Football to 1900

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The purpose of this article is to describe the development of football from its many perceived origins through its existence as a folk pastime to the time when it began to be organised and regulated, after which it split into the many variants, all introduced by the end of the 19th century, which are played around the world today.

Origins of folk football

The origin of football is unknown as it has an immemorial existence dating back to medieval if not ancient times. It existed in many forms for centuries as an impromptu social activity and it was not until the 19th century that it began to be regulated and organised. The earliest form of football may have been "ts'u chü" (pinyin spelling: "cùjú"; literally "kick ball"), using a leather ball stuffed with hair,[1] which is mentioned in China in the 2nd century BC. Around 600 AD, there are mentions of "kemari" in Kyoto.

The games played in England through the Middle Ages may have arrived with the Roman occupation but there is little evidence to indicate this although the Romans did play ball games such as Harpastum.

There is a reference to ball games being played in southern Britain prior to the Norman Conquest. In the ninth century Nennius's Historia Britonum tells that a group of boys were playing at pilae ludus (ball).[2] Reports of a game called La Soule or La Choule being played in northern France indicate a possibility that football games arrived in England as a result of the Norman Conquest.

An early description of ball games that were probably football dates from c.1180 and was given by William FitzStephen, who observed the events of a Shrove Tuesday festival:[3]

"After lunch all the youth of the city go out into the fields to take part in a ball game. The students of each school have their own ball; the workers from each city craft are also carrying their balls. Older citizens, fathers, and wealthy citizens come on horseback to watch their juniors competing, and to relive their own youth vicariously: you can see their inner passions aroused as they watch the action and get caught up in the fun being had by the carefree adolescents."

The earliest confirmation that such ball games in England involved kicking comes from a verse, probably 12th century, about St Hugh of Lincoln: "Four and twenty bonny boys, were playing at the ball... he kicked the ball with his right foot".

The first definite mentions of football as we would recognise it come from later medieval England when it was banned by successive monarchs Edward II (1314) and Edward III (1349), the latter because it was distracting bowmen from their archery practice. In 1424, James I of Scotland banned "fute-ball" when he passed the Football Act 1424.

Football survived these royal bans and there is a record in 1526 of Henry VIII ordering the first known purpose-made football boots. It was in the 16th century that the violent football variant called Calcio Fiorentino was first recorded in Florence. "Calcio" (i.e., to kick) remains the name of Italian football today, although Calcio Fiorentino is a different game.

But football thrived mostly in England where it was a chaotic pastime played not so much by teams as by mobs. This form of football, known more politely as "folk football", was essentially a public holiday event played between neighboring towns and villages, involving an unlimited number of players on opposing teams. Shrove Tuesday was a traditional day for games across the country. It is generally thought that the games were free-for-alls with no holds barred and extremely violent. As for kicking and handling of the ball, it is certain that both means of moving the "ball", in practice an inflated pig's bladder, were in use. The "goals", as such, were usually markers at each end of a town. Most of the early references simply refer to "ball play" or "playing at ball", neither of which defines the game in terms of kicking and handling the ball, and the few surviving images of folk football show only men chasing a ball.[4]

Public school variations

In the early years of the 19th century, some form of order was beginning to be imposed. It was at this time that the public schools began to devise their own versions of football, the rules of which were verbally agreed and handed down over many years. Each school (e.g., Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester) had its own variations.

1823 is the traditional date of the William Webb Ellis legend. He was the Rugby School pupil of whom it is said:

with a fine disregard for the rules of football, (he) took the ball in his hands and ran with it

Even if the tale is true, the game must have been a version of folk football with rules that had been verbally agreed by the Rugby School pupils. Such rules were always open to challenge and it may be that an incident like this did occur with the result that a "dribbling game" became primarily a handling one.

In 1838, another pupil at Rugby School called Jem Mackie was noted for his "running in" ability and this is understood to have been the equivalent of try scoring, which is evidence of a distinct "handling game". The following year, a former Rugby School pupil, Albert Pell, began organising football matches at Cambridge University. Because of the different school variations, a compromise set of rules had to be found. This was the origin of the famous Cambridge Rules created in 1848. Meanwhile, it is claimed that Barnes RFC was founded in 1839 but there is no actual evidence. If the claim is true, Barnes is the world's oldest football club in all codes. Rugby School was definitely playing a handling game by 1841.

