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History of association football

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Title: History of association football  
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Subject: Association Football, History of soccer in Brisbane, Queensland, Timeline of association football, Timeline of English football, Association football/Topics
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History of association football

Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, can be traced to as far back as the Medieval period in Britain (medieval football). The modern game of association football originates from the formation of The Football Association in London, England in 1863 based on multiple efforts to standardize the varying forms of the game. This allowed clubs to play each other without dispute and which specifically banned handling of the ball and hacking during open field play. After the fifth meeting of the association a schism emerged between association football and the rules played by the Rugby school, later to be called rugby football). At the time, football clubs had played by their own, individual codes and game-day rules had usually to be agreed upon before a match could commence. For example, the Sheffield Rules that applied to most matches played in the Sheffield area were a different language.


  • The Football Association 1
    • Foundations of a competition 1.1
    • First FA Cup 1.2
    • First league 1.3
    • First International 1.4
    • From amateurism to professionalism 1.5
    • Wartime football 1.6
  • Football spreads around the world 2
    • Continental Europe 2.1
    • Portugal 2.2
    • South America 2.3
    • United States 2.4
    • FIFA 2.5
    • FIFA Men's World Cup 2.6
    • FIFA Women's World Cup 2.7
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

The Football Association

The first set of football rules was drawn up at the University of Cambridge in 1848 and became particularly influential in the development of subsequent codes, including association football. Known as the Cambridge Rules, they were written at Trinity College, Cambridge, at a meeting attended by representatives from Eton, Harrow, Shrewsbury, Rugby and Winchester schools, though they were not universally adopted. During the 1850s, many clubs unconnected to schools or universities were formed throughout the English-speaking world, to play various forms of football. Some came up with their own distinct codes of rules, most notably the Sheffield Football Club, formed by former public school pupils in 1857, which led to formation of a Sheffield Football Association in 1867.

During the early 1860s, there were increasing attempts in England to unify and reconcile the various football games that were played in the public schools as well in the industrial north under the Sheffield Rules. In 1862, J. C. Thring, who had been one of the driving forces behind the original Cambridge Rules, was a master at Uppingham School and issued his own rules of what he called "The Simplest Game" (aka the Uppingham Rules). In early October 1863, a revised version of the Cambridge Rules was drawn up by a seven-member committee representing former pupils of Eton, Harrow, Shrewsbury, Rugby, Marlborough and Westminster.

Ebenezer Cobb Morley, who is regarded as the "father of football".

Ebenezer Cobb Morley, a solicitor from Hull, wrote to Bell's Life newspaper in 1863, proposing a governing body for football. Morley was to become the FA's first secretary (1863–66) and its second president (1867–74), but is particularly remembered as it was he who drafted the first Laws of the Game at his home in Barnes, London, that are today played the world over. For this, he is considered not just the father of the Football Association, but of Association Football itself.

Charterhouse has an historic joint claim to having founded Association Football, which remains the main Winter sport at the school. During the 1840s at both Charterhouse and Westminster School pupils' surroundings meant they were confined to playing their football in the cloisters, making the rough and tumble of the handling game that was developing at other schools such as Rugby impossible, and necessitating a new code of rules. During the formulation of the rules of the Association Football in the 1860s representatives of Charterhouse and Westminster School pushed for a passing game, in particular rules that allowed forward passing ("passing on"). Other schools (in particular Eton College, Shrewsbury School and Harrow) favoured a dribbling game with a tight off-side rule. It is claimed that Stoke Ramblers was formed in 1863 when former pupils of Charterhouse School formed a football club while apprentices at the North Staffordshire Railway works in Stoke-on-Trent.[1] By 1867 the Football Association had chosen in favour of the Charterhouse and Westminster game and adopted a "loose" off-side rule that permitted forward passing.[2] The modern forward-passing game was a direct consequence of Charterhouse and Westminster Football.

