Since the inception of the Club, Hibernian have always had an ambitious and progressive outlook.

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After several failed attempts, Hibernians are allowed to join the Edinburgh Football Association and the Scottish Football Association.

Many different forms of football have been played in this country for hundreds of years. It is believed the game was first brought to these shores by the Romans who had adapted it from the Turks and Greeks, who themselves were influenced by the Chinese. Played under many different regulations, or codes, it wasn't until the College or Cambridge rules were devised in the 1840s and the Football League formed in 1863. The game, as we know it today, was finally established.

In Scotland, Association Football, as it became known, was usually played only in the West of the country. In Edinburgh, Rugby was still the established game but in December 1873, a Queen's Park XI and a side called Clydesdale, acting as missionaries for the new code, played an exhibition game at Raimes Park, now Victoria Park in Leith, watched by a crowd of only a few hundred.

Many of those watching from the sidelines left to form their own teams and very soon several sprang up in the city playing under the new Association rules: Third Edinburgh Rifles; Hanover; Thistle; Brunswick St Bernard's; St Andrews; to name a few.



Hibernian's first challenge

The first task for Hibernian Football Club was to obtain official recognition from the football authorities, who had themselves only existed for a few years. The first approach to the Edinburgh Football Association was knocked back, the suggestion put to Hibernians that they should first apply to the Scottish Football Association. That they did, only to receive the terse reply 'We are catering for Scotsmen, not Irishmen'.

Back Hibernians went to the Edinburgh F.A., and only to receive a similar reply, and indeed the association went further, issuing instructions to all member clubs that they must not play any matches or indeed even have any contact with the new club.



The first ever match for Hibernians: Christmas Day 1875

The men of Little Ireland were well used to such treatment and they were not going to be put off so easily. They trained hard and played practice games among themselves on the Meadows, all the while seeking out someone in the area who would defy the Edinburgh F.A. and give them a game. Finally, one team broke ranks and agreed to play the Edinburgh Irish, and that was the most unlikely of them all as it was Heart of Midlothian, themselves formed just one year earlier, who faced up to Hibernians on Christmas Day, 1875.

The shackles had now been broken, and another club, Thistle, sent out their second eleven against Hibernians three weeks later, before meeting again with their first team three weeks further on.


1876 Squad

The Hibernian team of 1876
Back row left to right: Hall, Quinn, Gilhooley, Beveridge, Candlin, Rourke, Creamer and McGrath
Middle row left to right: Byrne, Donelly, Whelahan, Hughes, Browne and Keegan
Front row left to right: Watson and Flynn



Eventual acceptance

These games prompted a stern warning from the Edinburgh F.A. to the clubs involved, but Father Hannan and Michael Whelahan spent much of the summer of 1876 canvassing the member clubs of the Edinburgh F.A. There was a growing sympathy among these clubs, who were keen to foster the game of football to every corner of the community and finally the persistence of the team from Little Ireland paid off. In 1877, their application to join both Edinburgh Football Association was accepted.

This acceptance had pushed the SFA meanwhile into a position they did not welcome. They tried hard to ignore Hibernians but they, too, finally had to relent and permit the club to join their association. So it was that Hibernian Football Club were now official - although the SFA still took a swipe at the Little Ireland community by not permitting Hibernians to play immediately in the Scottish Cup, the only formal national tournament in existence at that time. They were, however, allowed to enter the Edinburgh Cup, a competition organised by the Edinburgh Football Association.

It was just the start of a somewhat unhappy relationship Hibernian had with the Scottish Cup tournament, but for now only one thing mattered - Hibernian Football Club were up and running!





The Club struggle to obtain official recognition from the Edinburgh Football and Scottish Football authorities.

Hibernians play their first ever match since formation, playing in the Meadows against Hearts on Christmas Day, 1875.

The Club are eventually accepted into the football associations of Edinburgh and Scotland after numerous teams willingly play Hibernians.

Despite formal football association acceptance, Hibernian are not allowed to enter the only formal national tournament, the Scottish Cup.

Hibernians are however, allowed to enter the Edinburgh Cup competition.


Written as part of 'The Origins of Hibernian' series

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