A set of written rules is believed to have been in existence at Eton College in 1843. These allowed handling of the ball to control it, but not running with it in the hand and not passing it by hand. The first known 11-a-side games took place at Eton. It was almost certainly because of cricket that they decided to have 11 players in a team. Also in 1843, Guy's Hospital RFC was founded by staff and students of the famous medical school in London. It is today believed to be a constituent of Guy's, Kings and St Thomas' Rugby Football Club which therefore claims to be the world's oldest football club in any code (subject to the 1839 claim by Barnes). This claim is contested due to doubts about the club's continuous existence between 1843 and 1883. Guy's is now a rugby union club, playing at Honor Oak Park in Brockley and currently operates in rugby union's London League.

In 1845, a written version of the Rugby School Football Rules allowed the ball to be carried and passed by hand. These rules are the earliest that are definitely known to have been written and they were a major step in the evolution of the handling game to rugby league and rugby union; and subsequently to Australian rules football, American football, Gaelic football and other codes in which the ball is primarily handled. The Rugby School rules made a clear distinction between the handling and dribbling games.

Dribbling can be defined as running with the ball at one's feet.

Although Eton allowed the ball to be touched and controlled by hand, it did not allow running with the ball in the hand or passing of the ball by hand. So, whereas Rugby School effectively created the first "handling game" rules, Eton probably created the earliest "dribbling game" rules. By 1845, Eton had introduced referees and linesmen, though the latter were at the time called umpires, another legacy of cricket.

In 1847, another set of public school rules was created at Harrow which, like Eton, played the dribbling game.

Written rules and the early clubs

The original Cambridge University Rules were written by students in 1848 who were still confused by different rules operating at the various schools. Besides Rugby, Eton and Harrow there were also rules of a sort in place at Winchester, Shrewsbury and elsewhere. Cambridge was the first attempt at codifying the rules of what became association football (i.e., the dribbling game) as distinct from rugby football. Unfortunately, no copy of the original Cambridge Rules has survived. The essential difference in the two codes was always that association football did not allow a player to run with the ball in his hands or pass it by hand to a colleague. However, the earliest rules did allow players to touch and control the ball by hand.

No copy of the 1848 rules has survived, the earliest written version dating from 1856; the 1863 revision of the rules played a significant part in developing the rules adopted by the Football Association and the creation of association football.

The period from the mid-1850s to the 1870s saw the foundation of many famous clubs in British and Irish football. The first was Dublin University Football Club, founded by students at Trinity College in 1854. This is a rugby union club which is still based in the college grounds and playing in the All Ireland league. It is the world's oldest football club in all codes in terms of continuous existence.

The foundation of Sheffield FC, the oldest known association football club, currently playing in the Northern Premier League, took place in 1857. On 21 October 1858, at its first annual general meeting, Sheffield FC introduced the first written version of the Sheffield Rules for use in its matches. On 26 December 1860, the earliest known inter-club association football match was played under the Sheffield Rules when Sheffield FC defeated Hallam FC 2–0.

Also in 1857, Liverpool FC, the rugby union club which is now part of Liverpool St Helens RUFC, was founded. This merged with St Helens RUFC in the 1980s but still claims to be the world's oldest "open" rugby football club (i.e, membership open to all).

Blackheath Rugby Club was founded in 1858 and also claims to be the world's oldest open rugby club, given that Liverpool FC is no longer a single entity. Edinburgh Academicals RFC was founded in the same year and is the oldest football club of any kind in Scotland.

In 1860, football began its global expansion. The now defunct Lausanne Football and Cricket Club was founded in Switzerland, the first football club to be formed outside the British Isles, although it is believed to have been primarily a cricket club. In Germany, TSV 1860 München was formed as a physical fitness and gymnastics club but it did not create its football section until 1899 or play any matches until 1902.

An impromptu team formed in Nottingham c.1862 is understood to have been the original Notts County. Although Notts County, then called Notts FC, was formally constituted on 7 December 1864, the club celebrated its centenary in 1962. It is the oldest club in the Football League.

In 1862, the invention of the India rubber bladder enabled the modern ball to be created with the bladder inside a hard outer casing, at first made of leather. During the days of mob football, the ball in an organised game was often an inflated pig's bladder but in fact it could be made of any material (for example, tin can football is still played now); there were no rules about its size either. In certain games that were somewhat less civilised, such as among soldiers after a battle, human skulls are known to have been used.

In 1864, Huddersfield RLFC was founded and is now the world's oldest professional rugby league club. In 1865, Bath RFC and Hull FC were both founded.