On the evening of 26 October 1863, representatives of several football clubs in the Greater London area met at the Freemasons' Tavern on Long Acre in Covent Garden. This was the first meeting of The Football Association (FA). It was the world's first official football body and for this reason is not preceded with the word English. Charterhouse was the only school which accepted invitations to attend. The first meeting resulted in the issuing of a request for representatives of the public schools to join the association. With the exception of Thring at Uppingham, most schools declined.In total, six meetings of the FA were held between October and December 1863. Committee member J. F. Alcock, said: "The Cambridge Rules appear to be the most desirable for the Association to adopt."

After the third meeting, a draft set of rules were published by the FA. However, at the beginning of the fourth meeting, attention was drawn to the recently published Cambridge Rules of 1863. The Cambridge rules differed from the draft FA rules in two significant areas; namely running with (carrying) the ball and hacking (kicking opposing players in the shins). The two contentious FA rules were as follows:

IX. A player shall be entitled to run with the ball towards his adversaries' goal if he makes a fair catch, or catches the ball on the first bound; but in case of a fair catch, if he makes his mark he shall not run. X. If any player shall run with the ball towards his adversaries' goal, any player on the opposite side shall be at liberty to charge, hold, trip or hack him, or to wrest the ball from him, but no player shall be held and hacked at the same time.

At the fifth meeting a motion was proposed that these two rules be removed from the FA rules. Most of the delegates supported this suggestion but F. W. Campbell, the representative from Blackheath and the first FA treasurer, objected strongly. He said, "hacking is the true football". The motion was carried nonetheless and — at the final meeting — Campbell withdrew his club from the FA. After the final meeting on 8 December the FA published the "Laws of Football", the first comprehensive set of rules for the game later known as association football. The game also came to be called "soccer" as a shortening of "Association" around the same time as Rugby football, colloquially referred to as "rugger", was developing as the main carrying of the ball version of English football, and "soccer" remains a common descriptor in countries with other prominent football codes today.

Old Etonians and Blackburn Rovers playing a match under the association football code.

These first FA rules still contained elements that are longer part of association football, but which are still recognisable in other games (Rugby Union, Australian rules football): for instance, a player could make a catch and claim a mark, which entitled him to a free kick, and; if a player touched the ball behind the opponents' goal line, his side was entitled to a penalty kick at goal, from unknown yards in front of the goal line.

The laws of the game agreed on by the FA members stipulated a maximum length and breadth for the pitch, the procedure for kicking off, and definition of terms, including goal, throw in, offside. Passing the ball by hand was still permitted provided the ball was caught "fairly or on the first bounce". Despite the specifications of footwear having no "tough nails, iron plates and gutta percha" there were no specific rule on number of players, penalties, foul play or the shape of the ball; captains of the participating teams were expected to agree on these things prior to the match.

Foundations of a competition

The laws laid down by the FA had an immediate effect, with Sheffield F.C. and Nottingham (now Notts County) playing an annual fixture on the FA code, among others. As more teams joined the code in the 1860s, the sport veered away from its origins in public schools, came to be played with round balls and by teams that had settled on 11 players each. The rule eliminating passing of the ball forwards by making all players in front of the ball 'offside' (much like in rugby today) was dropped. A Sheffield against London game in 1866 had allowed the FA to observe how the rules were affecting the game; subsequently handling of the ball was abolished except for one player on each team, the goalkeeper. A red tape was added between the two goalposts to indicate the top of the goal, and a national competition was proposed. 1867 saw the introduction of the first competition and oldest existing trophy in soccer, the Youdan Cup.

First FA Cup

The Royal Engineers team who reached the first FA Cup final.

On 20 July 1871, C. W. Alcock, a gentleman from Sunderland and a former pupil of Harrow School proposed that "a Challenge Cup should be established in connection with the [Football] Association",[3] the idea that gave birth to the competition. At the first FA Cup in 1872, Wanderers and Royal Engineers met in the final in front of 2,000 paying spectators. Despite the Royal Engineers being the heavy favourites, one of their players sustained a broken collar bone early on and since substitutions had not yet been introduced, the Engineers played a man down for the rest of the match which they eventually lost 1-0.

The FA Cup was a success and within a few years all of the clubs in England wanted to take part. To do so they had to accept the FA code, which led to the quick spread of a universal set of rules. These rules are the basis of which all association football rules today stem from.

