Whether as a curious byproduct of Wrexham AFC’s recent high-profile exposure, or simply a point of interest within the vast mythos of footballing history, the term “Club of Pioneers” may be familiar to you.
But what may be less clear is the purpose, definition, and membership list of this special—and highly exclusive—organisation.
So, whether the term itself piques your curiosity, or you’re simply looking for some groundhopping inspiration, here’s what you need to know.
What Is the Club of Pioneers?
The Club of Pioneers was founded in 2013 by the oldest association football club in England (and, indeed, the world): Sheffield FC.
It is intended to be a formal network of each FIFA nation’s oldest surviving club, with a focus on preserving and promoting football’s rich global history across the professional, semi-professional, and amateur game.
To “join”, prospective members must be able to prove that they are the oldest active club within their FIFA-recognised national jurisdiction. They must also:
- Still be competing (at any level, professionally or otherwise) today
- Have existed continuously as a sporting organisation since inception (gaps due to external interruptions, such as war, are allowed)
- “Live and support the values of the game and amateur football: integrity, respect, and community”
At the time of writing, there are 26 members of the Club of Pioneers spread across five continents.
The Club of Pioneers Tournament
Membership of the Club of Pioneers isn’t just an honorary title, either. As well as commemorative friendlies and, increasingly, virtual face-offs, official tournaments between club members are played on an ad-hoc basis. These regularly feature staff, fans, and former players of the participating teams, with Chris Waddle, Carlton Palmer, and John Beresford all among previous attendees.
To date, there have been five previous iterations of the tournament:
|Year||Host Ground||Winner||Other Participants|
|2013||Home of Football Stadium (Sheffield, England)||Sheffield FC (England)||Recreativo de Huelva (Spain), Genoa (Italy)|
|2014||Sportpark Spanjaardslaan (Haarlem, Netherlands)||Sheffield FC (England)||Koninklijke HFC (Netherlands), Royal Antwerp (Belgium)|
|2014||Nuevo Colombino (Huelva, Spain)||Recreativo de Huelva (Spain)||Koninklijke HFC (Netherlands), Genoa (Italy)|
|2016||Bosuilstadion (Antwerp, Belgium)||Koninklijke HFC (Netherlands)||Royal Antwerp (Belgium), Fola Esch (Luxembourg)|
|2019||Sportpark Spanjaardslaan (Haarlem, Netherlands)||FK Sveikata (Lithuania)||Koninklijke HFC (Netherlands), Royal Antwerp (Belgium)|
However, according to Richard Sheldon, club secretary at Sheffield FC, there are no plans in place for any upcoming tournaments.
Who Is in the Club of Pioneers?
Although only seven clubs have taken part in the Pioneers Cup so far, there are currently 26 recognised members. They are:
|Sheffield FC||England||1857||Home of Football Stadium (Sheffield)||8|
|Wrexham||Wales||1864||The Racecourse (Wrexham)||5*|
|Queens Park||Scotland||1867||Ochilview Park (Falkirk)**||2|
|Kjøbenhavns Boldklub***||Denmark||1878||Peter Bangs Vej (Copenhagen)||5|
|St Gallen||Switzerland||1879||Kybun Park (St Gallen)||1|
|Koninklijke HFC||Netherlands||1879||Sportpark Spanjaardslaan (Haarlem)||3|
|Cliftonville||Northern Ireland||1879||Solitude (Belfast)||1|
|Royal Antwerp||Belgium||1880||Bosuilstadion (Antwerp)||1|
|Savages FC||South Africa||1882||Collegians (Pietermaritzburg)||?|
|Hong Kong FC||Hong Kong||1886||Hong Kong FC Stadium (Happy Valley)||1|
|Yokohama C&AC||Japan||1886||YC&AC Field (Yokohama)||?|
|North Shore United||New Zealand||1887||Allen Hill Stadium (Auckland)||2|
|Académica de Coimbra||Portugal||1887||Estádio Cidade de Coimbra (Coimbra)||3|
|BFC Germania||Germany||1888||Sportsplatz Götzstrasse (Berlin)||10|
|Mohun Bagan||India||1889||Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan / Mohun Bagan Ground (both Kolkata)||1|
|Recreativo de Huelva||Spain||1889||Nuevo Colombino (Huelva)||4|
|St George’s FC||Malta||1890||Centenary Stadium (Cospicua)||2|
|Albion FC||Uruguay||1891||Estadio Parque Dr. Enrique Falco Lichtemberger (Montevideo)||1|
|Tvoroyrar Boltfelag||Faroe Islands||1892||Við Stórá Trongisvágur (Tvøroyri)||1|
|Santiago Wanderers||Chile||1892||Estadio Elías Figueroa Brander (Valparaiso)||2|
|Genoa||Italy||1893||Luigi Ferraris (Genoa)||2|
|Odds Ballklubb||Norway||1894||Skagerak Arena (Skien)||1|
|First Vienna||Austria||1894||Hohe Warte (Vienna)||2|
|Fola Esch||Luxembourg||1906||Stade Émile Mayrisch (Esch-sur-Alzette)||1|
|FK Ljuboten||North Macedonia||1919||AMS Sportski Centar (Tetovo)||3|
|FK Sveikata||Lithuania||1919||Kybartai Stadium (Kybartai)||3|
* – Although Welsh, Wrexham plays in the English football pyramid.
** – Temporary home for 2022/23 season.
*** – KB merged with B 1903 in 1991 to form FC Copenhagen. However, KB still play as an amateur organisation in the Danish fifth tier.
Who Else Can Join?
Entry to the Club of Pioneers is open to anyone who meets the eligibility criteria, although claims must be substantiated by clear proof. In Europe, for instance, the following clubs could be eligible:
|Bosnia & Herzegovina||Zrinjski Mostar||1905|
|Bulgaria||Dorostol Silistra (Disputed)||1902|
|Czech Republic||Slavia Prague||1892|
|Croatia||HNK Rijeka / HNK Segesta||Both 1906|
|Hungary||Műegyetemi / III. Kerületi||Both 1897|
|Republic of Ireland||Athlone Town (Disputed)||1887|
|Israel||Maccabi Tel Aviv||1906|
* – AEK Athens (Istanbul), Panionios (Izmir), and Apollon Smyrnis (Izmir) were each formed in Turkey prior to Kurtuluş, but all relocated to Athens in the 1920s following the Greco-Turkish War.