Formed by a team of sportsmen drawn mainly from Sale Cricket Club, Sale Football Club was founded in 1861 and is the fifth oldest surviving rugby club. In the early days of the club, rules were usually deemed unnecessary and those that were enforced were often made up on the spot. As the game began to evolve, however, the need for specified regulations became apparent and in 1865 the Minute Book was created stipulating the ten rules to be followed by all players. This is reputedly world’s oldest existing rugby rule book and a much treasured possession. Games were originally played on either a rented portion of Sale Cricket Club or on fields owned by local farmers. In 1905, the club bought a field at the end of Heywood Road.
Sale FC have featured many prominent international and county players. Pat Davies became their first England international in 1927 and the 1930s saw an international backline of Hal Sever (England wing), Claude Davey and Wilf Wooller (Wales centres) and Ken Fyfe (Scotland wing). Fran Cotton, Steve Smith, Dewi Morris, Richard Trickey and Jason Robinson also played at Sale.
Before World War II, an increase in membership meant that the club had almost outgrown facilities at Heywood Road and an additional site on Woodbourne Road was purchased. Initially this was meant to be a training ground for the junior team, but there were talks to eventually relocate the rest of the club there too, but when war was over it was instead decided to focus efforts on the redevelopment of Heywood Road. Land was sold to fund the project and the ground gradually began to evolve. A new clubhouse was built, the old bath house replaced by squash courts, changing facilities improved, floodlights installed and the commemorative Jim Birtles Stand erected.