Formation of the FA and regulation of the "dribbling game"

The FA (the English Football Association) was founded in London by local clubs and the first version of the Laws of the Game (LOTG) was drafted. They were based mainly on the Cambridge University Rules. An attempt at compromise between the dribbling and handling codes was rejected by the dribblers and so Rugby football became in time an entirely separate sport.

Apart from their main purpose of introducing standard rules of play and procedure, the LOTG sought to differentiate between Association football and Rugby football. The essential difference in the two codes was encapsulated in Laws 9 and 11 which stated that no (outfield) player shall run with the ball (in his hands) and that no (outfield) player shall throw the ball or pass it to another with his hands. The LOTG were amended later to clarify the situation at throw ins and during possession by goalkeepers but the FA was emphatic from the start that “hand ball” was illegal during normal play.

The LOTG were originally known as the "London Rules" because they were only adopted by some London clubs and hardly anywhere else. Several clubs existed in Sheffield at the time and they played to the so–called Sheffield Rules. Gradually the FA, led by Charles Alcock, managed to persuade the clubs that a uniform set of rules was desirable and, after many adaptations and compromises, the FA rules eventually became standard.

The rejection of handling caused the Rugby School Rules clubs and colleges to withdraw from the FA and they eventually founded the Rugby Football Union (RFU) in 1871.

Nottingham Forest, then called Forest FC, was founded in December 1865 by its parent hockey club. Forest is thus the second oldest club in the Football League. Forest and Notts County played each other twice in the 1865–66 season so any Nottingham derby in league football is the world's oldest fixture between teams playing in major leagues.

In 1867, Queen's Park was founded in Glasgow and is the oldest association football club in Scotland. It was about this time that tactics first became evident in football with the designation of positions to appropriate players. Fullbacks became recognised as distinct from forwards and halfbacks began to emerge in a sort of "midfield role". Forwards, however, still played in a pack to support the man in possession. Dribbling was the key skill but there was no sign of a passing game to use the full width of the field. Queen's Park was the first team to play a passing game a few years later.

Also in 1867, Sheffield Wednesday, then called The Wednesday, was founded by members of the Wednesday Cricket Club in Sheffield. As was so often the case, a football club was founded by cricketers who needed a winter activity to keep fit. The club name acknowledged that Wednesday was the day on which members took an afternoon off work for practice. Sheffield Wednesday originally played at Bramall Lane, then a multi-sports complex that had originally been opened for cricket in 1854.

In 1869, Sydney University formed the first club in Australia, playing rugby football. A year later, the Nelson rugby football club was the first in New Zealand.

Formation of the RFU and regulation of the "handling game"

In 1870, Alcock's Football Annual listed approximately 75 clubs playing Rugby School football rules, but many of these clubs had different interpretations of the laws as played at Rugby School. In November, an anonymous surgeon wrote to The Times complaining that rugby football is dangerous. The letter fuelled agreement in the sport to form a ruling body which would regulate the laws.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) was established in 1871 to regulate the handling game as a different sport to the dribbling game that was increasingly being played under FA auspices. On 26 January, the RFU was founded at the Pall Mall Restaurant situated near Trafalgar Square in 1 Cockspur Street, London. 21 clubs were represented at the meeting: Blackheath, Richmond, Ravenscourt Park, West Kent, Marlborough Nomads, Wimbledon Hornets, Gipsies, Civil Service, Law Club, Wellington College, Guy's Hospital, Flamingoes, Clapham Rovers, Harlequins, King's College, St Paul's School, Queen's House, Lausanne, Addison, Mohicans and Belsize Park. Algernon Rutter of Richmond was elected the first president. A committee was selected to produce a definitive national set of rugby football laws.

On 27 March 1870, the first ever international fixture in any kind of football took place with a rugby football game between Scotland and England. Scotland (i.e., Scottish members of the RFU) defeated England (i.e., English members of the RFU) by 1 goal & 1 try to 1 try at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh. The match was played by teams of 20-a-side and the game lasted for 50 minutes each way.

Beginnings of American and Canadian football

Canadian football

The first documented Canadian football game was played on 9 November 1861 at the University of Toronto on the present site of University College (400 yards west of Queen's Park).[5] By the late 1860s, McGill University had become the main centre of football in Canada and, in the next few years, clubs were founded in Hamilton, Montreal, Quebec and Toronto, Ontario.[5]

American football

American football effectively made its bow on 6 November 1869 when the first intercollegiate football game was played between Princeton Tigers and Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Ironically, the rules at this time meant the game was closer to modern association football than to rugby football. Rutgers won the first match by 6 "runs" to 4 but, in a second game played a week later at Princeton, it was Princeton who won 8–0.

