting measures among the attractions being offered in its park, one of which 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[20] and were also still on the management committee of the Football Association.[21]


The Crystal Palace Company began hosting the FA Cup Final on a regular basis in 1895[22] which was played at the sports stadium in Crystal Palace Park. The company then decided in 1905 to form a new football club to play at the stadium. The current Crystal Palace F.C. was formed as a professional outfit and played at the Cup Final venue until 1915.



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

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