A presumably pre- association variant of the game caused much mirth when it was practiced by Englishmen in the Bois de Boulogne in 1863, and as early as 1872 the Association game was being played by British sailors in Le Havre.
Strange to relate, then, how as late as 1899 that the French game could still be in such a state of infancy that a semi final of its putative championship was reduced to a game of 45 minutes for want of a ball.
The Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques (USFSA) organized a cup competition as early as 1893-94. A league format was introduced for the 1895-96 season. The winners were billed as National champions, although the competitions were not representative of the whole country, drawing exclusively on Paris clubs.
The winners of these early competitions were:
1893-94 Standard Athletic Club
1894-95 Standard Athletic Club
1895-96 Club Français de Paris
1896-97 Standard Athletic Club
1897-98 Standard Athletic Club
1898-99 Club Français de Paris
Havre Athletic Club - champions under unusual circumstances.
Six regional champions were invited to compete. Three declined due to the expense of travelling to Paris (where the entire tournament was to be held).
This left Club Français de Paris, Havre Athletic Club and Iris Club Lillois.
Club Français de Paris
Club Français de Paris was founded in 1890. The club was dissolved in 1935.
Le Havre Athletic Club was founded (by Englishmen) as a Rugby club in 1872. They began to play Association rules in 1894.
Iris Club Lillois was founded in 1898 as a multi- sport club that later favoured Rugby.
Havre and Lillois were to play a 'semi-final' to decide who played Club Français in the final.
They met at Paris on February 28th 1899. But there was no ball. It took some time to procure one. 45 minutes was played, Havre were winning 1-0. The pitch was booked for a hockey match, so the game had to be abandoned. A replay, to take place in Amiens, was scheduled, but Lillois did not turn up.
The USFSA awarded the match to Havre.
Club Français then refused to play Havre in the final, questioning their opponents' right to play for the championship.
The USFSA then awarded the championship to Havre.