About - History


A rich footballing heritage spanning over 130 years

Suffolk FA was formed in 1885.

There were eleven founder member clubs - Ipswich Association (now Ipswich Town), Ipswich School, Ipswich Rangers, Cowell’s Club (Ipswich), Stowmarket, Bury Town, Bury School, Beccles College, Sudbury, Framlingham College and Woodbridge.

The first president of the Association was The Duke of Hamilton, whose presidency ran between 1885 and 1894.

There were 41 registered referees shown in the county handbook for the 1903-1904 season, the figure in today’s book is more than 400. In the same 1903-1904 handbook there are 100 clubs shown that were affiliated to the Association; today’s figure is over 500.

In 1898 a county fixture was held against Aston Villa, who at the time were the previous season’s FA Cup winners. The gate money for this game was £238 5s. 4d, compared with the Senior Cup Final of 1905 which realised a gate income of £48 12s. 6d.

The period 1907-1914 saw the years of 'the split' when there were two associations, one affiliated to the FA and the other to the AFA. In 1914 the FA and AFA effected a compromise which resulted in the Association being again a harmonious and united body.

On March 20th, 1935 Suffolk County Football Association held its Jubilee celebration. Amongst the guests was Stanley Rouse, later to become Sir Stanley. It was reported in the programme for this celebration that over the previous fifty years the progress on interest in the game had been ‘wonderful’ and that there was hardly a village which did not possess a football club and that practically each town had its own charity competition.

Again interrupted by war during 1939-1945, the county FA started the era after World War II with JW Yallop continuing as honorary secretary, a post he had held since 1919 and would continue to hold until 1960.

In addition to JW Yallop, the county only had four other honorary secretaries since the Second World War, Ernie Brown, Barry Collings, Bill Steward and Martin Head. Ernie Brown was made a life member of the Association in 1980 and its president in 1986.

A Centenary Banquet was held at Ipswich Moat House on September 30th, 1985 to celebrate the Association's 100th birthday. Sir Stanley Rous, CBE, honorary president of FIFA and honorary vice-president of the Football Association, proposed the toast to the SCFA.

The Suffolk County Football Association became a Limited Company in 2000.

For the first time in its history in April 2001 the County FA appointed two full-time employees, namely Will Cook, county development officer and James Payne, clerical officer, and both were installed at the new county FA office at Felaw Maltings in Ipswich.

In April 2003, the Association moved its headquarters to purpose-built offices in Stowmarket, which were officially opened by FA vice-chairman Ray Kiddell. In July 2003, Martin Head became the first salaried secretary in the Association's history.

Suffolk defeated Hampshire 2-1 at Portman Road, Ipswich in 2005 to win the FA County Youth Cup in the county's first-ever cup final appearance.

Suffolk again reached the FA County Youth Cup Final in April 2007, drawing 1-1 with West Riding after extra time at Valley Parade, Bradford. However, West Riding won the match 4-3 on penalties.

However, a third final appearance came the following season, with Suffolk defeating favourites Cambridgeshire 2-1, again at Portman Road, in April 2008.

In 2006, all disciplinary administration transferred from volunteers to staff at the Association's HQ.

When Martin Head, who had been appointed as the Association's first chief executive, retired he was replaced by Phil Knight in November 2010.

Phil Knight left his post in August 2012 and Laura Smith was subsequently appointed as the county's first female CEO in December 2012.

In 2012 the County FA's Transformation Programme was implemented which has streamlined the Board of Directors, removed the previous committee structure and will elect a Council more representative of Suffolk football.

Suffolk again reached the final of the FA County Youth Cup in April 2014, losing 3-2 to Lancashire FA after extra time.

Laura Smith resigned as CEO in March 2017 and Richard Neal succeeded her in September of the same year.

In March 2020 former Ipswich Town Chair David Sheepshanks, who was also Chair of the Football League in 1997 for two years and was the founding Chair of St George’s Park, the National Football Centre in Burton-Upon-Trent, from 2008-2015, was appointed as President in succession to the long-serving Gordon Blake, who passed away in November 2019.