Founded by a team of enthusiastic sportsmen drawn mainly from Sale Cricket Club, Sale Football Club was founded in 1861 and is the fifth oldest surviving rugby club and the most prominent in the history of the North West (and no, that’s not just us being biased). Over the years, our players have become renowned for their mobility and powers of endurance, which when allied with their bountiful enthusiasm render Sale FC invincible. In the very early days of the Club, rules were usually deemed unnecessary and those that were enforced were often made up on the spot. As the game began to evolve however, the need for specified regulations became apparent and in 1865 the Minute Book was created stipulating the ten rules to be followed by all players. In fact, this is now the world’s oldest existing rugby rule book and a much treasured possession here at the Clubhouse.
Mention Sale FC to anyone and the first words that usually spring to their mind are ‘Heywood Road’ but this has not always been our home. Back in the day, games were played on either a rented portion of Sale Cricket Club or on fields owned by local farmers. Although we didn’t have a home to call our own, this setup did mean that we became a very real part of the community and a strong bond was formed with local people, something we have continued to build upon over the years. At Sale FC there’s nothing we enjoy more (no, not even scoring that winning try in a cup match) than seeing young, local talent blossom in front of our very eyes.
Success on the pitch meant that better facilities were demanded and in 1905 we bought a field at the end of Heywood Road. Better training grounds and social facilities, coupled with the formidable force of the 1910/11 squad took us to an unprecedented P26, W24, D2, not bad for our 50th year even if we do say so ourselves!
Over the years, Sale FC have featured many prominent international and County players. Pat Davies became our first England international in 1927 and the ‘Roaring Thirties’ brought about an international backline; Hal Sever (England wing), Claude Davey and Wilf Wooller (Wales centres) and Ken Fyfe (Scotland wing). Fran Cotton, Steve Smith, Dewi Morris, Richard Trickey and Jason Robinson are just some of the more recent players to have played at Sale, check them out in our hall of fame
In 1936, we were invited to take part in the Middlesex Sevens Cup and through pure skill and determination we came away as victors. Suddenly people in the South were forced to recognise the North West not just as a Rugby League area, but as a formidable source of Union players too.
Prior to World War II, an increase in membership meant that the Club had almost outgrown facilities at Heywood Road and so an additional site on Woodbourne Road was purchased. Initially this was meant to be a training ground for the junior team but there were talks to eventually relocate the rest of the Club there too. Jim Birtles kept the spirit of Sale FC alive during the war (and for the next thirty years after that!) but when war was over the desire to develop Woodbourne Road had disappeared and it was instead decided to focus efforts on the redevelopment of Heywood Road. Land was sold to fund the project and the ground gradually began to evolve into the home we now cherish and love so much. A new clubhouse was built, the old bath house was replaced by squash courts, changing facilities were improved, floodlights installed and the commemorative ‘Jim Birtles Stand’ replaced the old bike shed.
The success and growth of Sale FC in recent years has enabled us to invest even further into our facilities, purchasing land at Carrington for training purposes. This site is now regarded as a ‘Centre of Excellence’ and is used not only by us but by our professional friends over at Sale Sharks and even a number of international clubs too.
Whilst five star facilities are important for our development and growth, it is the enthusiasm and dedication of the people at Sale FC that really make us such a great club. From players to clubhouse secretaries, supporters to groundsmen, everyone has an important role to play.
2011 marks the 150th birthday of Sale FC, we are proud of what we have achieved so far and look forward to the challenges and successes the next 150 years will bring.