Later competitions saw the 'Gentleman' or Southerners dominate with Old Etonians, Wanderers, Royal Engineers and Oxford University who amongst them took 19 titles. Queens Park withdrew in the semi-finals of the 1873 cup (which due to the format being played that year meant that all the challengers to Wanderers' trophy played a competition for the right to throw down the gauntlet and play the holders, hence the full name FA Challenge Cup) because they had trouble raising travel expenses to pay for the constant trips to England, this directly led to the formation of the Scottish FA. However, despite this, Queens Park continued to participate in the FA Cup, reaching the final twice, before the Scottish FA banned Scottish clubs from entering in 1887.

In 1872, Alcock purchased the Football Association Cup for £20. That year, fifteen clubs entered the competition. Queen's Park reached the semi finals without playing due to withdrawals, but then after a goalless draw with Wanderers, were forced to withdraw as before the advent of penalties and extra time, they could not afford to come back to London for the replay. Wanderers won the cup outright in 1878 after what remains to this day one of only two hat tricks of wins ever. However they returned the cup to the FA in order for the competition to continue, on the condition that no other club could win the cup outright ever again.

First league

In 1888, William McGregor a gentleman from Perthshire and a director of Aston Villa F.C was the main force between meetings held in London and Manchester involving 12 football clubs, with an eye to a league competition. These 12 clubs would later become the Football League's 12 founder members. The meetings were held in London, the main concern was that an early exit in the knockout format of the FA Cup could leave clubs with no matches for almost a year, and if that happened, not only could they suffer heavy financial losses, but fans often didn't stick around for that long without a game, and instead went to other teams. Matters were finalised on 17 April in Manchester.

McGregor had voted against the name The Football League, as he was concerned that it would be associated with the Irish Land League.[4] But this name still won by a majority vote and was selected. The competition guaranteed fixtures and members for all of its member clubs. The clubs were split equally among North and Midlands teams. It excluded Southern teams, who were still strictly amateur.

A rival English league called the Football Alliance operated from 1889 to 1892. In 1892 it was decided to formally merge the two leagues, and so the Football League Second Division was formed, consisting mostly of Football Alliance clubs. The existing League clubs, plus three of the strongest Alliance clubs, comprised the Football League First Division.

First International

The first international game was played in Scotland on 30 November 1872. Charles Alcock, who was elected to secretary of the FA at the age of 28, devised the idea of an international competition, inaugurating an annual Scotland-England fixture. In 1870 and 1871 he placed advertisements in Edinburgh and Glasgow newspapers, requesting players for an international between the two countries. The only response that he received stated: "devotees of the "association" rules will find no foemen worthy of their steel in Scotland"[5] For this reason the 1870 and 1871 matches were composed entirely of Scots living in England. Notably, however, Smith of the Queen's Park football club took part in most of the 1870 and 1871 international matches. As early as 1870, Alcock was adamant that these matches were open to every Scotsman [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".[6]

In 1872 the challenge was eventually taught by Queens Park FC.[7] The first international currently recognised as official by FIFA (which took place on 30 November 1872, Glasgow, Scotland) ended in a goalless draw between the two sides and thus, one of the most bitterly disputed fixtures in footballing history was born. The 2nd game between the two sides, on the 8 March1873, ended 4-2 in favour of England, the Scots then went on to win the next game 2-1. The fourth game ended in a 2-2 draw after which the Scots enjoyed a 3-game winning streak.

The first non-European international was contested on 28 November 1885, at Newark, New Jersey, between the USA and Canada, the Canadians winning 1-0.

From amateurism to professionalism

When football was gaining popularity during the 1870s and 1880s professionals were banned in England and Scotland. Then in the 1880s, soon after Wanderers disbanded, in the north of England, teams started hiring players known as 'professors of football', who were often professionals from Scotland. This was the first time professionalism got into football. The clubs in working class areas, especially in Northern England and Scotland wanted professional football in order to afford playing football besides working. Several clubs were accused of employing professionals.

