Imbued in English culture is a love and inventor of Sports of all kinds.
I have a website where I have listed and linked to the 100+ various sports and games created by us Brits. Our national game is Football which It is believed was first played over a 1,000 years ago in English villages up and down the country. There are stories that villager’s played against villager’s and the aim of the game was to get the ball passed the opposing village boundary line. The rules included kicking, punching, scratching the opposition over and above the kicking of the ball.
1280 AD – Earliest form of ball kicking
The earliest recorded form of ball kicking was recorded in England in 1280 AD at Ulgham near Ashington in Northumberland. A player was killed by running into an opposing players dagger.
1314 AD – The first banning of Football
In 1314, comes the earliest reference to a game called football when Nicholas de Farndone Lord Mayor of the City of London issued a decree on behalf of King Edward II banning football. It was written in the French used by the English upper classes at the time. A translation reads: “For as much as there is great noise in the city caused by hustling over large foot balls in the fields of the public from which many evils might arise which God forbid: we command and forbid on behalf of the king, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city in the future.”
1409 AD – First banning of betting on Football
In 1409 King Henry IV of England gives us the first documented use of the English word “football” when issued a proclamation forbidding the levying of money for “foteball”.
1481 AD – Earliest description of Football Game At the end of the 15th century comes the earliest description of a football game. This account in Latin of a football game contains a number of features of modern football and comes from Cawston, Nottinghamshire, England. It is included in a manuscript collection of the miracles of King Henry VI of England. Although the precise date is uncertain it certainly comes from between 1481 and 1500. This is the first account of an exclusively “kicking game” and the first description of dribbling. “The game at which they had met for common recreation is called by some the foot-ball game. It is one in which young men, in country sport, propel a huge ball not by throwing it into the air but by striking it and rolling it along the ground, and that not with their hands but with their feet… kicking in opposite directions” The chronicler gives the earliest reference to a football field, stating that: “The boundaries have been marked and the game had started.
1526 AD – First Football Boots In 1526 comes the first record of a pair of football boots occurs when Henry VIII of England ordered a pair from the Great Wardrobe in 1526. Unfortunately these are no longer in existence.
1581 AD – First organised Team Sport In 1581 comes the earliest account of football as an organised team sport. Richard Mulcaster, a student at Eton College in the early 16th century and later headmaster at other English schools provides the earliest references to teams (“sides” and “parties”), positions (“standings”), a referee (“judge over the parties”) and a coach “(trayning maister)”. Mulcaster’s “footeball” had evolved from the disordered and violent forms of traditional football:
[s]ome smaller number with such overlooking, sorted into sides and standings, not meeting with their bodies so boisterously to trie their strength: nor shouldring or shuffing one an other so barbarously … may use footeball for as much good to the body, by the chiefe use of the legges.
Mulcaster also confirms that in sixteenth century England football was very popular and widespread: it had attained “greatnes. .. [and was] much used … in all places”
Despite this violence continued to be a problem. For example, the parish archives of North Moreton, Oxfordshire for May 1595 state: “Gunter’s son and ye Gregorys fell together by ye years at football. Old Gunter drew his dagger and both broke their heads, and they died both within a fortnight after.”
1600 AD – First reference to Scoring a Goal
The first direct references to scoring a goal come from England in the 1600s. For example, in John Day’s play ‘The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green (performed circa 1600; published 1659): “I’ll play a gole at camp-ball” (an extremely violent variety of football, which was popular in East Anglia. Similarly in a poem in 1613, Michael Drayton refers to “when the Ball to throw, And drive it to the Gole, in squadrons forth they goe”.
1602 AD – First reference to Passing the Ball In 1602 the earliest reference to a game involving passing the ball comes from cornish hurling. In particular Carew tells us that: “Then must he cast the ball (named Dealing) to some one of his fellowes”. In this case, however, the pass is by hand, as in rugby football. Although there are other allusions to ball passing in seventeenth century literature, this is the only one which categorically states that the ball was passed to another member of the same team. There are no other explicit references to passing the ball between members of the same team until the 1860s, however, in 1650 English puritan Richard baxter alludes to player to player passing of the ball during a football game in his book Everlasting Rest: “like a Football in the midst of a crowd of Boys, tost about in contention from one to another”.
