There are 15 football personalities who have been knighted, plus one honorary knighthood, for their services to football, sport, charity or London Olympics (Wikipedia). Modern knighthood is an honour bestowed in the United Kingdom by the Queen or members of the Royal Family in recognition for some great social contribution. A committee selects candidates for knighthood and presents them to the Queen for knighting. Unlike knights of old, these honorary knights require no military service (How Stuff Works).
Sir John Charles Clegg, AKA Charles Clegg, was the first football figure to receive knighthood in June 1927 (Gazette issue 33280). The citation states for services for the Board of Trade and Ministry of Labour. It is clear the services were football related due to Charles Clegg occupation as an English footballer and later both chairman and president of the Football Association.
Sir Stanley Ford Rous was knighted in January 1949 for his contribution to the 1948 Olympics and to sport in general. Sir Rous was the 6th President of FIFA, serving from 1961 to 1974. Rous had played as an “amateur level” goalkeeper for clubs such as Kirkley and Lowestare, but was forced to retire due to a broken wrist.
Sir Stanley Matthews was knighted in January 1965. Sir Matthews was the first person to be officially knighted for services for football, and is the only footballer knighted whilst still playing football. Sir Matthews was also the first to win both the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year awards (1947-48) and European Footballer of the Year (1955-56), while playing for Blackpool.
Sir Alfred Ernest Ramsey was knighted in January 1967 for services to football following England’s 1966 World Cup triumph. Sir Alf Ramsey played club football for Southampton from 1944 to 1949 and Tottenham Hotspur from 1949 to 1955. He played for England national team 32 times from 1948 to 1953. Sir Alf Ramsey is best known as the manager from of the England team from 1963 to 1974 including guiding England to victory in the 1966 FIFA World Cup.
Sir Alexander Matthew Busby was knighted in June 1969 for guiding Manchester United to a European Cup victory. Sir Matt Busby was a Scottish football player and manager, who managed Manchester United between 1945 and 1969 and again for the second half of the 1970–71 season. He was the first manager of an English team to win the European Cup and is widely regarded as one of the greatest managers of all time.
Sir Walter Winterbottom was knighted in January 1978 for services to sport. Sir Walter Winterbottom was the first, youngest and longest serving manager of the England football team from 1946 to 1962 and FA director of Coaching. After service in the RAF he was invited to manage the England team despite having no managing experience. Sir Walter Winterbottom was a football player for Manchester United playing 25 matches from 1934 to 1937 until a spinal injury ended his playing career.
Sir Frederick Albert Millichip was knighted in June 1991 as Chairman of the Football Association. Sir Bert Millichip played as center back of West Bromwich Albion in the years before World War II. After serving as captain in WW II he returned to his solicitor practice and became director of WBA taking on the role of chairman in 1974. In 1981, Bert Millichip was elected chairman of The Football Association.
Sir Robert “Bobby” Charlton was knighted in June 1994 for service to football. From 1957 to 1973 he made a total of 106 international appearances for England—a national record at the time. He was a forward in Manchester United from 1954 till he retired in 1973. Sir Bobby Charlton survived an air crash on February 6, 1958 in which eight Manchester United regulars were killed. He led his team, comprised mostly of reserves to the FA Cup final match that year.
Édson Arantes do Nascimento (Pelé), KBE received honorary knighthood in 1997. As a Brazilian citizen he was not eligible to receive an actual knighthood. Pelé, KBE is the most famous footballer and is regarded as one of the best all-time football players. He made his senior debut for Santos in 1956, a month before his 16th birthday and ten months later he played for Brazil against Argentina. At 17 years and 249 days Pele scored two goals in the 1958 World Cup final as Brazil beat Sweden 5–2 in Stockholm, becoming the youngest ever winner of the World Cup.
Sir Tom Finney was knighted in January 1998 for services to Association Football. He played for Preston North End football club from 1946 to 1960. Sir Tom Finney scored a total of 210 goals in 473 appearances with Preston and 30 international goals in 76 matches for England. He made his debut to football in 1946 after serving in the Royal Armoured Corps. He was the first man to be named Player of the Year twice (1953–54 and 1956–57).
Sir Geoff Hurst was knighted in June 1998 for services for football. Sir Geoff Hurst played for West Ham United scored a total of 242 goals in 500 appearances; and won the FA Cup in 1964 and European’s Cup Winners Cup in 1965. Hurst went to play football in Ireland (Cork Celtic) and the USA (Seattle Sounders) before returning to England to manage non-league Telford United. He later coached Kuwait SC before leaving the game to concentrate on his business commitments.
Sir Alexander Ferguson was knighted in June 1999 after leading Manchester United to its 1999 treble win of the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup in the same year. Sir Alex Ferguson managed Manchester United from 1986 to 2013, the longest manager in Manchester United history leading the club to more than 30 domestic and international titles. His professional football career began in 1964, when he signed with first-division Dunfermline Athletic. in 1967 he was transferred to his hometown Rangers.
Sir Robert “Bobby” William Robson was knighted in June 2002 for services to Association Football. Sir Bobby Robson played for the English clubs Fulham and West Ham United. He briefly coached Vancouver Royals (1967-68) and then returned home as Fulham’s manager, then Ipswich manger. Sir Bobby Robson was appointed England manager in 1982, managing the England team from 1982 to 1990, taking England to the 1986 and 1990 World Cup Final tournaments.
Sir Trevor David Brooking was knighted in June 2004 for services to sport. Sir Trevor Brooking played for West Ham United from 1966 to 1984 with 88 goals in 528 appearances and for England from 1974 to 1982 with 5 goals in 47 appearances. Brooking was Chair of the Eastern Region Council for Sport and Recreation from 1987 to 1997 and was chairman of Sport England from 1999 to 2002. Sir Trevor Brooking was the Football Association Director of Football Development from January 2004 to August 2014.
Sir Dave Gerald Richards was knighted in June 2006 for services to sport. Sir Dave Richards is the chairman of the Premier League from 1999 and was the former chairman of Sheffield Wednesday (1990-2000). He is a member of the FA Board, chairman of the FA international committee, president of the European Professional Football Leagues organisation and chairman of UEFA’s Professional Football Committee.
Sir Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish was knighted in June 2018 for services for football, charity and the City of Liverpool. Sir Daglish played for Celtic from 1969 to 1977, with 112 goals in 204 appearances and for Liverpool from 1977 to 1990, with 118 goals in 355 appearances. He earned 102 caps with Scotland National Team with 30 goals. Sir Kenny Dalglish won the Ballon d’Or Silver Award in 1983, the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 1983, and the FWA Footballer of the Year in 1979 and 1983.