Football is the number 1 sport in England!

The first reference to football is found in a decree of 1314 issued by the Mayor of London, Nicholas de Farndone, on behalf of King Edward II. Originally written in Norman French, a translation of the decree includes: "as long as there is a great noise in the city caused by the jostling on large footballs in the fields of the public, from which could occur many evils that God does not like: we command and prohibit in the name of the King, under penalty of imprisonment, that such a game can be used in the city in the future." The first known reference to football that was written in English is a proclamation of 1409 issued by King Henry IV. He imposed a ban on the levying of money for "football". It was specific to London, but it's unclear whether payments had been claimed from players or spectators or both. The following year, Henry IV imposed fines of 20 shillings on certain mayors and judicial officers who had authorized football and other "offenses" to occur in their cities. This is the first documentary evidence of football playing in all of England.

There is mention of football played at the University of Cambridge in 1710. A letter from a certain Dr. Bentley to the Bishop of Ely regarding the university statutes includes a complaint about students being "perfectly within Liberty of being absent from Grace", in order to play football (called "Foot-Ball") or cricket, and not to be punished for their conduct as prescribed in the statutes.


Nature of folk football

More is known about folk football in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was essentially a game for many played over great distances with goals three miles apart, as at Ashbourne. In Whitehaven, the targets were a harbour wall and a wall outside the city. Matches in Derby involved around a thousand players. In any case, the purpose of the exercise was to lead a ball of varying size and shape, often a pig's bladder, towards a goal. As a rule, the ball could be kicked, thrown, or carried, but it is believed that there were places where only kicks were allowed. Whatever the rules agreed beforehand, there is no doubt that folk football was extremely violent, even relatively well organized. A common form of kick was "brilliant," the term for kicking another player's legs, and it was legal even if the ball was hundreds of meters away.

Folk football was mostly rural, and matches tended to coincide with country fairs. The change was brought about by industrialization and the growth of cities as people moved away from the countryside. The very idea of a multi-hour game over vast expanses went against "the discipline, order and organization necessary for urban capitalism."  In 1801, an inquiry into British sports by Joseph Strutt described football as "once very fashionable among ordinary people in England". Although Strutt claimed that folk football was in disrepute and that it was "but little practiced", there is no doubt that many games continued until the nineteenth century before codification came into effect.


Codification (1801 to 1891)

Public school football

Main article: English public school football matches

A football match between Thames and Townsend clubs, played at Kingston upon Thames, London, 1846

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, football became increasingly important in public schools because it corresponded well to the ideals of the cult of "muscular Christianity". It was, like cricket, perceived as a sport of "character building". The pioneer was the rugby school where boys began playing the game around 1800, almost certainly inspired by the annual New Year's Eve game played by the inhabitants of Rugby, Warwickshire, in the eighteenth century.  Public schools sought to harden their students so that they would be able to rule the British Empire. The policy was in response to the widespread belief that past empires had fallen because the ruling class had become soft. In Rugby, students are encouraged to adopt shinning to harden themselves and they rename the practice "hacking". It became a kind of obsession, with cold showers and punitive cross-country races (cricket supposedly taught them to be gentlemen). Hacking was an important issue when the "manipulation game" separated from the "dribbling game" later in the century.

Ardingly College boys posing for their football house photo, 1916

In the 1820s, other public schools began to design their own versions of football, the rules of which were verbally agreed and passed on for many years. Each school (e.g., Eton, Harrow, and Winchester) had its own variations. Albert Pell, a rugby alumnus who went to Cambridge University in 1839, began organizing football matches there but, due to the different academic variations, a set of compromise rules had to be found. In 1843, it is believed that a set of rules existed in Eton that allowed the ball to be manipulated to control it, but not to run with it in the hand and not to pass it by hand. The first known 11-a-side games were held in Eton where the "dribbling game" was popular. The written version of the football rules of the rugby school in 1845 allowed the ball to be carried and passed by hand. The rules of rugby are the oldest that are certainly known to have been written and were a major step in the evolution of rugby league and rugby union.

Eton introduced the referees and linesmen, who were at the time called arbitrators. In 1847, another set of public-school rules was created in Harrow which, like Eton, played the "dribbling game". Winchester had yet another version of the game. The original rules of the University of Cambridge were written in 1848 by students who were still confused by the different rules in force in the different schools. This was the first attempt to codify the rules of association football (i.e., the game of "dribbling") as opposed to rugby football. Unfortunately, no copy of the original Cambridge rules has survived. The essential difference between the two codes has always been that association football did not allow a player to run with the ball in his hands or pass it by hand to a colleague, although players are allowed to touch and control the ball by hand.


Sheffield, Cambridge, and FA Rules

The Sheffield Rules was adopted as the association's official football rules.

During the winter of 1855-1856, Sheffield Cricket Club players organized informal football matches to help them stay fit. On October 24, 1857, they officially established Sheffield Football Club which is now recognized as the oldest association football club in the world. On 21 October 1858, at the club's first annual general meeting, the club drafted the Sheffield Rules for use in its matches. Piracy was prohibited but "fair catch" was allowed, provided that the player did not cling to the ball. Just over a year later, in January 1860, the rules were upgraded to prohibit manipulation. On 26 December 1860, the world's first club match took place when Sheffield defeated the newly formed Hallam FC at Sandygate Road, Hallam's home ground. In 1862, an impromptu team formed in Nottingham would have been the original County of Notts, which was officially incorporated in December 1864 and is the oldest professional association football club in the world.

In October 1863, a revision of the Cambridge Rules was published. This was shortly before a meeting on Monday 26 October of twelve clubs and schools at the Freemasons' Tavern on Great Queen Street in London. Eleven of them agreed to form the Football Association (FA). Running with the ball in hand was also prohibited, but players could still make the "right catch" to win a free kick.


Impact of rule changes (1863 to 1891)

Royal Engineers AFC in 1872: first representatives of the "combination game"

In 1874, Charles W. Alcock coined the term "combination game" to refer to a style of play based on teamwork and cooperation, obtained largely by passing the ball instead of dribbling it. The first representatives of the style were the Royal Engineers AFC (founded in 1863) and Queen's Park FC, based in Glasgow (founded in 1867).


Competitive, international, and professional football (1871 to 1890)

On 20 July 1871, in the offices of The Sportsman newspaper, FA secretary Charles Alcock proposed to his committee that "it is desirable that a Challenge Cup be created in connection with the Association for which all clubs belonging to the Association are invited to compete".

International football began in 1872 when the England national team travelled to Glasgow to face the Scotland national team in the very first official international match. It was played on 30 November 1872 at Hamilton Crescent, the home ground of the West of Scotland Cricket Club in the Partick district of Glasgow. It ended in a 0-0 draw and was watched by 4,000 spectators. 

Although English clubs employ professionals, the Scottish Football Association has continued to ban the practice. As a result, many Scottish players migrated south. Initially, the FA put in place residential restrictions to prevent this, but these were abandoned in 1889. [25] Preston North End, the first English team to win the championship and the "doubles" cup, did so with a majority of their team being made up of Scottish players. In the first season, they remained unbeaten in both the league and the FA Cup, earning them nicknames "the invincible". 

Wealthy miner Samuel Tyzack, who alongside shipbuilder Robert Turnbull funded the now-professional "all-talent team," has often claimed to be a priest while looking for players in Scotland, as Sunderland's recruitment policy in Scotland has infuriated many Scottish fans. In fact, Sunderland's entire squad at the 1895 World Championship was made up of all-Scottish players.



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