Crystal Palace is staking a claim to be recognised as the oldest league club in existence still playing professional football.

New research has found a direct connection to the team established in 1861, who were founder members of the Football Association.

Historian Peter Manning research was triggered by the discovery of a Crystal Palace tankard presented in the 1873-4 season, which is believed to be the oldest association football club trophy in existence.

He also uncovered how CPFC started out as a cricket club and that legendary cricketer, W.G. Grace was the sporting director of the company that established todays CPFC.

The well-founded claims have raised a lively and interesting debate but are unlikely to see Notts County, formed in 1862, dethroned as officially the oldest professional football club.

The FA, who were sent an early copy of Palace’s findings are not expected to recognise 1861 as Palace’s official founding year as the sticking point for the governing body is that, while there may be a link between the amateur side and the professionals, the former were not paid as footballers and did not compete in any official league, only playing friendlies and in the FA Cup.

Palace are already planning to mark the 160th anniversary of their formation in 2021, instead of their 116th, having discovered the true origin of the club.

Discussions over how best to celebrate the findings and the anniversary have already begun, and could include a new badge from the 2021-22 season. The current club crest includes the date 1905 and could be updated on future kit to recognise the findings, though with next season’s kit all but finalised, any change would likely have to wait until the season after.

In 1871, Crystal Palace’s captain Douglas Allport was closely involved in the inauguration of the FA Cup, proposing an FA sub-committee that drafted the rules for the cup competition; he was also one of three FA members who selected and bought the first trophy. Crystal Palace played in the first ever round of the FA Cup reaching the semi-finals in 1872.

Steve Parish, club chairman 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.”