1608 AD – Outlawing of Football in Cities
Football continued to be outlawed in English cities, for example the Manchester Lete Roll contains a resolution, dated 12 October 1608: “That whereas there hath been heretofore great disorder in our towne of Manchester, and the inhabitants thereof greatly wronged and charged with makinge and amendinge of their glasse windows broken yearlye and spoyled by a companye of lewd and disordered psons vsing that unlawfull exercise of playinge with the ffote-ball in ye streets of ye sd toune breakinge many men’s windowes and glasse at their plesures and other great enormyties. Therefore, wee of this jurye doe order that no manner of psons hereafter shall play or use the footeball in any street within the said toune of Manchester, subpœnd to evye one that shall so use the same for evye time xiid”.
Although football was frequently outlawed in England, it remained popular even with the ruling classes. For example, during the reign of King James I of England James Howelll mentions how Lord Willoughby and Lord Sunderland enjoyed playing football, for example:”Lord Willoughby, and he, with so many of their servants … play’d a match at foot- ball against such a number of Countrymen, where my Lord of Sunderland being busy about the ball, got a bruise in the breast.
1624 AD – First concept of Football Teams
The concept of football teams is mentioned by English Poet Edmund Waller in c1624: He mentions a “a sort [i.e. company]of lusty shepherds try their force at football, care of victory… They ply their feet, and still the restless ball, Toss’d to and fro, is urged by them all”. The last line suggests that playing as a team emerged much earlier in English football than previously thought.
1638 AD – Popularity of Football
Football continued to be popular throughout seventeenth century England. For example in 1634 Davenant is quoted (in Hones Table-Book) as remarking, “I would now make a safe retreat, but methinks Jam stopped by one of your heroic gamea called football; which I conceive (under your favor) not very conveniently civil in the streets, especially in such irregular and narrow roads as Crooked Lane. Yet it argues your courage, much like your military pastime of throwing at cocks, since you have long allowed these two valiant exercises in the streets”. Similarly in 1638 Thomas Randolp suggests this in the following lines from one of his plays: “Madam, you may in time bring down his legs To the just size, now overgrown with playing Too much at foot-ball”.
1660 AD – First Objective study of Football In 1660 comes the first objective study of football, given in Francis Willughby’s Book of Sports, written in about 1660. This account is particularly noteworthy as he refers to football by its correct name and is the first to describe the following: goals and a pitch (“a close that has a gate at either end. The gates are called Goals”), tactics (“leaving some of their best players to guard the goal”), scoring (“they that can strike the ball through their opponents’ goal first win”) and the way teams were selected (“the players being equally divided according to their strength and nimbleness”). He is the first to describe a law of football: “They often break one another’s shins when two meet and strike both together against the ball, and therefore there is a law that they must not strike higher than the ball”. His book includes the first (basic) diagram illustrating a modern football pitch.
Football continued to be played in the later seventeenth century, even in cities such as London. The great diarist Samuel Pepys, for example, states in 1665 that in a London street “the streete being full of footballs”
1840’s AD – Codified Football England was the first country in the world to develop codified football, coming about from a desire of its various public schools to compete against each other. Previously, each school had its own rules, which may have dated back to the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries. The first attempts to come up with single codes probably began in the 1840s, with various meetings between school representatives attempting to come up with a set of rules with which all would be happy. The first attempt was The Cambridge Rules, created in 1848; others developed their own sets, most notably Sheffield F.C. (1855) and J.C. Thring(1862). These were moulded into one set in 1863 when the Football Association was formed; though some clubs continued to play under the Sheffield Rules 1878, and others dissented to form Rugby Union instead. The 1863 rules of the Football Association provides the first reference in the English Language to the verb to “pass” a ball.
1866 AD – First Player to be Ruled Offside C.W.Alcock became the first footballer ever to be ruled off side on 31 March 1866, confirming that players were probing ways of exploiting the new off side rule right from the start. The offside rule was introduced in 1866 into the Football Association rules. It was almost identical to the one that had been part of the Cambridge Rules.
The early Sheffield Rules were particularly important as their offside system allowed poaching or sneaking and thus demonstrated the use of the forward pass: Players known as “kick throughs” were positioned permanently near the opponents goal to receive these balls. According to C.W. Alcock the Sheffield style gave birth to the modern passing game. The Sheffield Rules of 1862later included both crossbars and half time and free kicks were introduced to their code in 1866.
1867 AD – The Oldest Football Cup in the World The Youdan Cup was an association football competition played in Sheffield, England. A local theatre owner Thomas Youdan sponsored the competition and provided the trophy. The trophy itself was made of silver, and although Thomas Youdan awarded a £2 prize to the winner of a competition to design the trophy, it was not completed in time to be presented on the day to the winners.
The format of the competition was drawn up by a committee and played under Sheffield Rules. The first two rounds were on a knock-out basis, however the final was contested between three teams playing each other in turn.
