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History of Football in Britain


The people calling football in Britain the game of workers" must have no idea that the rules and regulations of formerly "wild" game were determined by the teams of private schools and universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

Almost every school and every football club had their own rules. By some rules it was allowed to lead and pass a ball by hands while the others strictly prohibited doing so, in some rules the number of players in each team wasnt limited while the others did. In some teams it was allowed to push, stumble and hit the legs of the rival, but the others strictly prohibited this.

In other word English football was in absolute disorder. In 1846 there was made the first attempt to unify the football rules. H. de Winton and G. . Tring from Cambridge University had a meeting with the representatives of private schools trying to formulate and adopt the unified rules.

The discussion continued for 7 hours 55 minutes producing the document that was published under the name of Cambridge Rules. The Rules were approved by the majority of schools and clubs and afterwards the England Football Association Charter was based on these rules (with some little changes). Unfortunately no copies of original book of Cambridge Rules left. The modern football association charter goes back the Book of Rules published by Tring in 1862 that is considered to be the oldest existing document of a kind. These are the rules of the game that Tring called the simplest game. They greatly influenced the development of football to the way we know it today.

C.W. Wellcock - one of the first and outstanding football administrators
C.W. Wellcock - one of the first and outstanding football administrators in the history of football in Britain

The England Football Association was founded in October 1863 after the meeting of representatives of the leading English football clubs in London in Freemason tavern on Great Queen Street. The aim of the meeting was to establish the united organization and to approve the definite code of rules.

A. Pamber was the chairman and A. S. Morley was designated to be the honorary secretary. Mr. Morley was entrusted to prepare and send out a letter to the management of the oldest prestigious private schools inviting to join the movement for organized football. The second meeting was held several days later. Some teams managed to send their answers. The representatives of Harrow, Charterhouse and Westminster wrote that they prefer to adhere to their own rules.

On the third meeting of the Football Association the Chairman read the letters of clubs in which they expressed their readiness to accept the rules of Association. The laws and rules of the game were formulated the same time and published on 1 December 1863. The first Committee of Football Association was elected on the sixth meeting.

It consisted of J.F. Wellcock (Forest Club), the elder brother of C.W. Wellcock that appeared in Association later, Mr. Warren (Warr Office), Mr. Turner (Crystal Palace), Mr. Stuart (Crusaders), Mr. Campbell (Blackhit) and Mr. Pamber and Mr. Morley.

On this meeting there occurred a split between Rugby Union (present-day name) and Football Association. Blackhit Club went out of Association, though Campbell agreed to stay in the Committee.

Gradually the Football Association and playing according to unified rules gained great public recognition. There was established the Football Association Cup (Cup of England), they started arranging international matches.

By that time the number of rules being effective in the Association grew from 10 to15. Scotland kept on refusing to include throwing the ball from out by hand and didnt agree with English definition of the offside. The relations between the Football Associations of England and Scotland were quite friendly except of these small disagreements.

But another crisis that considerably influenced the development of the modern football was about to happen. Its a question of starting to hire the players that played for money the first professional players.

Hampton from Aston Villa is scoring a defeater into the Newcastle gates in the final match - History of football in Britain
OPIUM FOR PEOPLE. Hampton from Aston Villa is scoring a defeater into the Newcastle gates in the final match

By that time the number of members in the Football Association including clubs and joined associations grew to 128. 80 members came from Southern England, 41 from Northern England, 6 from Scotland and 1 from Australia.

It was rumored that many clubs from the Northern England paid to their players so that they played in their teams. As a result of this in 1882 the rule N 16 was added to the Rules of the Football Association: Any club player that receives from a club any kind of remuneration or refund exceeding his personal expenses or funds that he loses as a result of playing in any match shall be automatically removed from taking part in the Cup matches, any competitions under the Football Association and international matches. The club that hired such player shall be automatically excluded from the Association.

Some clubs abused the little liberty in the rules regarding the remuneration of actual expenses. This unconformity with the amateur status of players was considered by the southern clubs the consequence of expansion of unsporting spirit among the clubs of northern and central counties of England.

Scottish teams were considered to be the strongest in Great Britain and no wonder that English clubs drew their attention to the north to attract Scottish players to strengthen their teams.

In the beginning the Football Association overlooked that, but after all the management of the Association had to take measures because three football associations at once Sheffield, Lancashire and Birmingham were accused of encouraging professional players. In January 1883 there was appointed a special inspecting commission of the Football Association that consisted of C.W. Wellcock, N.L. Jackson, G. H. Coffield, T. Hindle, G.R. Harvey. The commission was not able to prove anything. The discontent of the leading amateur clubs was growing and some of them threatened to ignore the Cup of England right before opening 1883-84 season.

There was a crash of thunder in the beginning of 1884 when Apton Park club brought an accusation of encouraging professionalism against Preston. This case attracted attention of general public. William Sadell, the president and manager of Preston, publicly acknowledged that his club paid to its players but for all that he declared that the same practice occurred practically in all strongest clubs of Lancashire and central counties.

Preston was disqualified for a season and removed from taking part in the Cup of England, but the Sadells frank declarations made the management of Football Association admit that the reality dictated its terms. At the next meeting of the Committee C.W. Wellcock said that its time to legalize the professional football. Dr. Morley supported him, but not all members of the Committee agreed with this. After hard discussions that continued for a year and a half the professional football was finally legalized in July 1885.

But the argues about the amateur and professional status of football continued for another several years and not only in England but also in other countries of the world. At the end of 1920-s there existed two official leagues in Argentina amateur and professional which competed between themselves. But the professional football gradually gained strength. And it was the development of professional football that contributed to the establishment of the world cup.

The British associations strongly objected to the regulations of FIFA that assumed remuneration for idle time, which means that a player was paid remuneration for the time during which he played football and couldnt earn money on his main job. As a result of disagreement all four Associations of home countries (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) left FIFA. This gesture costed them the right to take part in the first three world cups preceding the World War II. The long isolation from international tournaments had a strong negative influence on development of British football technique which was proved by the defeat of England from the Hungarian national team in the friendly match in 1953.

But in 13 years England celebrated the winning of the world cup.


1. A goal is scored when a ball passes through the section line of the gates under the crossbar, except of the cases when a ball was directed into the gates by a hand.

2. It is allowed to stop a ball by hand only to place it in front of you for a kick.

3. The kicks must be directed only onto a ball.

4. It is forbidden to hit the flying ball.

5. It is forbidden to , and hit the opponet on legs.

6. When a ball is kicked out of the side flags the player that kicked a ball out returns it into the game from the place where the ball crossed the side line towards the straight line in the middle of the field.

7. When a ball crosses the gate line it should be returned into the game by the player of the team the gate line of which was crossed by a ball.

8. The players of the opposite team should be farther than 6 steps from the player that returns a ball into the game from the sideline or gate line.

9. A player is considered to be offside as soon as he appears in front of a ball and he has to move back to be behind of the ball. If his team possesses a ball the player in offside cant touch a ball or move forward until someone from the opposite team touches a ball or someone from his own team kicks a ball to be in line or in front of him.

10 In case a player is in offside he cant attack the rival. He can start attack only when he escapes the offside position.

* In these rules of the previous century one can meet some elements of rugby which were left out later on. Nowadays there are 17 main rules of football.

Many elements of the modern football were introduced into the game owing to a plentiful development of history of football in Britain.

© 2006-2013 Vitaly Chaikovsky

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