What Happened To The Teams That Competed In The First Ever FA Cup?

What Happened To The Teams That Competed In The First Ever FA Cup?
An 1863 photo of Forest FC - the London team that would go on to win the first FA Cup under the name Wanderers. Image courtesy of Wanderers FC.

Football fandom has long been about belonging to a tribe: this player was ours, and we quite liked him, then he was theirs for a bit, and we hated him, and now he's ours again, so we bloody love him. Meanwhile supporters talk of 'holding' trophies: capturing them, owning them, protecting them from others.

London's footy fans may not know that FA Cup — the world's oldest football tournament — in a way, really does belong to the capital city. The first ever FA Cup, of 1871-72, was competed by only 15 teams, eight of which were London sides with six of the remaining seven hailing from towns on the outskirts of modern-day Greater London.

Partly this was because the Football Association was born in London — in 1863 in a pub in Holborn. The FA gradually managed to codify the sport by persuading clubs to sign up to a set of standardised rules — rules which would evolve and ultimately govern the game worldwide.

Charles Alcock, the FA secretary whose tournament was modelled on matches he'd played at public school. Photo courtesy of Wanderers FC.

The brainchild of the FA's secretary Charles Alcock, the debut FA Cup was ultimately won by London side Wanderers in a match at the Kennington Oval. It's doubtful the play itself would have been recognisable as the beautiful game we enjoy today. This was a sport of low tactics, and no goalkeepers... or even crossbars.

This was an amateur sport played by gentleman enthusiasts; even the tournament's final was refereed by the head of the Inland Revenue. But this inaugural competition, with its strong London showing, was still a big result in the development of competitive football.

Almost all of the London teams of 1871-72 have vanished — but as they were all history-makers, we wanted to see what their fates had been.


Barnes got to the second round of the tournament. The club actually survives to this day, although only playing rugby union — a sport which blurred somewhat with football in the early days of both sports.

There are some who claim Barnes as the world's oldest club playing any type of football (including rugby football) — although it's probably safer to date its emergence to the 1860s.

A team of civil servants lines up to face Barcelona in a tour of 1921. Photo courtesy of Civil Service FC.

Civil Service

While they lost in the very first round of that very first FA Cup, Civil Service FC were playing a long game. Having celebrated their 150th birthday in 2013, they're the only surviving club considered a founder member of the FA.

Their long history means they've helped influence the sport across the world, and even take on — and beat — the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid. For almost a century they've played home games at a ground in Chiswick.

A side from Clapham scored the first ever FA Cup goal, thanks to this man, Jarvis Kenrick. Photo courtesy of Wanderers FC.

Clapham Rovers

The Rovers played football and rugby on alternating weeks in the parks of south-west London. In 1871-72, their player Jarvis Kenrick scored the first ever FA Cup goal in a 3-0 win away at Upton Park. The team went on to win the trophy in 1880, and survived much longer than most of the early FA Cup entrants — lasting almost until the first world war.

Crystal Palace

The original Crystal Palace FC came some time before the team which today plays in South Norwood. They were thrashed in the semi-finals of the first FA Cup, and met their demise later that decade, supposedly when the club's owners — also the proprietors of the Crystal Palace exhibition hall — got into financial trouble after being sued by their refreshment providers.

Hampstead Heathens

The Heathens' unceremonious departure from the first FA Cup was the last match they ever played; their brief rise and fall typical of the fleeting nature of early football clubs. Some of their players are believed to have renounced footy for 'respectable' careers, such as in the church.

Harrow Chequers

The Chequers failed to even get a team together for their FA Cup first-round match in 1871. But one of their players did go on to net the first ever FA Cup final goal — playing for the team Wanderers under the pseudonym AH Chequer.

Before the team folded, they contributed a player to the England national side: Reginald de Courtenay Welch. (Yep, that really was once the name of a top-level footballer.)

A 1900 Olympic football match between France and Upton Park - competing on behalf of Great Britain.

Upton Park

While this on-and-off east London club didn't make many waves in the inaugural FA Cup, it did go on to win an extraordinary and slightly baffling honour: the Olympic Games. They were allowed to represent Great Britain at the 1900 tournament in Paris. So, you win some, you lose some.

A Wanderers player controls the ball in a 2012 rematch of the 1872 FA Cup final, played once again at the Oval stadium. Photo courtesy of Wanderers FC.


The first FA Cup final was a match between two clubs which still exist. Played at the Oval in front of about 2,000 people, and with a familiar Saturday-afternoon kick-off time of 3pm (ish), London side Wanderers beat Kent's Royal Engineers 1-0. The result was all the more impressive given that the much-vaunted Engineers were pioneering a radical new footballing manoeuvre called… 'passing'.

Wanderers — whose name referred to their lack of permanent home ground — retained the trophy the next year, also scoring a hat-trick of three consecutive FA Cup wins later that decade. Their fortunes waxed and waned. They were dissolved in 1887, but reformed in 2009 in aid of charitable causes, and now play near Croydon.

Last Updated 14 April 2023