SIR CHARLES CLEGG (1851 - 1937)

"The first man knighted for services to football"

In completing the article on the 1912 F.A.Cup Final replay at Bramall Lane I came across the name of Charles Clegg who as F.A. Chairman presented the trophy to the Barnsley team after their victory over West Bromwich Albion. (The Lord Mayor of London who was due to present the trophy after the first match at Crystal Palace did not want to travel up north). The name seem to jog a distant memory or two and so I did a bit of research on his life. There is a section in Wednesday by Keith Farnsworth (Sheffield City Libraries 1982 page 15 - 18) that details parts of his life and is well worth reading. The section below is in addition to this.

Charles Clegg who died 26th June 1937 at the age of 87 became known in the years following the 1912 Final as "the great old man of football" and at the time of his death had served the Football Association for over 51 years

A Sheffield Wednesday Director and President  he played for Wednesday and Sheffield F.C. and had the honour on one occasion of playing for England in the first international with Scotland in 1872. It was a bitter experience. Clegg scarcely got a kick and became convinced that his mostly old school and varsity team mates were deliberately not passing to him: as he recalled, ‘Some members of the England eleven were awful snobs and not much troubled about a “man fra' Sheffield”’ (J. A. H. Catton, Wickets and Goals, 1926, 171). Charles Clegg also refereed international matches and was the referee for the 1882 F.A. Cup Final between Old Etonians and Blackburn Rovers at Kennington Oval (London) (The Old Etonians won 1 - 0) and the 1892 F.A. Cup Final between West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa. (the Baggies won 3 - 0)   He also instrumental in the foundation of Sheffield United F.C. (1889) and was to serve at various times as both Chairman and President of the club. In 1890 he was elected Chairman of the F.A.

Charles took after his father William and was a militant teetotaller and non smoker as well as a person of fierce religious convictions. It has been said that "under Clegg, the Sheffield Wednesday board took a dim view of any player whose drinking or visits to pubs were deemed inappropriate, and there was a pretty restricted view of what was appropriate...." and Farnsworth in his previously mentioned book notes Clegg's frequently quoted maxim of "nobody ever gets lost on a straight road"

Farnsworth also notes that Charles Clegg was a fierce opponent of professionalism in football. He had a great fear that the game would be destroyed and corrupted  by the introduction of elements who sought to exploit football for their own financial gain. (an interesting point especially given the recent developments in British football). He also believed that the game should and must be administered by amateurs who must ensure that the running of the game is impartial and above board. Above all the persons who administer the game must be seen as fit and proper persons who are in effect trustees of the game - they must retain the confidence of the public in all their dealings.   

In 1923, Clegg was elected as FA president. Still president of the SHFA and on the Sheffield United and Wednesday boards, his attendance at committee meetings became more sporadic. He was in his seventies. He was bowed by personal tragedies. His eldest son, William, who had joined the family law firm, died in 1927. Clegg himself seems to have had a stroke the same year. His younger son Colin died in 1929. His wife's death in 1933 was a particularly severe blow. But despite these setbacks he retained a massive moral influence over the game. He was knighted in 1927 for ‘services to the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Labour’. This could have been for work with local youth and employment committees: most assumed that Baldwin had recommended football's first knighthood.


As we have seen Clegg's approach to football was of a piece with his Methodist beliefs and commitments. He and Lady Clegg were temperance activists: he was secretary and later president of the British Temperance League. As late as the 1940s, accordingly, Sheffield United players seeking to make a living outside the game as publicans were being driven out of the club. He remained a fierce opponent of gambling: hence football's unavailing attempts to prevent gambling on the game. He was a regular chapel-goer and inaugurated a special annual service for footballers. He was a magistrate and widely respected official receiver in bankruptcy for Sheffield. Sir Charles Clegg died at his home, Clifton House, 32 Cavendish Road, Sheffield, on 26 June 1937, and was buried four days later in Fulwood churchyard.

32 Cavendish Road Sheffield - Photograph taken January 2012

Incidentally The next England player to receive a knighthood was Stanley Mathews thirty eight years later. 

