Sheffield born forward Charles Clegg played for Sheffield F.C., Perseverance and Broomhill but his favoured club became Sheffield Wednesday. He and his brother William represented the Sheffield Association in the first inter-association match against the FA at Bramall Lane on 2nd December 1871. The game was won 3-1 by Sheffield, and Clegg would become a regular feature in inter-association matches against London and Glasgow.The highlight of his career came when he represented England in the first international played on 30th November 1872 against Scotland at Partick. However he did not enjoy the experience later stating that his team mates were ‘snobs from the south who had no use for a lawyer from Sheffield’.
“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'” This would prove to be the only cap that he would earn. He and William would go on to become the first brothers to win English caps when his brother earned his first cap the next year. In the Football Annual of 1875 by Charles Alcock, he was described as “very fast with the ball, passing it with great judgment and, when within sight of the enemy’s goal-posts, an unerring kick.”
Towards the end of his career he earned one last distinction. When it was decided to experiment with the first floodlit match he and his brother were chosen to captain the two sides involved. On the night of 15th October 1878 a crowd of 20,000 turned up at Bramall Lane to see the Reds (captained by Charles) beaten by the Blues 2-0. The game was declared a huge success.
After finishing his playing career Charles became a referee. During the 1880’s it was said that there were few major Sheffield matches that were not refereed by either him or his brother, William. He also was put in charge of two FA Cup finals, in 1882 and 1892 as well as the 1888 match between Scotland and Wales and the 1893 match between England and Scotland. He also became prevalent in local football politics. In the mid-1880s he became the Chairman of Sheffield Wednesday. He also became chairman of Sheffield Football Association in 1885 earning a place on the FA Council. He subsequently played a crucial role in uniting the Sheffield and Hallamshire associations. In 1889, in his role as president of Sheffield United Cricket Club, he proposed that a football club should be based at Bramall Lane. It was named after the cricket club and so Sheffield United Football Club was born on 22nd March 1889. He would also become the president and chairman of the new club.
Charles Clegg became chairman of the Football Association in 1890. It was a turbulent time in English football. Professionalism, something that Charles vehemently opposed throughout his life, had been legalised in 1885 and the Football League had been created the season before. During his years in charge, Charles would oversee the Football Association’s entry into FIFA in 1905 and subsequent exit in 1919. After re-entering in the early 1920s they would leave FIFA once again in 1927 over the thorny issue of professional payments.
He also became President of the FA in 1923 after the death of Lord Kinnaird. No other person before or since has held both positions. He was knighted by King George V in 1927. Although the citation did not mention football, he is generally regarded as the first person to receive a knighthood for services to football. Charles Clegg died on 26th June 1937, barely two months after seeing his beloved Wednesday fall into the second division. His funeral was held at Sheffield Cathedral on 30th June and was attended by representatives from both national FA’s and all the county FA’s of England as well as a number of clubs. He was buried at Fulwood Churchyard in Sheffield.