The final was played at Bramell Lane, Sheffield on 5 March 1867 and attracted 3,000 spectators, each paying 3d admission. The game used the concept of ‘rouges’ (a rouge was scored when an attempt at goal, using a goal only 4 yards wide, missed, but would have gone into an 8 yard wide goal: rouges were only considered in the case of a drawn match), and Hallam beat Norfolk and Mackenzie to finish first, while Norfolk beat Mackenzie and finished second. The Runners-up were presented with a two-handed silver goblet encircled with athletic figures that had been purchased with the proceeds of the gate money and had been completed. Sadly Youdan was unable to present it personally as he was ill.
1870 AD – The first International England was home to the first ever international football match on the 5 March 1870. The first match ended in a draw and was one of a series of four matches between representatives of England and Scotland at The Oval, London. These matches were arranged by the Football Association, at the time the only national football body in the world.
The origin of these games came in 1870 when CW Alcock challenged homegrown contenders in Scotland against an English eleven. These challenges were issued in Scottish newspapers, including the Glasgow Herald. He received no response to these adverts. One response to Alcock’s challenges illustrates that soccer was eclipsed in Scotland by other codes:
“Mr Alcock’s challenge to meet a Scotch eleven on the borders sounds very well and is doubtless well meant. But it may not be generally well known that Mr Alcock is a very leading supporter of what is called the “association game”…devotees of the “association” rules will find no foemen worthy of their steel in Scotland”.
As a result he was forced to draw upon London-based players with Scottish origins. One notable Scottish player of the 1870 and 1871 games was Smith, a player of Queensn Park FC. This suggests that southern teams were not so isolated from Glasgow players and style of play as originally thought. Alcock was categorical that although most players were London based, this was due to lack of response from north of the border:
“I must join issue with your correspondent in some instances. First, I assert that of whatever the Scotch eleven may have been composed the right to play was open to every Scotchman [Alcock's italics] whether his lines were cast North or South of the Tweed and that if in the face of the invitations publicly given through the columns of leading journals of Scotland the representative eleven consisted chiefly of Anglo-Scotians … the fault lies on the heads of the players of the north, not on the management who sought the services of all alike impartially. To call the team London Scotchmen contributes nothing. The match was, as announced, to all intents and purposes between England and Scotland”. The first official ( i.e. Currently recognised by FIFA) international match would take place between Scotland and England on November 30th. 1872. This match was played under the Football Association rules.
1871 AD – The F.A.Cup The F.A. Cup was the first nationally organized competition. A knockout cup, it began 1871, with the first winners being the Wanderers. In those days professionalism was banned, and the cup was dominated by service teams or old schoolboys’ teams (such as Old Etonians). In the early 1870s the modern team passing game was invented by the Sheffield FC, Royal Engineers A.F.C. and Scottish players of the era from Queens Park FC. This was the predecessor to the current passing, defensive game which was known as the Combination Game and was spread around the world by British expatriates.
1888 AD – Worlds First Football League The new professionals needed more regular competitive football in which they could compete, which led to the creation of the Football league in 1888 by Aston Villa director William McGregor . This was dominated by those clubs who had supported professionalism, and the twelve founding members consisted of six from Lancashire (Blackburn Rovers, Burnely, Bolton Wanderers, Accrington, Everton and preston North End) and six from the Midlands (Aston Villa, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers). No sides from the South or London initially participated.
Preston North End won the first ever Football League championship without losing any of their 22 fixtures, and won the FA Cup to complete the double. They retained their league title the following year but by the turn of the 20th century they had been eclipsed by Aston Villa, who had emulated Preston’s double success in 1897. Other Midlands sides, such as Wolves (1893 FA Cup winners) and West Bromwich Albion (1888 & 1892 FA Cup winners) were also successful during this era, as were Blackburn Rovers, who won five FA Cups in the 1880s and 1890s. In 1892 a second division was added and in 1920 a third division was added.
1891 AD – Creation of Football Net In 1891 Liverpool engineer John Alexander Brodie invented the football net.
1991- Present In 1991 the English Premier league was formed of 20 clubs and with its links to Sky television and the increase in revenues by 2001 The Premier league was the richest league of any kind of sports in the world. At the present day, the league’s TV rights have reached over 2 Billion Pounds. The argument at present is when will technology be used around the goal to confirm problem goals by Video replay.
It always amazes me how from a little Island like England we created and gave the world over 100 sports and games that have dominated the world.
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The Chinese call England “The Island of Hero’s” which I think sums up what we English are all about.
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