Edinburgh Academical Football Club History
'The cradle of rugby football in Scotland'
The Edinburgh Academical Football Club (EAFC) is the oldest rugby club in Scotland (in fact it is the oldest “football” club of any code predating Queens Park by ten years) and the second oldest in the World. Their (Our?) ground at Raeburn Place, located a mere 10 minutes walk from Princes Street, is in the Edinburgh New Town area of Stockbridge, can truly be said to be the cradle of rugby football in Scotland.
The Club’s name omits “rugby” from its title as its formation predates the split in rugby and association rules which occurred in the 1860’s.
The Club was formed in 1857 and was only open to former pupils of the Edinburgh Academy “or those with an association”. The first Captain of the Club, Alexander Crombie, was a member through association. He and his brother Francis had moved to Edinburgh in 1854 from Durham. Francis joined the Academy as a pupil but Alexander had already left school. Apparently neither brother had played football at Durham but they brought with them a knowledge of the rules of football as played at Rugby School and this they passed on. Francis is recorded as being the first Academy Captain of Football and Alexander (or Joe as he was known) became actively involved in the formation of EAFC, which he captained for a further eight years.
The first Club match in Scotland “kicked off” on 26th December 1857 – and finished three weeks later. The game was played against some students from Edinburgh University and it had been decided to play until the best of 7 “goals” had been scored (a try only allowing a kick at goal). This target was not achieved until the fourth Saturday of the game and the game was won by EAFC.
Former pupils of the Edinburgh Academy and members of EAFC were instrumental in the establishment of international rugby, with the first game being played at Raeburn Place on 27th March 1871, the formation of the RFU, SRU (or Scottish Football Union as it was known until 1924) and the IRB and the conception of the Calcutta Cup (the first match for this was again played at Raeburn Place in 1879). A former player and future Club President, Bill Maclagan, went on to Captain London Scottish and the first official British (Lions) touring team in 1891.
The Club has produced over 100 internationalists, more than 1 in 10 of all Scottish internationalists and more than any other club in Scotland, It has also provided two of the three of Scotland’s “Grand Slam” winning Captains in Gordon MacPherson in 1925 and David Sole in 1990. The biography of these and many other distinguished officers and players of the Club can be seen in the “Club Legends” section.
Sir Walter Scott was a founding Director of the Edinburgh Academy and his words are apt for many members of the Club that was formed out of that School.
“Then strip, lads, and to it, though sharp be the weather,
And if, by mischance, you should happen to fall,
There are worse things in life than a tumble in heather,
And Life is itself but a game of football.”