The northern clubs made of lower class paid players started to gain momentum over the amateur 'Gentleman Southerners'. The first northern club to reach the FA Cup final was Blackburn Rovers in 1882, where they lost to Old Etonians, who were the last amateur team to win the trophy.

During the summer of 1885, there was pressure put on the Football Association to accept professionalism in English football, culminating in a special meeting on 20 July, after which it was announced that it was "in the interests of Association Football, to legalise the employment of professional football players, but only under certain restrictions". Clubs were allowed to pay players provided that they had either been born or had lived for two years within a six-mile radius of the ground. There were also rules preventing professional players playing for more than one club in a season, without obtaining special permission, and all professional players had to be registered with the F.A.[8]

Early English women's teams, such as the Dick, Kerr's Ladies from Preston, were so popular that their matches raised money for charities. The first recorded women's football match, on 23 March 1895, was held in England between a northern and southern team. The fundraising matches continued, in spite of objections. A maximum wage was placed on players, players challenged this and came close to strike action in 1909, but it was not to be for another fifty years before the maximum wage was abolished. In 1921, women were banned from playing on FA league grounds. FA history states that this ban "effectively destroyed the game" in England for the next 40 years.[9] Hakoah Vienna was probably the first non-British club to pay their players during the 1920s .

In 1934 the Swedish club Malmö FF was relegated from the top division after it had been discovered that they paid their players, something that was not allowed in Swedish football at the time.

Wartime football

Between 1915 and 1919 competitive association football was suspended in England. Many footballers signed up to fight in the war and as a result many teams were depleted, and fielded guest players instead. The Football League and FA Cup were suspended and in their place regional league competitions were set up; appearances in these tournaments do not count in players' official records.

Football spreads around the world

Continental Europe

The oldest club in continental Europe could be the Swiss club Lausanne Football and Cricket Club, founded 1860. Football was introduced in the Belgian school of Melle near Ghent in 1863. Association football was introduced in the Danish club, Kjøbenhavns Boldklub (KB) by English residents,[10] in Swiss club FC St. Gallen in 1879 and in Belgium Royal Antwerp FC in 1880. This makes KB, St. Gallen and Royal Antwerp FC the oldest still existing football clubs on Continental Europe. However, Royal Antwerp FC (nickname "The Great Old") is the only one that never merged with or into another club.

The Italian Football Federation. La Liga, Spain's national league, had its first season in 1928, with its participants based on the previous winners of the Copa del Rey, which began in 1902. The modern German national league, the Bundesliga was late in foundation, especially for European countries, given it wasn't founded until 1963. The German Football Association was founded as early as 1900 with the first German football champions being Leipzig in 1903. However, prior to the formation of the Bundesliga, German football was played at an amateur level in a large number of regional leagues.


The first organised game of football in Portugal took place in 1875 in Camacha, Madeira. Organised by the Madeira born Harry Hinton.

The oldest surviving team in Portugal is Académica, which was founded in 1876.

On 31 March 1914, the 3 regional associations that existed in Portugal (Lisbon, Portalegre and Porto), merged to create a national association called "a União Portuguesa de Futebol" which is the ancestor of the current national association "Federação Portuguesa de Futebol" which was formed on 28 May 1926.

South America

The first recorded association football match in 1891,[12] making Argentina's the oldest association football league outside mainland Great Britain[13] although it only lasted for one season. Its successor, the Argentine Football Association was founded by Scottish schoolteacher Alexander Watson Hutton in 1893, remaining nowadays.[14]

In the 1870s an expatriate named John Miller who worked on the railway construction project in São Paulo together with some 3000 other immigrant families from the British Isles in the last decades of the 19th century, decided to send his young boy Charles William Miller to England for his education. In 1884 Charles aged 10 was sent to Bannisters school in Southampton. Charles was a natural footballer who quickly picked up the arts of the game. The football association was being formed at the time. Eton, Rugby, Charterhouse and other colleges all had developed their own rules to the game. As an accomplished winger and striker Charles held school honours that were to gain him entry first into the Southampton Club team and then into the County team of Hampshire.

