FA's 150th Birthday: 11 Things You May Not Know About The History Of The Football Association

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the men who shaped the beautiful game, here are eleven things you may not know about the history of our dear, old FA...
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As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the men who shaped the beautiful game, here are eleven things you may not know about the history of our dear, old FA...

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The Football Association have been blowing their trumpet about reaching 150 years old this year since the start of 2013 but this Saturday marks the official date they were inaugurated.  The history of football is often seen as anything pre-Premier League but before the near-daily assault on your senses that is ‘Monday Night Football’, ‘Super Sunday’ or ‘Europa League Thursday’, there was a distinctly different feel to the early days of the world’s most popular sport...

1. In 1848, public school boys from Eton, Harrow, Marlborough, Rugby, Shrewsbury and Westminster met at Cambridge University to formalise the first set of rules for football.  However, all players were allowed to catch the ball directly from a kick but the catcher had to kick the ball immediately without running, unless they were the goalkeeper.  Players uniforms were simply the same coloured caps, normally those issued to pupils at each school as part of their uniform, but due to the schools involved either blue or red.  In response to these rules, and their displeasure with them, alumni of the Sheffield Collegiate School formed Sheffield Football Club in 1857.  The club, who have carried on ever since, were recognised by FIFA as the oldest football club still in existence.

2. The first meeting of the FA was on Monday 26th October 1863 and the invited Captains were only from London clubs – Barnes, Civil Service, Crusaders, Forest (later Wanderers), No Names Club, Crystal Palace (not related to the current team), Blackheath, Kensington Schoool, Perceval House, Surbiton and Blackheath Proprietary School.  But none of the Universities or Public Schools who had been invited sent a representative, so entrenched were they in protecting their own individual sets of rules. Charterhouse sent a representative but decided against joining the fledgling FA.  The driving force behind the FA was Ebeneezer Cobb Morley, a solicitor originally from Hull, who stated ‘It is advisable that a football association should be formed for the purpose of settling a code of rules for the regulation of the game of football’.3. Cambridge University, Charterhouse School and Sheffield Football Association all published written laws but it would take the FA until April 1877 to finally formalise a universal code of rules that all clubs were required to abide by.  The responsibility for the rules of the game were divested to the International Football Association Board as early as 1886, when the only members – the FAs of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – met in Holborn, London. FIFA joined the IFAB in 1913 when they had two votes versus each FA’s one meaning that the ‘Home Nations’ could still dictate the rules to the rest of the world right up until 1958, when the voting system changed.4. Officially, the first match played under FA rules was scheduled for 2nd January 1864 in Battersea Park but Morley, who had been elected as the FA’s first President, grew impatient and arranged a match between his club, Barnes, and local rivals, Richmond, who were not even members of the FA.  The game included such bizarre rules as throw-ons being awarded to whoever could pick the ball up first after it had gone out of bounds but having to be thrown in at right angles and players being unable to pass forwards.  Any attacking kicks had to be chased down by the kicker with teammates ‘backing up’.  The teams were 15-a-side and, such was their disregard for the game, Richmond quickly defected to Rugby Union. After the game, those happy with the occasion, raised a toast; "Success to football, irrespective of class or creed." Something CSKA Moscow fans might want to think about...

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5. The 'Founding Fathers' of the FA were Ebeneezer Cobb Morley of Barnes Club (1831-1924), Arthur Pember of No Names Club (1835-1886), Francis Maule Campbell of Blackheath Club, Herbert Thomas Steward of Crusaders Club (1839-1915), George Twizell Wawn of Civil Service Football Club (1840-1914) and James Turner of Crystal Palace Club. Brothers Charles William Alcock (1842-1907) and John Forster Alcock (1841-1910) both represented the Forest Club which would go on to become the five-time FA Cup winning Wanderers.

