In our last chapter, we looked into how Football was invented and how the game evolved from the Ancient Egyptians to the Chinese and the Ancient Romans. In this part, we will dig into the fact that how England was integral in modifying the game and setting up rules.
The Football Association(FA) was finally formed in 1863 by Ebenezer Morley, a London solicitor who was the master head behind creating the board to set up new rules that would control the game. This is the reason why he is often called ‘The Father’ of the Association.
He formed a club named Barne’s FC in 1862, where old boys from several public schools joined his club and there were ‘feverish’ disputes about the way the game should be played and rules should be changed. Morley wrote to Bell’s Life, a popular newspaper, suggesting that football should have a set of rules in the same way that the MCC had them for cricket. His letter led to the first historic meeting at the Freemasons’ Tavern in Great Queen Street. Then the FA was finally formed in the first meeting itself.
The clubs representing the first meeting were : Barnes, War Office, Crusaders, Leytonstone, Kilburn, Crystal Palace, Blackheath, Kensington School, Blackheath, Surbiton, Blackheath Proprietory School and Charterhouse.
Note that this Crystal Palace side has to connection with the team that is now playing in the Premier League.
Bryon Butler, a writer and football correspondent of BBC during 1968-1991, wrote in an Official History published in 1991 that: “The FA’s early influence on the game at large was not dramatic or even widespread. Its membership was small and its authority and laws were often challenged and sometimes ignored. But its motives and ambitions were so honourably based that, like growing ripples on a still pond, its standing grew perceptibly. It was a period of high ideals and ready compromise”.
It was then that the idea of the FA Cup came into place by the FA secretary, named Charles Alcock. He had remembered playing in an inter-house ‘sudden death’ competition during his schooldays at Harrow and his proposal was swiftly agreed in 1872. Although the first Cup made life harder for the members as many clubs protested against not getting a chance to participate, at the end, Wanderers F.C were crowned the champions.
In 1887, a new club named Aston Villa came forward with the leadership of William McGregor, a committee member of the club and an FA stalwart and proposed an organised system of regular fixtures involving the top clubs. He wrote to some of those clubs about a league format for football and a ‘Football League’ with 12 clubs came into being after just two meetings in 1888. The 12 clubs that participated in the league were: Accrington, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Notts County, Preston North End, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
William Pickford, who later became The FA’s president, summed it up: “The power of the League strengthens the Association and the authority of the Association safeguards the League”.
Preston North End was founded as a cricket club in 1863, and although it would take fifteen years, after the formation of the club in its original form before their first football match, they were crowned champions in the first ever Football League. They went on to win the second league title in as many years.
Photo by FDWR