The evidence that Sunderland and District Teachers’ Association Football Club (later to become Sunderland A.F.C.) was founded on 25th September 1880, following a meeting at Rectory Park Schools, is based on newspaper reports from 1879 to 1883. This is provided in detail in the following document:
The timeline of relevant events can be summarised as follows:
1 April 1879: James Allan arrives in Sunderland to take up a post at Hendon Board School.
13 September 1879: The first known meeting of the Sunderland and District Teachers’ Association which Allan could have attended and met teachers beyond those in his own school. Seven new members were enrolled at the meeting, Allan was almost certainly one of them.
23 January 1880: The Northumberland and Durham FA is formed by 6 local clubs. Sunderland are not one, in fact it is explicitly stated that Sunderland is the sort of town that could support a team. The N and D FA clearly do not think there is a team in Sunderland at this time.
13 March 1880: Sunderland and District Teachers’ Association holds its quarterly meeting. After general business they chat about sport... the Oxford-Cambridge boat race. If they have formed a team, they clearly attach little importance to it.
May 1880: The N and D FA introduce a Challenge Cup. They still have only 7 member clubs, but know of some new clubs and some clubs in the process of forming. Sunderland isn’t mentioned.
25 September 1880: Sunderland and District Teachers’ Association hold a special meeting at Rectory Park Schools, primarily to listen to a guest speaker from the forerunner of the N.U.T. They also announce, in the Sunderland Echo of 27th September 1880, that they have formed “Sunderland and District Teachers’ Football Club”.
9 October 1880: The first practice match takes place.
16 October 1880: Second practice match takes place, after which the club announces it is open to more than just teachers, has changed its name to “Sunderland Association Football Club”, has rented the Blue House Field at Hendon, and will play in navy blue.
6 November 1880: The club advertises for players in the Sunderland Echo.
10 November 1880: Athletic News mentions Sunderland for the first time, as a newly formed club making good progress in learning the game.
13 November 1880: Sunderland play their first ever game, losing 1-0 to Ferryhill.
25 May 1883: The Durham FA forms following the split of the N and D FA. Sunderland are one of 9 founder members.
26 September 1883: Northern Athlete, the region’s main sports newspaper, publishes details of all the local rugby and football teams. The Durham FA used Northern Athlete as their official “media outlet” at the time. Sunderland (represented at Durham FA by Robert Singleton, a founder and the first captain) are listed with a formation date of September 1880.