On 19 October 1873, representatives of Yale Bulldogs, Columbia Lions, Princeton Tigers and Rutgers Scarlet Knights met at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York City to codify the first set of intercollegiate football rules.

McGill v. Harvard

In 1874, the rules of a hybrid game of English rugby were devised at McGill and first used in two games at Boston, Massachusetts between McGill and Harvard. Harvard won the first game 3–0 using Harvard rules and the second was tied 0–0 under Canadian rules. Harvard adopted the Canadian rules and introduced them into the Ivy League in 1875. Both American and Canadian football evolved from these games.[5]

The development of association football to 1900

Competitive football

The FA took a major step forward in 1871 with the inaugural FA Cup competition, which began with four matches played on 11 November. It marks the beginning of major competitive football. All the teams were amateur and mainly from the London area. They were: Barnes, Civil Service, Clapham Rovers, Crystal Palace (old), Donnington School, Hampstead Heathens, Harrow Chequers, Hitchin, Maidenhead, Marlow, Reigate, Priory, Royal Engineers, Upton Park, The Wanderers and Queen's Park (Glasgow).

The first FA Cup Final took place on 16 March 1872 at Kennington Oval in south London. The Wanderers defeated the Royal Engineers 1–0 with a goal scored by Morton Betts.

The FA ruled that the ball must have a circumference of between 68cm and 71cm. It must be spherical and must consist of an India rubber bladder enclosed within a casing made of leather or another approved material. Also, the ball must weigh at least 396 grams but no more than 453 grams. The prescribed weight is interesting because leather balls were notorious for gaining weight when wet. The weight could almost double if the ball got really soaked.

Glasgow Rangers was formed in west Glasgow in 1872 by four friends and originally called Argyle FC. The first pitch was on common land at Flesher's Haugh, Glasgow Green. The name was changed to Rangers later in the year.

On 30 November 1872, Scotland drew 0–0 with England in Glasgow. This the first-ever association football international in that both teams were selected by their home associations, although strictly speaking the Scottish Football Association (SFA) was not formally established until a few months later on 13 March 1873. The Scottish RFU was founded in the same year.

The second FA Cup Final took place at Lillie Bridge, London in 1873 and The Wanderers successfully defended the trophy, winning 2–0 against Oxford University. In 1874, Oxford University went one better and defeated the Royal Engineers 2–0 at Kennington Oval, which became the regular venue for the final with this game. All finals until 1892 were played at The Oval.

The introduction of professionalism

At this time, football was a strictly amateur sport, even though many of the people involved in its administration, such as Alcock, were also involved in cricket which had been played by professionals for about 200 years. It would not be long before the popularity of football gave rise to professionalism.

In 1874, Aston Villa was founded by the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel near Aston Park in Birmingham; and Bolton Wanderers was founded as a Sunday School team at Christ Church on Blackburn Street in Bolton. Other establishments in the next 12 years were Blackburn Rovers, Birmingham City (both 1875); Middlesbrough (1876); Wolverhampton Wanderers (1877); Everton, Manchester United, West Bromwich Albion (all 1878); Sunderland (1879); Manchester City (1879); Preston North End, Burnley, Newcastle United (all 1881); Tottenham Hotspur (1882); Derby County (1884); and Arsenal (1886). Many of these clubs had other names when founded: e.g., Birmingham City was founded as Small Heath Alliance by cricketers from Holy Trinity Church in the Bordesley Green area of Birmingham.

Although professionalism in cricket had existed alongside amateurism for 200 years and professionalism was accepted in other sports such as boxing and horse racing, the FA and the RFU both took a dim view of it and wished their codes to remain amateur by embracing the so-called "Corinthian Spirit". In football, the issue came to a head in 1880 when Bolton Wanderers, still a new club, tried to attract talent from Scotland with the promise of wages. Soon afterwards, its neighbour Blackburn Rovers adopted the same tactic and the Corinthian elements within the FA raised objections.

