Clegg, Sir (John) Charles

Bor on 15 June 1850 at Sheffield, the son of a prominent citizen, from his early years he was a keen athlete, especially as a quarter-miler. Turning to soccer, he and his brother William both played for Sheffield Wednesday and in later life 'enjoyed massive local prestige, dating back to their footballing careers in the 1870s'. In 1872 he played in the first England v. Scotland international. In the same year he qualified as a solicitor. In 1882 he refereed the first FA cup final featuring a team of working-class professionals and quickly became a leading figure in the administration of the game: President of the Sheffield and Hallamshire Football Association, 1886, with a seat on the national FA council and FA chairman, 1890. Having abandoned his opposition to the professionalization of the game, he concentrated on controlling its financial aspects, e.g. by establishing a maximum wage for players and on opposing corruption, e.g. when Manchester United was guilty of trying to bribe opponents. He was active in setting up several disciplinary committees. Having experienced its baleful effect on Sheffield athletics in the 1890s, he strongly opposed gambling and was also a temperance advocate. In 1923 he became FA president and was knighted in 1927 in recognition of his influence on the game in a period of growing professionalism. He and his wife were lifelong Methodists and temperance advocates. He died in Sheffield on 26 June 1937. Clegg House was named after him.

See also under Sport.


'Cleggwas a formidable character, typical in many ways of the class of tough, northern, nonconformist, professional liberal that was so impotant in Victorian society. He was something of a puritan. He was a prominent temperance activist, which partly explains why even after the last war Sheffield United transferred or sacked any player who opened a pub. He hated gambling - partly on principle, partly because his experience as a top local athlete convinced him that if a sport involved gambling, it involved possible bribery, intimidation and match-rigging, which were the death of true sport. He was also at first hostile to professional football, believing that one should need no incentive other than the love of the game. But perhaps because he did not belong to the quixotic, Corinthian breed of early administrators, he moderated his views pragmatically, and accepted professionalism… He felt that so long as amateurs controlled the game, it could not be corrupted by filthy lucre.'

N. Fishwick, From Clegg to Clegg House (1986), p.5

  • Times 1 July 1937
  • N. Fishwick, From Clegg to Clegg House (1986)
  • Oxford DNB