In 1897 a fixture that is often cited as being 'the first football match in Russia' was held on Vasilievsky Island near Saint Petersburg , between the local English team Ostrov (Island) and a team of Russians, Petrograd. The English team won, 6–0.
This match was instrumental in bringing about the establishment of the first distinctly Russian clubs. First, in 1897, came Kruzhok Liubiteley Sporta (Circle of Sport Lovers) soon followed in 1898 by Peterburgsky Kruzhok Sportsmenov (St.Petersburg's Circle of Sportsmen).
The first match between these two clubs took place on 13th September 1898. It would appear that there were still many English and Scottish players involved.
Several other teams developed in the area, so that within three years St Petersburg had it's own league, the first in Russia, comprised of 'works' teams from large weaving mills, whose owners encouraged football as a distraction from excessive drinking on Sundays. Nevsky were predominantly English, Nevka exclusively Scottish drawn from the workers of the Samson weaving mill, whereas Viktoria were a mixture of Englishmen, Germans and Russians.
The opening match was played on September 2nd (Old style- it was 15th in the west!) 1901.
Nevka: Sewell, Gilchrist, Sharples, Crompton, Fletcher, D. Hargreaves (capt), Gerard, Haines, F. Hargreaves, Small, Boyle.
Viktoria: Hellman, Lauman, Schaub, Wardropper, Grunewald, Wright, Whitman 1, Yarkov, Braun (capt), Grigoriev, Whitman 2.
Referee- Mr D Richardson.
Nevka were 2-0 up at half time but Viktoria came back for a 2-2 draw.
St Petersburg League 1901- Final table:
1.Nevka 4 2 2 0 7- 4 6
2.Victoria 4 1 1 2 6- 4 3
3.Nevsky 4 1 1 2 3- 8 3
A leading figure in the early years of St Petersburg football was Arthur MacPherson. MacPherson was a timber merchant and stock exchange dealer, born in St Petersburg but of Scottish descent. MacPherson chaired the St. Petersburg football league from 1903 to 1905 and from 1912 to 1913.MacPherson was president of the Russian Football Federation for two years from their foundation in 1912.
He died in prison following the Great October Revolution of 1917.