In 1892 a couple of years before his return to Brazil, Miller was invited to play a game for the Corinthians, a team formed of players invited from public schools and universities.

On his return Miller brought some association football equipment and a rules book with him. He then went on to develop the new rules of the game amongst the community in São Paulo. In 1888, six years before his return, the first sports club was founded in the city, São Paulo Athletic Club. São Paulo Athletic Club won the first three years championships. Miller's skills were far and above his colleagues at this stage. He was given the honour of contributing his name to a move involving a deft flick of the ball with the heel "Chaleira".

Charles Miller kept a strong bond with English association football throughout his life. Teams from Southampton and Corinthians Club came over to Brazil and played against São Paulo Athletic Club and other teams in São Paulo. One on occasion in 1910 a new local team was about to be formed after a tour of the Corinthians team to Brazil and Charles was asked to suggest a name for the team. He suggested they should call themselves after Corinthians.

In 1988 when São Paulo Athletic Club celebrated its centenary and the English Corinthians Team went across again to play them at Morumbi Stadium. The end of the tour was against the local professional Corinthians Paulista team with Sócrates and Rivelino amongst its players. This game was played at Paecambu Stadium in São Paulo and true to Corinthian principles of good clean association football the score was 1 to 0 in favour of the locals when as agreed Socrates changed shirts to play alongside the English amateurs. This did not affect the score unfortunately although a largely packed stadium was cheering on for a drawn result.

The Brazilian Football Confederation was founded in 1914, and the current format for the Campeonato Brasileiro was established in 1971.

United States

The first association football club in the United States was the Oneida Football Club of Boston, Massachusetts, founded in 1862. It is often said that this was the first club to play association football outside Britain. However, the Oneidas were formed before the English Football Association (FA); it is not known what rules they used[15] and the club wound up within the space of a few years. According to Encyclopædia Britannica, the club is often credited with inventing the "Boston Game", which both allowed players to kick a round ball along the ground, and to pick it up and run with it.

The first U.S. match known to have been inspired by FA rules was a game between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869, although the game included features such as extremely physical tackling and teams of 20 each. Other colleges emulated this development, but all of these were converted to rugby-oriented rules from soccer-oriented rules by the mid-1870s on, and they would soon become famous as early bastions of American football. (For more details see: History of American football and 1869 college football season.)

Early football leagues in the U.S. mostly used the name football leagues: for example, the American Football Association (founded in 1884), the American Amateur Football Association (1893), the American League of Professional Football (1894), the National Association Foot Ball League (1895), and the Southern New England Football League (1914). However, the word "soccer" was beginning to catch on, and the St Louis Soccer League was a significant regional competition between 1907 and 1939. What is now the United States Soccer Federation was originally the U.S. Football Association, formed in 1913 by the merger of the American Football Association and the American Amateur Football Association. The governing body of the sport in the U.S. did not have the word soccer in its name until 1945, when it became the U.S. Soccer Football Association. It did not drop the word football from its name until 1974, when it became the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Two further football leagues were started in the 1967, the United Soccer Association and the National Professional Soccer League. These merged to form the North American Soccer League in 1968, which survived until 1984. The NASL also ran an indoor league in the later years.

Indoor soccer was a great success in the 1980s to the 90s, in part due to the input of the North American Soccer League. When the NASL folded, other leagues, including the Major Indoor Soccer League filled in to meet the demand. A new MISL exists today with seven teams operating in the 2013-2014 season. [16] However, it is unrelated to the original MISL.

The highest level of football in the United States is Major League Soccer.


The need for a single body to oversee the worldwide game became apparent at the beginning of the 20th century with the increasing popularity of international fixtures. The English Football Association had chaired many discussions on setting up an international body, but was perceived as making no progress. It fell to seven other European countries to band together to form this association. FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) was founded in Paris on 21 May 1904 - the French name and acronym persist to this day, even outside French-speaking countries. Its first president was Robert Guérin.

FIFA presided over its first international competition in 1906, however it met with little approval or success. This, in combination with economic factors, led to the swift replacement of Guérin with Daniel Burley Woolfall from England, which had become a member association by that point. The next tournament staged the football competition for the 1908 Olympics in London was more successful, despite the presence of professional footballers, contrary to the founding principles of FIFA.