This photograph was taken on 2nd March 1878 soon after Sheffield Wednesday had beaten Attercliffe in the final of The Sheffield Challenge Cup. Fourth from the left on the back row is Charles Clegg and to his right, (third from left) is his brother William. Keith Farnsworth states that this is possibly the earliest surviving picture of a Sheffield Wednesday team. Charles had earlier in his career played for local clubs Broomhill, Perseverance F.C. and Sheffield Albion 

Charles Clegg, born John Charles on June 15th 1850, was the eldest son of Alderman William Johnson Clegg and after leaving school , he joined the firm of Sheffield solicitors that was headed by his father. He was admitted to the profession of a  solicitor in 1872

The 1881 Census shows Charles, married and living at Dwelling: 4 Wharncliffe Road    Census Place: Ecclesall Bierlow, York, England

FHLF: 1342119 PRO Ref: RG11 Piece/Folio 4633/91 Page Number 26 

SURNAME FORENAME Age Rel Occupation Place of Birth County of Birth
CLEGG Jno. C 30 Head Town Councillor/Solicitor Sheffield Yorkshire
CLEGG Mary 31 Wife   Ridgeway Derbyshire
CLEGG Chas.W. 7 Son   Sheffield Yorkshire
CLEGG Colin 3 Son   Sheffield Yorkshire
CLEGG Edith M 1 Daughter   Sheffield Yorkshire
KNOWLES Ruth 17 Servant Gen.Servant Clay Cross Derbyshire
DEWSBURY Elizabeth 13 servant Gen.Servant Sheffield Yorkshire

4 Wharncliffe Road Sheffield - Photograph taken January 2012

He married his wife MARY (nee SAYLES) nearly nine years earlier in the September quarter of 1872 in Gorton, Manchester (GRO ref Volume 8d Page 637). The address of Wharncliffe Road is in the Broomhall area of Sheffield and was in the late nineteenth century an area where some of Sheffield's most prominent citizens lived.


The 1901 Census shows Charles still in practice as a Solicitor and his eldest son Charles W. seems to have followed his father into the profession. They have moved house in the intervening period and were now living on a road in the Nether Edge/Brincliffe area of Sheffield  

Dwelling: 32 Cavendish Road    Census Place: Ecclesall, Sheffield York, England

PRO Ref: RG13 Piece/Folio 4358 Page Number 

SURNAME FORENAME Age Rel Occupation Place of Birth
CLEGG John. C 50 Head Solicitor Sheffield Yorkshire
CLEGG Mary 50 Wife   Ridgeway Derbyshire
CLEGG Charles.W. 27 Son Solicitor Sheffield Yorkshire
CLEGG Edith M 21 Dau   Sheffield Yorkshire
COOPER Annie 19 Servant Gen.Domestic Unknown

The younger brother COLIN lists his occupation as Civil Engineer and is living in Battersea London.   

The 1911 UK Census has this information on Charles

Name John Charles Clegg
Relationship to Head of Household Head
Condition Married Gender Male
Age 60 Estimated Year of Birth 1851
Occupation Solicitor
Employed Yes Working at Home No
Place of Birth Sheffield
Enumerator Information
Address 32 Cavendish Road Parish Ecclesall Type of Building Private House
Number of Rooms 11 Inhabited Y
Reference RG14PN27789 RG78PN1591 RD509 SD5 ED11 SN243 Administrative County Yorkshire (West Riding) Registration District Ecclesall Bierlow Registration Sub District Ecclesall South Enumeration District 11


The Scotsman - Thursday, 1st July 1937, page 13 gave the following report - the address of H Tyler Lang is a classic


Service in Sheffield Cathedral The national Football-Associations of Great Britain, fifty County Associations, and many League clubs were represented in Sheffield yesterday at the funeral of Sir Charles Clegg, president of the Football Association. Sheffield" Cathedral was crowded for the service, which was conducted by the City Provost. In his address the Rev H. Tyler Lang, a Methodist minister, said that they had to thank God for Sir Charles's work to maintain the integrity of sport and to keep football clean from prostitution-.


In Loving Memory of


BORN June 15th 1850

PASSED ON June 26th 1937

In Loving Memory of


The beloved wife of JOHN CHARLES CLEGG Kt

BORN 1st April 1850

CALLED HOME 22nd August 1933

A photograph of the family grave and its fine memorial can be found on the Clegg Family Page


Wednesday by Keith Farnsworth (SCL 1982) page 15 - 18

Sheffield Wednesday - A Complete Record 1867 - 1987 by  Keith Farnsworth

Mud, Sweat and Beers: A Cultural History of Sport and Alcohol Tony Collins & Wray Vamplew: Berg, 2002 Reviewed by Andrew McNeill

Rothman's Football Yearbook

The Times Thursday 1st July 1937 (page 19 Issue 47725)

The Manchester Guardian dated 28th June 1937

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This page was last updated on 12/01/14 16:27