A brief history of South Yorkshire Schools football

There is no record of when or where inter school soccer first began. Before the formation of a National body games of football were taking place between schoolboy teams of elementary schools and, indeed, between teams of local associations.

In this respect Sheffield, London and Manchester were prominent. South London for example sent a team to play Sheffield in 1890 just one year after Sheffield's inauguration. It was reported that this game took place before a crowd of 6,000-9,000. In 1891 Manchester sent a team to play a 2-2 draw in front of an estimated 8,000 gate. The inaugural winners of Sheffields Clegg Shield, possibly the oldest school competition still in existence, Thurlstone Church  of England School returned home to be met by a brass band! It can be seen therefore that schools football was not only in existence but thriving before 1900.

The first steps towards a National Body were probably taken in 1904 at the annual conference of the NUT which was held in Llandudno that year. It was agreed there that a national competition should take place in aid of the NUT's benevolent fund. Fourteen associations agreed to take part. The competition was approved by the Football Association who stated they "did not seek to control schoolboy football". At this AGM were two Sheffield teachers CH Green and B. Creswick who was to become the first Chairman of the ESFA, a post which he held for the next 17 years. Bearing in mind that compulsory education for 5-13 year olds had only been established in 1870  and that it was only in 1902 that the Local Government Act  established the framework of Secondary Education the organisation of schools football was quickly on the scene. From the beginning the ESFA devoted itself to football for boys under the statutory school leaving age and in essence maintained this position until amalgamation with the Conference of English Senior School FA's in 1972.

The 1944 Education Act virtually reshaped educationby introducing a tripartite system of secondary schools, secondary modern, technical and Grammar. Many of the Grammar Schools which existed before this time played friendly matches with their First XI's (mainly sixth form boys). In the 1950's on order to offer higher standards to their better players a number of Counties formed teams mainly playing friendly matches in the Christmas and Easter holidays thus preserving the 'Corinthian' spirit and not interfere with 6th form studies. Early amongst these counties was Yorkshire. Yorkshire Grammar Schools FA was formed in 1954 largely due to the determination of two headteachers AC Harrison (Ecclesfield) and G Rush (Maltby). Indeed in its twenty years history YGSFA had only three Chairmen, the third being AH Jennings, who succeeded AC Harrison as Headteacher at Ecclesfield. Later in the 50's the FA was to invite a small number of boys from the county grammar schools FA's to attend the schools week which they held annually at Oxford and Cambridge Universities for players nominated by the public schools. It was from the coming together of staff at schools week that the Conference of English Grammar Schools was formed. Later with the and growth of the Comprehensive School movement this body was to rename itself the Conference of English Senior Schools FA and it was this body which after years of negotiations amalgamated with the ESFA in 1972. This brought the full age range of boys into the new national body and apart from the introduction of girls competitions in 1993 brought the ESFA to its present position as governing body for all County and Local Associations.

Within this framework South Yorkshire SFA came into being in 1972 when, following the reorganisation of local government the schools organisation was asked to follow suit and regroup into North, West and South Yorkshire SFAs, The East Riding formed Humberside. Sadly South Yorkshire received no help from the new authority which in any case lasted only until 1986 and has had to exist without the financial help that many other county schools sport bodies receive.

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