James Richardson Spensley
Personal information
Full name James Richardson Spensley
Date of birth 17 May 1867
Place of birth Stoke Newington, London, UK
Date of death 10 November 1915(1915-11-10) (aged 48)
Place of death Mainz, Rhine Province, German Empire
Position(s) Goalkeeper, Defender
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1896–1906 Genoa 22 (0)
Teams managed
1896–1907 Genoa
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

James Richardson Spensley[1] (17 May 1867 – 10 November 1915) was an English doctor, footballer, manager, Scout leader and medic from Stoke Newington, London. He is considered to be one of the "Fathers of Italian football",[2] due to his association with Genoa CFC and his contribution to the modern day variation of the game in Italy.


He was born in 1867 in the Stoke Newington district of London to William Spensley and Elizabeth Alice Richardson.[3] Although he was born and grew up in London, the Spensley family were originally from the Swaledale area in Yorkshire.[4]

Richardson Spensley had the opportunity to travel far and wide as an adult. Amongst the most keen interests which he had acquired whilst travelling were eastern religions, languages (he was versed in Greek and Sanskrit), boxing and football.[5] In addition to working as a doctor, he spent some time as a correspondent for the British newspaper the Daily Mail.[5]

Football in Genoa

Richardson Spensley arrived in Genoa in 1896, initially for the purpose of curing English sailors on the coal ships.[5] He joined Genoa Cricket & Athletics Club, a cricket and athletics club formed by British expatriates. He opened the footballing section for the club on 10 April 1897[5] and was put in place as its first ever manager.[6] This was innovative as the modern day footballing scene in Italy was in its embryonic stages: if not for Edoardo Bosio in Turin founding clubs, there would have been no football at all in Italy at Richardson Spensley's time of arrival.[7]

Richardson Spensley participated as a player-manager for Genoa in the first ever Italian Football Championship (which he initiated) during 1898 which his club won. The following season, he switched position from defender to goalkeeper, playing on until 1906.[8]

Including the first title, Genoa won the Italian league six times while Richardson Spensley was at the helm. After retiring from playing when he was almost 40 years old, he stayed on in the management role for one more year, before leaving entirely.

Scouting and death

While living in England he had known Robert Baden-Powell who founded the Scout Movement, from whom he had received an autographed copy of Scouting for Boys. Along with a Genovese man named Mario Mazza, they founded the first Italian scouting movement called Federazione Italiana dello Scautismo in 1910.

During World War I, he worked in the medical field putting his scouting abilities to use as a lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps.[3][9] He was injured on the battle field while tending to the wounds of an enemy out of compassion. He died at Mainz, Germany in hospital not long after.[10][11] His body was one of many moved in 1922 from smaller graveyards to larger cemeteries in Germany (no British bodies were returned to Britain). Spensley was reburied at Niederzwehren War Cemetery south of Kassel.



  1. ^ "Italian Football". N16Mag.com. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 27 August 2007.
  2. ^ "English Players in Italy". RSSSF.com. Archived from the original on 21 September 2007. Retrieved 27 August 2007.
  3. ^ a b "Spensley, James Richardson". RootsWeb.com. Retrieved 27 August 2007.
  4. ^ "Genealogy Data – Spensley Family". RootsWeb.com. Retrieved 27 August 2007.
  5. ^ a b c d "Storia del Genoa". EnciclopediaDelCalcio.com. Archived from the original on 12 March 2009. Retrieved 27 August 2007.
  6. ^ "Genoa". Channel4.com. Retrieved 28 August 2007.
  7. ^ "Edoardo Bosio and Football in Turin". Life in Italy. Retrieved 28 August 2007.
  8. ^ "Le formazioni dei campioni d'Italia dal 1898 al 1915". BatsWeb.com. Retrieved 28 August 2007.
  9. ^ "James Richardson Spensley". Military-Genealogy.com. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 28 August 2007.
  10. ^ "La Storia del Grifone". Clan Dei Grifoni. 24 June 2007. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011.
  11. ^ "I pionieri: James R. Spensley". StoriaDelCalcio.info. Archived from the original on 20 July 2007. Retrieved 28 August 2007.