Print this page



The Association began on 13 June 1908 when a group of men met in Durham Miners Hall, Durham City, to "form an association to organise and control all schools football in the County of Durham to be called the Durham County Elementary Schools' Football Association".

Mr T Potts of Herrington presided. Present were K Thompson (Sherburn), RA Barnet (Shildon), JC Hylton (Ryhope), D Cunningham (Bearpark), J Bulmer (Perkinsville), ML Hetherington (West Pelton Senior Boys), VW Raw (Houghton and Lambton CSS), CH Bourne (West Pelton Mixed School), J Carr (Twizell CRC Cup Competition), F Hill (Washington Schools' League), JR Colman (Houghton Council), J Grey (Industrial School), CC Sutherland (Boldon Colliery), J Entwistle (Sacriston), Peel (New Brancepeth) and G Elliott (secretary, New Silksworth). Six leagues (Lambton Colliery Schools, East Durham, Shildon, Sunderland, Chester-le-Street and Stanley and Washington) were represented.

The reason for this action was that "at the latter end of the football season 1907-1908 the Durham Football Association decided to take over schools' football under its own management and directly control the game". The action of the Durham FA was considered detrimental to the best interests of the game and the teachers "strongly resented any intrusion upon schools football".

A similar proposal had been placed before several representatives of schools in 1907 but at that time the opposition from the Northumberland and Durham Schools' Competition carried the day.

In the early days the County organised the "Earl of Durham Cup", which, in 1914, was changed to "Durham County Schools' Cup".

The first County Match arranged by DCESFA was played on 28 May 1910, the North v South, at Wingate. According to the Durham County Advertiser it was intended to arrange County matches against Northumberland and Yorkshire but the season was too far advanced for these being arranged and carried out. The match was to be played under the Durham Cup Rules, "which competition by the way has the largest of entries of any school football competition in the world" (Durham Advertiser Friday 3 June 1910). The teams selected were:
GK: Cook (Herrington)
RB: Boustead (Moorsley) LB: Bond (Birtley)
RH: Thirlaway (Usworth) CH: Hill (Hetton) LH: Maddison (Murton)
OR: Vasey (Chilton Moor) IR: Gradon (Perkinsville) CF: Todd (Washington) IL: Savage (Hylton Road) OL: Phillips (Silksworth)
Reserve: Ellerington (Newbottle) 
GK: Milburn (New Brancepeth)
RB: Slack (Byers Green) LB: Heron (Ushaw Moor)
RH: Hood (Mt Pleasant) CH: Wilson (Cassop) LH: Daglish (Esh Winning)
OR: Nelson (Thornley) IR: Smith (Upper Church Street, Spennymoor) CF: Parker (New Brancepeth) IL: Taylor (Crook) OL: Kent (Aycliffe)
Reserve: Makepeace (Lynesack)

The Durham Chronicle of Fri 10 June 1910 reported that "There was a large crowd of spectators present on the Burden Park ground, Wingate on Saturday to witness the Durham County Schools' match, North v South. The teams were evenly matched and a draw was a true representation of the play. All the players were presented with caps."

The first home inter-county match, organised by DCESFA, took place on Saturday 27 May 1911. This was played at Houghton-le-Spring against Northumberland. The teams selected were:
GK: Kitson (Washington Upper Standard)
RB: Elsdon (Rowlands Gill) LB: Thornton (Shotton)
RH: Cresswell (Shakespeare Road, South Shields) CH: Davison (Byers Green) LH: Wilson (Crook)
OR: Vasey (Chilton Moor) IR: Hartnell (Chilton Buildings) CF: Masters (Houghton) IL: Merritt (Herrington) OL: Dodds (New Brancepeth)
Reserve: Howell (Stockton)
GK: Ramsay (North Shields)
RB: Redpath (Rutherford College) LB: Wharrior (Wingrove, Newcastle)
RH: Hall (Seaton Delaval) CH: Mark (St Andrew's, Newcastle) LH: Johnson (St Mary's, Newcastle)
OR: Robson (Walker) IR: Greenwood (St Andrew's) CF: Milburn (Seaton Delaval) IL: Chambers (Percy Main) OL: Anderson (Sleekburn)
Reserve: Pears (Burrado)

Although the result of the match is not recorded in the minutes of DCESFA the Durham County Advertiser of Friday 4 June 1910 included a short report of the game. Durham won 2-1 with Merritt (Herrington) scoring both goals. Milburn scored for Northumberland.

WORLD WAR I (1914-1918)

The war years saw much less schools football being played. In 1914 ten leagues were affiliated down from 16. In 1915 only four leagues affiliated.

