English Football History

The origins of English football are thought to lie in the chaotic and largely rule-less football games played during Shrovetide in Medieval Europe. These ancient football games would be played between residents of neighbouring towns and villages who would compete to drag an inflated pig’s bladder by any means possible to markers at each end of a town. According to English football history, the earliest documented use of the word ‘football’ was by Henry IV of England who in 1409 signed a proclamation banning the levying of money for ‘foteball’.

Football remained a violent game with frequent deaths on the field, and was frequently outlawed in England; however, it remained popular even with the ruling classes. The game of football was first codified in England starting in the 1840s resulting from the desire of its various public schools to compete against each other using a uniform set of rules.

Early English Football Rules

Various rule sets were devised including the Cambridge Rules published by members of Cambridge University in 1848, and the Sheffield Rules (1855), devised by Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest for the Sheffield Football Club. These latter rules had a profound influence on how the modern game of football developed as they introduced the concept of free kicks for fouls, corners, and throw-ins.

The world’s first football tournament, the Youdan Cup, was played under these rules in 1867. The Football Association (FA) was formed at a meeting in the Freemason’s Tavern in Great Queen Street, London on 26 October 1863 to propose a universal set of soccer rules to prevent ongoing disputes between clubs over rules.

These rules incorporated elements of both the Cambridge and Sheffield rules. Although the FA Cup was inaugurated in 1871, the Sheffield clubs declined to enter the competition as it was to be played under FA rules and the Sheffield rules remained dominant during the 1860s and 1870s.

The International Football Association Board

Despite repeated attempts to standardise the rules of football by the early 1880s, the UK’s four football associations – the Football Association, the Scottish Football Association, the Football Association of Wales, and the Irish Football Association – still each had slightly different rules which resulted in tension whenever international matches were played as the rules of whoever was the home team were used.

The four national associations of the UK therefore met in 1882 to create a common set of laws. They created the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which had their first meeting in 1886. The IFAB’s role was further affirmed when Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) adopted their laws upon its formation in 1904. They have remained in sole charge of football rules ever since.