“Success to football, irrespective of class or creed”

Hello and welcome back to this WordPress.com weekly special exploring the origins of British football. Today we’re going to take a little side-track from looking at clubs themselves as I feel this is a good time to introduce the governing body, the Football Association. The development of a standardised governing body could be distinguished as the most important move in the history of the game.

Last week we discovered the story behind Sheffield FC, the oldest football club in the world and how they developed and played by their own rules, known as ‘Sheffield Rules’ and how regional variations developed. For six years ‘football’ had been played in different cities, but whilst all these cities were playing under differing rules, there was no way in which there could be any inter-city competition.

Come 1863, the decision had been made that if the sport was to move forward then some standardisation would have to be made in order to prevent the sport from becoming separate entities across the country. At the Freemasons’ Tavern on Long Acre in London was where the first ever meeting of the Football Association was staged.

On the 26th October 1863, thirteen different clubs and public schools sent representatives to the meeting to discuss the future of football in Britain, however, looking at records, it becomes clear that only one of the teams present, Crystal Palace, still exist as a football club, all the others have disintegrated and formed rugby union football clubs.

Ebenezer Cobb Morley was the founding member of the Football Association in 1862 and is regarded as the most significant man in the establishment of the national governing body. Morley went on to become the first ever secretary of the Football Association and it was at his home in Barnes where he drafted the first ever Laws of the Game, known at the time as ‘London Rules’.

Over six meetings at the Freemasons’ Tavern the rules were discussed and those who agreed and wanted to join the FA did so. However, teams such as Blackheath were not impressed with the rules forbidding the ball being picked up and no tripping or holding of players being allowed. They opted out and instead decided to form the Rugby Football Union in 1871.

The splitting of the two codes was the origins or the word ‘soccer’, meaning football played under the Association’s rules.

The first ever game under FA ruling was scheduled for Battersea Park as we saw last week where Sheffield FC took on the hosts and lost by two goals and four touchdowns to nil, however, an unofficial trial of the rules were taken out when Morley’s Mortlake took on Richmond. The game ended in a goalless draw, also, Richmond did not enjoy the experience and yet another club followed the path of rugby union as opposed to football.

The Football Association Challenge Cup; or FA Cup as it is now more commonly known is the oldest football competition in the world, having been first played in 1871. The final of that first cup was contested between the Wanderers and the Civil Engineers, with the Wanderers walking out one nil victors and the winners of the inaugural FA Cup. Initially the competition was dominated by amateur teams, however, after the foundation of the Football League in 1888 there was a boom in professional team and they began to take over the sport.

 Throughout the early years of the FA there were some disagreements and failure to all comply on the same terms and rules of how the game was to be played, most notably the ‘Sheffield Rules’ debate as cited last week. However, by the end of the century all of these disputes had been settled and the formal Laws of the Game were standardised and respected nationally.

Bringing the history of the Football Association up to date somewhat, the latest big move made by the sports’ national governing body was to adopt the Premier League in 1992 which then comprised of twenty-two teams who had broken away from the Football League. Three years later the league was reduced in size by two members and became and still is one of the richest football leagues in the world with debatably the best reputation worldwide.

The FA is now based at the national stadium, some 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium and is headed by its President, none other than, His Royal Highness Prince William. The responsibility of the association now covers a very wide spectrum, from the forty-three county associations, to the national team and overseeing the running of the Premier League, Football League and National League football in the country.

Thank you very much once again for reading!

I hope you have enjoyed this special looking at the national governing body and look forward to seeing you next week when we explore the history of the oldest Football League club!

Any ideas who it is?

Find out next week, right here!

Have a great weekend and enjoy the football!