In 1914 the title of the cup competition was changed to 'Durham County Schools' Cup' but fewer teams entered the competition.

There were attempts to play inter-county football. On 28 March 1915 a match was arranged against Northumberland. In 1916 two matches were played against Northumberland, home and away.


Following the war the cup competition entries increased enormously.

There was a huge increase in the playing of inter-county football, laying the foundations, in many ways, for the game as it is played today. The expansion came about largely as a result of establishing, in 1921, of the Counties Federation.

At the 1921 AGM it was unanimously decided that Durham should join the Federation.

In 1926 it was agreed to reduce the number of County matches by dividing the membership into two groups and playing knock-out matches. Even with this change the County felt it could not continue in the competition and withdrew in 1927, but only for one season, rejoining in 1928 when the two divisions in the competition were:
1.  Northumbeland and Durham
2.  Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire
In effect a Northern Counties Championship had been established.

The AGM of 1934 passed a motion to delete the word "Elementary" from the County title.

WORLD WAR II (1939-1945)

On September 6 1939 a meeting was held when it was decided that "All county competitions and all inter-league matches be left in abeyance until further notice, but, if the ban on sports meetings be lifted, the palying of inter-school matches be left to the leagues concerned".

No more County meetings were held until 1945.

STARTING AGAIN (1945-1958)

It was not straight forward to restart school football following the ending of the Second World War. Rationing continued, the transport system and the reorganisation of schooling following the 1944 Education Act all contributed to a difficult period.

The 1946 AGM agreed to resume County activities and revert, as far as possible, to pre-war conditions with the officials elected in July 1939 remaining in office for season 1946-47. County matches were arranged against Cumberland and Northumberland.

The 1946-47 season also saw the revival of the County Schools' Cup and 81 teams entered. Up until Christmas and the period when "the snow" commenced (the winter was one of the worst for snowfall, which brought most things to a complete standstill) the competition was well forward.

At this time DCSFA did not have competitions for boys over 15 years old. Grammar schools were slow to enter the County competitions but gradually many entered the County Cup. By the 1951-52 season almost all of the Grammar schools were affiliated to DCSFA. However, there was a Durham County Grammar Schools' FA in existence that organised
football for boys over the statutory leaving age. It was not until 1971 when the origin of the current U18/19 team evolved that the Durham County Grammar Schools came under the umbrella of DCSFA when the two organisations amalgamated.

1958: 50 YEARS of DCSFA

A dinner was held at The Three Tuns, Durham City on 3 October 1958 to mark the Golden Jubilee of DCSFA.

THE SECOND 50 YEARS (1958-2008)

At the beginning of this period there were 466 schools affiliated to 21 associations which formed the County Association. This was a record. The County did recognise that changes in the composition of the various associations had to be made in order to cope with the march of reorganisation in education.

Reorganisation continued at a pace in the 1960s and 1970s. The establishment first of all Grammar Schools, Secondary Moderns and Primary Schools followed by the decision of Durham County Council to go fully Comprehensive. Some schools ceased to exist, amalgamation took place and schools in the Secondary sector grew in size.

The growth of Primary School football began at this time and the increase in County membership came as a result.

With this growth came the question of Primary organisation and County competitions. Consultation with Primary Schools took place on these matters. In November 1963 it was agreed that an Inter-Association Cup Competition, drawn in zones, should be established for 1963-64 and further consideration was given to establishing an Inter-school County Competition. It was also decided that a Primary Schools' sub-committee be formed.

In June 1964 the Primary sub-committee reported the successful playing of the Harrison Cup (Inter-association) and it was decided to introduce the Inter-school County Competition.

The AGM of 1965 decided that Primary Competitions should be managed by the Primary Committee of 10, working in conjunction with the County Cups Committee. However, the possibility of forming a County Primary Association was discussed in 1971. The first meeting of the Durham County Primary Schools' FA was held on 3rd September 1974. All Primary Schools Football was brought under the umbrella of DCPSFA, who were answerable to the full Council of DCSFA.

The origin of the current U18/19 team evolved when the Durham County Grammar Schools came under the umbrella of DCSFA when the two organisations amalgamated in the 1971.

1974 saw the reorganisaton of local authority boundaries. This resulted in new counties being created. The option to embrace a new Tyne and Wear county was resisted so that Northumberland CSFA remained unchanged. However, there were some changes to DCSFA in that Hartlepool and Stockton left Durham County to be part of a new Cleveland CSFA.

