The Public Schools were first represented on the FA Council in 1904. However, in those days there was no formal schools association and Norman Malcolmson (Old Etonians), the Hon. Secretary of the newly formed Arthur Dunn Cup, was chosen to represent public schools football in its entirety, both the school and the old boy games. The Arthur Dunn Cup had been formed by 1902 and there had initially been some dispute between its founders and the FA over the question of the new invention of penalty kicks, which the Arthur Dunn clubs refused to recognize, and the question of referees, not all of those who officiated at Arthur Dunn games being officially registered. The dispute was eventually solved and ended with an invitation to Malcolmson to serve on the FA Council as representative for the public schools. This he did until 1906 when the split between the FA and the AFA took place and it was therefore not until after the First World War that the public schools were again represented on the Council.
Throughout the period from 1920 to 1952, the public schools representative continued to be a distinguished old boy footballer (a full list can be found below). In 1952, however, the FA decided to consult the Headmasters’ Conference and the Incorporated Association of Headmasters on the next representative in the hope of ensuring that a wider number of schools could be represented than just the Arthur Dunn schools. As a result Dr. A.W. Barton, an Old Reptonian and the Headmaster of City of London School, was chosen for the role and, from this point on, the FA Council representative has always been from a school rather than an old boys club.
After the Second World War, there was increasing concern as to the standard of public schools football, 50 years earlier the leaders in schools football but now increasingly falling behind their state schools counterparts. The Pegasus teams of the early 1950s, which was selected from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, consisted primarily of grammar school boys rather than public schoolboys. The grammar schools had caught up and overtaken. Indeed, since the professional game had taken hold in the inter-war years, the public schools had become a relatively forgotten area.
The Corinthian-Casuals were to play an important part in helping to raise the standard in public schools football, not least in organising the annual Schools Week which led to the selection of a Public Schools representative team to play the F.A. Youth at The Oval. Robin Trimby (Forest School) recalls playing in a 10-1 defeat at the hands of the F.A. Youth: “Jimmy Greaves scored about five before, fortunately, they took him off! And he was a couple of years younger than us!”
On 27th August 1953, a meeting was held at Highgate School, chaired by Major J. Stewart, to discuss the standard of public schools football and to discuss “steps which might be taken to bring about an improvement in this standard”. Amongst those present at the meeting were F.A. Secretary Sir Stanley Rous, England coach Walter Winterbottom and the football masters from Ardingly, Highgate, Alleyn’s, Malvern, Wellingborough, Bradfield and Lancing, with Bill Wickson representing the Corinthian Casuals. Those present lamented the low standard of play amongst junior boys and the variable coaching at prep schools. It was agreed that schoolboys tended “to play football of the heavy kicking-and-chase variety”. It was thought “that schools would welcome a six-a-side competition to be held annually”.
So began a succession of innovations aimed at raising standards. The Corinthian-Casuals were great supporters and their Schools Week was a regular occurrence throughout the 1950s. In 1958 a Six-a-Side Tournament (for the Corinthian Casuals Cup) was introduced and the Public Schools Representative team began to play a succession of more competitive fixtures against the likes of the Corinthian-Casuals and the Grammar Schools as well as the F.A. Youth.
When Dick Sale (Headmaster of Brentwood School) took over as public school representative on the F.A. Council in the mid-1960s, there was an increasing desire to extend the representative programme and gain entry into the English Schools Easter Festival for counties, first at Bognor and then at Skegness. To this end Sale instigated a formal committee, and so began the Public Schools F.A. with Sale as its first Chairman. Gradually the representative fixture list was extended with matches against county schools teams. Indeed, in the summer of 1972, the Public Schools undertook a 5 week tour to Uganda, with the aim of flying the flag in developing countries, just as the Corinthians had once done.
Chris Saunders (Headmaster of Eastbourne College and subsequently Lancing College) succeeded Sale in 1982 and in 1986 the Public Schools FA was renamed the Independent Schools FA. A rapid expansion of ISFA activities ensued. The representative programme continued to strengthen, firstly with the formation of an Under-16 team and then with an annual overseas tour each Easter for both the Under-18 and Under-16 ISFA teams. In 1992 a further innovation occurred in the form of the ISFA Cup, a national knock-out competition, sponsored by the jewellers Boodle & Dunthorne (now Boodles), with its Final at a notable League ground. The first winners, Forest School, included in their team Quinton Fortune, later to play for Manchester United as well as representing South Africa in the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups.
David Elleray (Harrow), England’s top referee for most of the 1990s, succeeded Saunders as independent schools representative on the F.A. Council in 2002 and as Chairman of I.S.F.A. in 2003 and his term of office has already seen a further rapid expansion of the game in independent schools.
ISFA representative tours have visited Portugal, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Finland and Spain and the first independent schools international match was played against Scotland in 2007. In 2013, the ISFA U18 team played both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid on tour.
Since 2006 a Regional Representative U13 Festival has been held each March, leading to the selection of a National Representative Squad at U14 and U15 levels. In 2012 and 2013, the U15 team was invited by Manchester United to participate in a four-team end of season tournament at Carrington, a tournament that was won in 2013, ahead of both Manchester United and Aston Villa..
The Rensburg Sheppards (now Investec) Under-15 and Under-13 National Cup competitions began in Season 2007-08 and the ISFA U15 Shield for smaller schools began in 2012-11 season.
Another important innovation came in 2005 with the formation of the ISFA Girls section, aiming to nurture the ever-increasing interest in the game amongst girls. In addition to reginal and national representative teams at U18 level, regional and national tournaments at several age levels were introduced.
Today a number of current professional players are old boys of ISFA schools, most notably Frank Lampard of Chelsea, for whom he played in the 2008 and 2012 UEFA Champions League Final (captaining his club to victory on the latter occasion), and England, for whom appeared in EURO 2004 and the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups.
In Season 2009-10 Tom Adeyemi (Norwich School) made 13 First Team appearances for Norwich City FC whilst still a pupil at school and Johnny Gorman (Repton) won two Full International caps for Northern Ireland, also whilst still a pupil at school.
There are also a large number of old boys from ISFA schools working in the football press and media and serving in the board rooms of the professional clubs. The schools themselves play to an increasingly high standard, not only in ISFA tournaments but also often alongside the state schools in competitions organised by the English Schools FA.
ISFA schools can once again claim to be amongst the best football schools in the country.
Public Schools and Independent Schools F.A. Representatives on the Council of the Football Association
1904-1906 N. Malcolmson (Old Etonians)
1906-1920 No representation (split between FA and AFA)
1920-1924 G.M. Foster (Old Malvernians)
1924-1928 N.V.C. Turner (Old Reptonians)
1928-1933 A.G. Bower (Old Carthusians)
1933-1953 Major J. Stewart (Old Bradfieldians)
1953-1964 Dr. A.W. Barton (City of London School)
1964-1982 R. Sale (Brentwood School)
1982-2002 C.J. Saunders (Eastbourne College/Lancing College)
2002-2022 D.R. Elleray (Harrow School)
2022-date S.J. Abbott (Queen's College)
Chairmen of ISFA
1964-1982 R. Sale (Brentwood School)
1982-2003 C.J. Saunders (Eastbourne College/Lancing College)
2003-2022 D.R. Elleray (Harrow School)
2022-date K. Knibbs (Hampton School)
Presidents of ISFA
2013-2020 F.B Burns
2021-date C.J. Saunders