Membership of FIFA expanded beyond Europe with the application of South Africa in 1909, Argentina in 1912 and the United States in 1913.

FIFA however floundered during Home Nations, who cited an unwillingness to participate in international competitions with their recent World War enemies.

In 1946 the four British nations returned. On 10 May 1947 a 'Match of the Century' between Great Britain and 'Rest of Europe XI' was played at Hampden Park in Glasgow before 135,000 spectators - Britain won 6-1. The proceeds from the match, coming to £35,000, were given to FIFA, to help re-launch it after World War Two. This was followed by FIFA's first post-war World Cup in 1950, held in Brazil. FIFA, meanwhile, continued to expand so that by the time of its fiftieth anniversary it had 84 members.

FIFA Men's World Cup

The first football world cup was played in Uruguay in 1930. In the first championship match between Argentina and Uruguay, the teams could not decide on a ball so they used Argentina's ball the first half and Uruguay's in the second. Many countries did not enter, but most of those that did came from the Americas. By 1950 however, European teams took interest, and the competition blossomed into the world's biggest footballing event.

The South American Copa América was first contested in 1916 and preceded the World Cup. Decades later, other continental championships emerged - the AFC Asian Cup (1956), the African Cup of Nations (1957), the European Championship (1960), North America's Gold Cup (1991) and Oceania's OFC Nations Cup (1996).

The Brazilian team, known as "Seleção", is the most successful team in the World Cup, having won five times. The runner-ups are Italy, and Germany (three as West Germany) with four titles, having won their latest titles in 2006 and 2014 respectively.

FIFA Women's World Cup

The FIFA Women's World Cup was inaugurated with the FIFA Women's World Cup 1991, hosted in China, with 12 teams sent to represent their countries.

Over 90,185 spectators attended the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup and nearly 1 billion viewers from 70 countries tuned in. By the FIFA Women's World Cup 2003, 16 teams competed in the championship finals. Of the four tournaments held to date (2015), the USA (1991, 1999, 2015) is the most successful team with three; and Germany (2003, 2007) have won the championship twice; Norway (1995) and Japan (2011) have each won once. Women's confederations are the same as men's: Oceania (OFC), European (UEFA), North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF), South American (CONMEBOL), Asian (AFC) and African (CAF).

See also


  1. ^ "1863-1888 In The Beginning".  
  2. ^ Marples, Morris. A History of Football, Secker and Warburg, London 1954, page 150
  3. ^ "History of The FA Cup". The Football Association. Retrieved 1 May 2006. 
  4. ^ "A History of Football", p.22
  5. ^ H>M. The Scotsman newspaper, 1 December 1870, page 12
  6. ^ Charles W Alcock, The Scotsman newspaper, 28 November 1870, page 7
  7. ^ "A Sporting Nation - The first international football match". BBC. Retrieved 25 March 2009. 
  8. ^ Philips Gibbons (2001). Association Football in Victorian England - A History of the Game from 1863 to 1900. Upfront Publishing. pp. 82–83.  
  9. ^ "Background and Brief History". thefa. Retrieved 22 May 2006. 
  10. ^ "Fodboldens Danmarks-historie". Danish Football Association (in Dansk). Retrieved 1 May 2006. 
  11. ^ "140 años del primer partido de fútbol", by Eduardo Cántaro
  12. ^ "RSSSF Argentina 1891". 19 January 2007. Retrieved 25 March 2009. 
  13. ^ Pears, Tim (4 June 2006). "Observer article". London: Retrieved 25 March 2009. 
  14. ^ "RSSSF Argentina 1893". 19 January 2007. Retrieved 25 March 2009. 
  15. ^ "Were the Oneidas playing soccer or not?". 14 February 2001. Retrieved 25 March 2009. 
  16. ^ "Professional Indoor Soccer". Retrieved 25 March 2009. 

External links

  • Royal Engineers Museum When the Sappers won the FA Cup (1875)
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