1978-79 saw the introduction of a National Inter-county competition for the U19 age group. In the Northern area the competition was organised into two leagues. Durham managed to qualify for the National quarter finals.

Following the ESFA AGM the 1994-95 season saw change when the U15 Inter-county competition was be played at U16 level instead. It was in season 1995-96 that DCSFA entered the new NCSFA/ESFA Inter-county competition.

In 1994 a report to DCSFA from ESFA confirmed that the National body wished "to help promote girls soccer in schools".

The first girls' competition, in 1996-97, was the U16 County Cup followed by the U14 County Cup in 1997-98. Later, in 2002-03, an U13 County Cup was introduced. Now there are also Inter-association competitions for U13 and U15 girls. The growth in girls football also extends to Primary schools. Inter-school and Inter-association competitions are organised for girls only but boys and girls can play in mixed teams in Primary football.

When ESFA announced that they were to start a new Inter-county competition for U16 girls in 1998-99 it was agreed that Durham would enter providing a team manager was found -- this was achieved. Durham's first adventure into County Girls' football was a success because the team reached the National Final, losing 3-1 to Hampshire.

A significant move occcurred in 2005-06 with the formation of a Girls Schools' sub-committee, which would be responsible for all aspects of schoolgirls' football in Durham, reflecting the growth and popularity of girls football.

Durham has been a big supporter of ESFA Festival football. A team representing the County attended the U18/19 Easter Festival from its inception in 1965 until its demise in 2004. For 21 seasons (1992-2012) DCSFA organised an U13 Festival for association teams.

Since the County association was formed over 100 years ago at least 170 former players made their way into the professional ranks.

There are a number of former Durham schoolboys who had excellent careers in the professional game but, for some reason, did not play for the County. One of the most noted was Sir Bobby Robson who after an excellent playing career managed several teams to domestic and European success as well as guiding England to the World Cup semi-final in 1990.

Of the many male and female players to have played for one of the County's representative sides 18 have gained full England caps.

2008: 100 YEARS of DCSFA

A dinner was held at the Marriott Hotel, Gateshead on 12 November 2008 to mark the Centenary of DCSFA. Guest speakers were George Courtney MBE, former FIFA referee and headteacher in Durham County, and Colin Suggett, a schoolboy footballer in Durham County before embarking on a career in professional football.


From humble beginnings, the Association has grown to its current position.

There are currently 20 local associations within Durham County (7 secondary and 13 primary). These associations organise competitions for their own schools. The County provides many cup competitions, which are open to all schools and associations in the County. Hartlepool schools, which were in Durham at one time, still enter our competitions although they are now in Cleveland.

The Primary Committee oversees the running of all competitions for the Under 11s. There are 4 cup competitions for schools - one for small primary schools, one for large schools, one for girls only and one for Year 4 pupils only. There are also 3 competitions, which are open to the champion schools from each local association.

District football at U11 is catered for with two 11-a-side competitions - one is a cup knock-out, the other being a league. Association teams also have the opportunity to participate in small sided football, indoors and outdoors.

U11 girls also have a chance to play inter-association football by playing in the 7-a-side league.

The winners of some of the primary cups have a chance of playing in the national rounds of ESFA competitions.

The Girls Committee organise school cup competitions for Secondary girls at U13, U14 and U16 as well as inter-association tournaments at U13 and U15.

For Secondary boys there are school competitions at U12, U13, U14, U15, U16 and U19. Inter-association football is also well catered for with competitions at U13, U14, U15 and U16.

The County currently runs 4 representative teams at U16 and U18 for boys and U14 and U16 for girls that play in the ESFA and NCSFA competitions. The teams usually do well in the Northern Counties competition. The U15 boys team play a number of friendly fixtures towards the end of the season. Prior to 2011 success at National level had not been possible but our teams had reached National finals -- U16 girls in 1999, U16 boys in 2007 and 2012 and U18 boys in 1980, 1984, 2010 and 2017. The duck was broken in 2011 when the U16 Girls team won the ESFA U16G Inter-county Trophy as well as the Northern Counties -- a fantastic achievement.

For season 2009-2010 it was hoped to form two new representative teams -- U14 boys and U18 girls -- and enter the new ESFA Inter-County Cups but insufficient entries meant the competitions did not "get off the ground". ESFA introduced U14 Inter-county competitions for girls and boys but, at the time, Durham declined to enter.

In May 2014 ESFA organised an U14 Girls Inter-county Festival at the National Sports Centre, Lilleshall in which Durham participated. The Festival provided the springboard for the County to enter a team into the 2014-15 National competition.

Previous page: Discipline
Next page: Centenary