In 1881, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers both changed their venues to enclosed grounds where gate money could be charged, an increasing practice among clubs that were openly, or otherwise, professional. The enclosed ground with payment at the gate had been a feature of top-class cricket since the 1730s, yet the football authorities somehow thought that football should not do the same, even though its popularity rivalled that of cricket. Everton followed suit in 1884 when they moved as tenants to the enclosed Anfield Stadium. In 1885, seeing a tide coming, the FA sensibly decided to legalise professionalism. By that time, the FA Cup had been won three times by professional teams and, in 1886, the final for the first time featured two professional teams when Blackburn Rovers defeated West Bromwich Albion 2–0 at The Oval. This was Blackburn's third successive victory, emulating the "hat-trick" achieved by The Wanderers from 1876 to 1878.

Arsenal, one of English football's greatest clubs, was founded in 1886 as Dial Square by munitions workers from the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich in south east London. Dial Square was the name of one of their workshops. At the end of the year, the players held a pub meeting and changed the club's name to Royal Arsenal. Five years later, the name was changed to Woolwich Arsenal. The club's present name was adopted in 1914 after it relocated to Islington.

The establishment of League football

By 1888, it was clear that one of the problems facing professionalism was the lack of competitive matches, especially for teams that had been knocked out of the FA Cup. It was self-evident that crowds for friendly fixtures were much lower and of course this meant a reduction in revenue and a consequent struggle to pay wages. Aston Villa's Scottish director William McGregor sought a solution by asking the other professional clubs to arrange annual home and away fixtures on a competitive basis, with points to be awarded for winning and drawing. Following a conference between the club directors on 23 March, the English Football League was founded on 17 April as one division of 12 clubs.

The founder members were: Accrington FC (founded 1878 and a league member till 1893), Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Notts County, Preston North End, Stoke FC (founded c.1863 and a forerunner of Stoke City), West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Elsewhere, the Small Heath Alliance, later Birmingham City, became a limited company and was the first football club to claim limited liability.

Glasgow Celtic was founded in 1888 by members of the Marist Order, a teaching institute, as a way of raising money for a poor children's charity. The first ground was a piece of rented land not far from the present Celtic Park. Glasgow Celtic's first recorded match was a home friendly against Rangers on 28 May: Celtic won 5–2 in what was also the inaugural "Old Firm Game".

1888–89 was the Football League's inaugural season. Preston North End earned the nickname of "Invincibles" by going through the entire 22-match league competition unbeaten. The team also won the FA Cup and so recorded the first "double".

In 1889, the Football Alliance was founded as a rival to the Football League. It was short-lived and collapsed in 1892 when the Football League expanded. The Alliance was brokered by Sheffield Wednesday president John Holmes. Founder members included Sheffield Wednesday, Newton Heath (later Manchester United), Nottingham Forest, Small Heath (later Birmingham City) and Grimsby Town. Ardwick (later Manchester City) joined it in 1891 for its last season.

Sheffield United was founded in 1889. After Sheffield Wednesday had left Bramall Lane in 1887, the management committee of the Bramall Lane complex decided to form a new football club at the ground, using Sheffield United Cricket Club as its basis.

The 1889–90 Football League season featured the same 12 teams but the first change took place at the end of the season when Sunderland was elected in place of Stoke FC. Sunderland remained in the top flight continuously until 1958, a record that only Arsenal's current run (since 1919) has beaten. Preston North End successfully defended their league title and Blackburn Rovers created a then record winning margin in the FA Cup final by defeating Sheffield Wednesday 6–1.

In 1890, one of football's last disputes about professionalism occurred at Middlesbrough FC, whose board was split on the issue. A breakaway group, who favoured professionalism, formed a new club called Middlesbrough Ironopolis which joined the Football League in 1893 but became bankrupt after only one season. Middlesbrough FC eventually turned professional in 1899 and was elected to the Football League at that time.

Also in 1890, the Scottish Football League (SFL) was founded as one division of 10 teams. The founder members were Abercorn, Cambuslang, Cowlairs, Dumbarton, Glasgow Celtic, Glasgow Rangers, Heart of Midlothian (Hearts), St Mirren, Third Lanark and Vale of Leven. Membership was increased to 12 in 1892 when one of the new clubs was Clyde. In 1893, it was increased to 20 with the clubs forming two divisions of 10. Among the new clubs were Dundee, Hibernian, Greenock Morton and Motherwell.

