London (AFP) – Crystal Palace have made an audacious claim to be considered the oldest league club in existence still playing professional football after new research appeared to show they were founded in 1861.

For decades Notts County, currently playing in England’s fifth-tier National League, have been regarded as the oldest professional club following their foundation in 1862.

But author Peter Manning, working on behalf of Premier League side Palace, has discovered a link between the south Londoners, founded as a professional club in 1905, and a cricket and football club formed a year before County were born.

The research claims there is a direct connection between the two outfits through their ownership by the Crystal Palace Company.

“Without the Crystal Palace and the Crystal Palace Company there would have been no Crystal Palace Football Club,” said Manning. 

“It was always one club and always part of the Crystal Palace Company’s business. As the founding of the football club dates back to 1861, it can claim to be the oldest professional league club in the world.”

Palace chairman Steve Parish said: “As a lifelong supporter of Crystal Palace, it’s amazing that we have a legitimate claim to be the oldest professional league club still in existence, that we were in the very first FA meetings, and that our history dates all the way back to the Victorian cricketers of 1861 at the Palace even involving the great W.G. Grace.”

Football’s authorities have yet to confirm or deny the validity of Palace’s claim.

Sheffield FC, an amateur team who currently play in England’s Northern Premier League South East division, are recognised by FIFA as the oldest club in the world after their foundation in 1857.