6. Hacking was one of the most controversial aspects of the game; where defenders could kick attackers on the shin, similar to rucking in rugby.  The frequency of it caused the FA to declare that players should not wear ‘piercing nails, iron plates or gutta-percha on the soles or heels of his boots’.  In response, one advocate stated; “You will do away with the courage and pluck of the game and it will be bound to bring over a lot of Frenchmen who would beat you with a week's practice”.  Francis Maule Campbell, a player for Blackheath and their representative at the FA, withdrew the club in protest and they went on to become a notable Rugby Union side, now playing in National League 1.7. Of the original member clubs, Barnes and Blackheath left to become part of the parallel Rugby movement which was dividing schools across England.  Crusaders continued into the 1890s but folded.  No Names, who were based in Kilburn, continued but not beyond the turn of the century. Kensington School closed its doors in 1896 and Blackheath Proprietary School followed soon after in 1907.  Perceval House fared less well – their representative, GW Shillingford, declined to attend the 5th meeting of the FA in December 1863 in response to the hacking controversy and nothing was ever heard of the club again.  Crystal Palace, formed in 1861 by ground workers at the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park of 1851, folded in 1876.  After the Crystal Palace was moved to Sydenham Hill and the nearby football stadium was built in 1895, the owners formed their own team (also called Crystal Palace) in 1905.  Forest became Wanderers just a year later and went on to win the 1st, 2nd and 3rd subsequent FA Cups before folding in 1887.  The club were reformed in 2009, 150 years after their original formation, and now play in the lower echelons of grassroots football. Civil Service are the only club to have maintained their status and just last month contested a Southern Amateur League match against Polytechnic FC at Buckingham Palace.8. Charles William Alcock, founder of Wanderers and the FA’s first full-time secretary and treasurer, proposed the idea of a national cup; ‘It is desirable that a Challenge Cup should be established in connection with the Association, for which all clubs belonging to the Association should be invited to compete.'  The first FA Cup took place just 4 months after his statement was published in ‘The Sportsman’ and 15 clubs entered, including Barnes, Civil Service, Glasgow’s Queens Park, Maidenhead (now Maidenhead United in the Conference South), Royal Engineers and Reigate Priory  (now in the Surrey Elite Intermediate League).  Wanderers beat the Engineers 1-0 at The Oval, having been given a bye after a 0-0 draw with Queens Park after the Scottish club were unable to afford the trip back to London for the replay!  Alcock went on to arrange the first international football fixtures, play cricket for Middlesex, Essex and the MCC, was Secretary at Surrey CC, arranged the first Test match between England and Australia and played 5 times for England at football.  His importance to global sport cannot be fully detailed here  -  Keith Booth’s biography makes for fascinating reading.

9. The second controversy of the FA’s embryonic existence was professionalism.  In the south, the public school and University alumni, who were often wealthy gentlemen of leisure, determined that the Victorian virtues of ‘Muscular Christianity’ were sacrosanct and playing was a leisure pursuit not a career.  In the north, factory owners saw players arrive on Monday mornings covered in bruises and were awed by the size of the crowds turning out to watch their workers play. This saw a movement which would lead to the creation of the Football League in 1888, where rich businessmen formed teams for their workers to play in and people to pay to watch.  Gate receipts paid the players but the London-based FA were furious, forcing many to conceal the fact that they were paying players.

10. Scottish players developed skills unheard of in the FA-sanctioned games; the ‘combination game’ (better known as ‘passing’), employed by army teams, was honed into a science and heading was a startling introduction.  The great Preston North End team of 1888-9, who were a cricket team in 1863, then a rugby team in 1877, brought in seven talented Scotsmen who scored 35 goals between them in a remarkable season under Major Billy Sudell. Sudell was an advocate of professionalism, claiming that it was inevitably going to be part of the game and those against it were “trying to stop Niagara with a three-legged stool”.  Preston were kicked out of the FA Cup in 1884 after Upton Park protested that they fielded professionals.  Along with 29 other northern clubs, Preston put pressure on the FA to relent and professionalism was legalised in 1885.  The Scottish FA only obliged in 1893, but which time their best players had already emigrated to England.

11. Wanderers were the Real Madrid of the amateur era, even attracting England’s greatest cricketer WG Grace as a player.  The first international fixture, between England and Scotland (or Scotsmen based in London, at least) was held at The Oval on 5th March 1870 and, of the 22 players involved, three-quarters were players for, or would become players for, Wanderers.  William Ewart Gladstone, the Prime Minister at the time, saw his son and MP William Henry, turn out for Scotland, alongside another MP and several high ranking civil servants.  Other notable Wanderers were Jarvis Kenrick, the first player to score an FA Cup goal, which he did for Clapham Rovers.  1st Lord of the Admiralty and 8th Baron of Closeburn, James Kirkpatrick, George Hubert and Frank Heron, the first brothers to play for England, Julian Sturgis, the first American-born player to appear in an FA Cup final, and Quintin Hogg, a merchant who founded the Royal Polytechnic, now known as the University of Westminster.