With the demise of the rival Football Alliance in 1892, the Football League was able to expand by inviting former Alliance members to join it. Membership doubled from 14 to 28 clubs with divisions introduced for the first time. The original Football League became the new First Division, expanded to 16 teams, and the new Second Division was formed with 12 teams. Among the new members at this time were Small Heath (Birmingham City), Ardwick (Manchester City), Newton Heath (Manchester United), Nottingham Forest, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday.

Liverpool FC was founded in 1892 after Everton was split by a faction fight at board level over the proposed purchase of the freehold at Anfield. One faction, retaining the club's name and players, quit Anfield and moved across Stanley Park to establish a new home at Goodison Park. The other faction, which owned Anfield, decided to establish a new club there and this was called Liverpool FC. The new club joined the Lancashire League prior to the 1892–93 season. Liverpool went on to become the most successful club in English football.

The 1892 FA Cup final, in which West Bromwich Albion defeated Aston Villa 3–0, was the last one played at The Oval. The 1893 final was played at Fallowfield in Manchester and the 1894 final at Goodison Park, Everton's new ground. In 1895, the final moved to Crystal Palace in south London and every final from 1895 to 1914 was played there. The old Crystal Palace club had played at this venue and the modern Crystal Palace Football Club, founded in 1905, was resident there until 1915 when the area was requisitioned by the Admiralty.

The beginnings of football's global expansion

By the end of the century, with the English and Scottish league and cup competitions well established, football was unquestionably the national winter sport in Great Britain, a status that has never been challenged. International football had begun and some great overseas football clubs had been established.

The oldest extant clubs in continental Europe are Kjøbenhavns Boldklub (KB) and FC St Gallen, both founded in 1879. They belong respectively to the Danish Football Association, founded in 1889, and the Swiss Football Association, founded in 1895. Italian football began to be organised regionally from 1898, when the Italian Football Federation was formed. In 1899, AC Milan was founded as the Milan Associazione Calcio (Milan Association Football). Spanish football had a slower start but FC Barcelona was founded in 1899 by a Swiss, Hans Gamper, who wanted to establish football in the city. The German Football Association was founded in 1900 and FC Bayern München was founded on 27 February 1900 as Schwabinger Bayern (later changed to Bayern Roten) at a meeting in Munich's Gisela Restaurant by dissident players from a club called MTV 1879. It was not until the 1900s that football began to be organised in other major European countries.

Football was first recorded in Argentina as early as 1867, being played by British railway workers. The oldest extant club in South America is Gimnasia y Esgrima de La Plata, founded in 1887. The Argentine Football Association was founded by a Scottish schoolteacher, Alexander Watson Hutton, in 1893. Argentina's AAF Championship, which began in 1891, is the oldest football league outside Great Britain. Football in Brazil can be traced to British influences in the 1870s, particularly São Paulo which had a large British community, again because of a railway construction project.

The development of American football to 1900

On 13 November 1875, the inaugural meeting of Yale Bulldogs and Harvard Crimson, known as "The Game", was played under Harvard's modified set of rugby rules, then known as "The Concessionary Rules", which Harvard had adopted after playing McGill the previous year. Yale lost 4–0 but later expressed a preference for Harvard's game which then became the favoured code in American football.

The development of Australian rules football to 1900

Australian rules football has a complex origin but effectively derives from various footballing events that took place in the 1840s and 1850s. The Melbourne Football Club rules of 1859 are the oldest surviving set of laws for Australian football and provide a historical benchmark from which the code developed.

The development of Canadian football to 1900

Football in Canada continued to thrive after the 1874 watershed and many more new clubs were founded during the next 10 years. In 1883, the Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU) was formed and, via the Canadian Rugby Union (CRU), this became an important predecessor of the Canadian Football League which was founded in 1909.[5]

The development of Gaelic football to 1900

Gaelic football is believed to have descended from an ancient Irish game of football known as caid which dates back to medieval times, although the modern rules were not set down until 1886 when the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) began to organise and promote traditional Irish sports, such as Gaelic football and hurling.

The development of rugby football to 1900

The period of about 30 years from the mid-1850s saw the foundation of many famous rugby football clubs which are now members of either the RFU or the RFL.


  1. Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary, rev. American ed. (Cambridge: Harvard U.P., 1943), nos. 6842-6843.
  2. Francis Peabody Magoun, Football in Medieval England and Middle-English literature, The American Historical Review (vol 35, no. 1), 1929.
  3. William FitzStephen
  4. Morris Marples, A History of Football, Secker and Warburg, 1954.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Football Canada. Retrieved on 12 February 2010.