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John Simkin

History of Football Project

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Here is the first part of my proposed course on the history of football:

1. Social Class and the Origins of Football

The students could start the course by looking at the origins of football. The first documentary evidence of football being played is in 1170. It was a game that was played by working-class boys in the towns and peasants in the villages. Football was a constant concern of the authorities. It was first banned by Edward II in 1314. At the time he was trying to raise an army to fight the Scots and was worried about the impact that football was having on the skills of his archers. It seems that most young men took little notice of the order and his father, Edward III, reintroduced the ban in 1331 in preparation for an invasion of Scotland. Henry IV was the next monarch who tried to stop England's young men from playing football when he issued a new ban in 1388. This was ineffective and in 1410 his government imposed a fine of 20s and six days' imprisonment on those caught playing football. In 1414, his son, Henry V, introduced a further proclamation ordering men to practise archery rather than football. The following year Henry's archers played an important role in the defeat of the French at Agincourt.

Edward IV was another strong opponent of football. In 1477 he passed a law that stipulated that "no person shall practise any unlawful games such as dice, quoits, football and such games, but that every strong and able-bodied person shall practise with bow for the reason that the national defence depends upon such bowmen." Henry VII outlawed football in 1496 and his son, Henry VIII, introduced a series of laws against the playing of the game in public places.

Whereas the monarchy objected for military reasons, church leaders were more concerned about the game being played on a Sunday. In 1531 the Puritan preacher, Thomas Eliot, argued that football caused "beastly fury and extreme violence". In 1572 the Bishop of Rochester demanded a new campaign to suppress this "evil game".

After the execution of Charles I in 1649 the new ruler, Oliver Cromwell, instructed his Major-Generals to enforce laws against football, bear-baiting, cock-fighting, horse-racing and wrestling. Cromwell was more successful than previous rulers in stopping young men from playing football. However, after his death in 1660 the game gradually re-emerged in Britain.

However, football amongst the masses was unorganized and was barely tolerated by those in authority. Every so often men were fined in local courts for causing damage and social disorder while playing football.


2. Public Schools and the Development of Football

In the 18th century football was played by most of Britain's leading public schools. There is documentary evidence that football was played at Eton as early as 1747. Westminster started two years later. Harrow, Shrewsbury, Winchester and Charterhouse had all taken up football by the 1750s.

Football rules began to be codified in schools such as Eton (1815) and Aldenham (1825). Other schools such as Rugby, Marlborough, Lancing, Uppingham, Malvern and Cheltenham also introduced football to the school curriculum.

Thomas Arnold was appointed headmaster of Rugby in 1828. He had a profound and lasting effect on the development of public school education in England. Arnold introduced mathematics, modern history and modern languages and instituted the form system and introduced the prefect system to keep discipline. Arnold also emphasized the importance of sport in young men's education. Like most head teachers in public schools, Arnold believed that sport was a good method for "encouraging senior boys to exercise responsible authority on behalf of the staff". He also argued that games like football provided a "formidable vehicle for character building".

In 1848 a meeting took place at Cambridge University to lay down the rules of football. As Philip Gibbons points out in Association Football in Victorian England (2001): "The varying rules of the game meant that the public schools were unable to compete against each other." Teachers representing Shrewsbury, Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Marlborough and Westminster, produced what became known as the Cambridge Rules. One participant explained what happened: "I cleared the tables and provided pens and paper... Every man brought a copy of his school rules, or knew them by heart, and our progress in framing new rules was slow."

After leaving public school players established their own football teams. This included Old Carthusians, Old Etonians, Old Harrovians, Wanderers, etc. These clubs went on to dominate the early years of football.

English public schools also provided most of the players who appeared in the national team. For example, Westminster supplied ten England internationals between 1873 and 1894, whereas Old Etonians won a total of 39 England caps between 1873 and 1903.

The public schools also provided most of the early administrators, including, Arthur Kinnaird, Charles Wreford Brown and Francis Marindin.






3. The FA Cup and Social Class

In 1871, Charles W. Alcock, the FA Secretary, announced the introduction of the Football Association Challenge Cup. It was the first knockout competition of its type in the world. In the 1872 final, the public school team Wanderers beat the Royal Engineers 1-0 at the Kennington Oval.

The Wanderers, based in Battersea in London, went onto win the FA Cup five times in its first seven seasons, between 1872 and 1878. Old Etonians won the cup in 1879 and 1882. Old Carthusians, a team made up of former students at Charterhouse, defeated the Old Etonians in the 1881 final 3-0.

In 1882, Blackburn Rovers became the first provincial team to reach the final of the FA Cup. Their opponents were Old Etonians who had reached the final on five previous occasions. However, Blackburn had gone through the season unbeaten and was expected to become the first northern team to win the game. However, key players were injured and were unable to play. During the game another injury reduced Blackburn Rovers to ten men and they lost the game 1-0.

The following year Blackburn Olympic became the second provincial team to reach the final of the FA Cup. Over 8,000 people arrived at the Oval to watch Blackburn play Old Etonians in the final. Blackburn selected the following team: Thomas Hacking (dental assistant), James Ward (cotton machine operator), Albert Warburton (master plumber and pub landlord), Thomas Gibson (iron foundry worker), William Astley (weaver), John Hunter (pub landlord), Thomas Dewhurst (weaver), Arthur Matthews (picture framer), George Wilson (clerk), Jimmy Costley (spinner) and John Yates (weaver).

Old Etonians were appearing in their third successive FA Cup Final. An example of how the public schools had dominated the competition is that the captain of Old Etonians, Arthur Kinnaird, was playing in his ninth final. Blackburn Olympic won the game 2-1. No public school based team was to win the trophy again.


4. Amateur Football

The Football Association was established in October, 1863. The aim of the FA was to establish a single unifying code for football. The first meeting took place at the Freeman's Tavern in London. The clubs represented were all products of football played in public schools. Percy Young, has pointed out, that the FA was a group of men from the upper echelons of British society: "Men of prejudice, seeing themselves as patricians, heirs to the doctrine of leadership and so law-givers by at least semi-divine right."

The FA insisted that football should remain a sport for amateurs. As Richard Holt and Dave Russell pointed out in the Encyclopedia of British Football: "They wished to create a new sporting elite where an upper-class code of honour could be combined with the middle-class virtues of exertion and competitiveness. Amateurs advocated participation over spectating and adopted an ethical code of sportsmanship, stressing respect for opponents and referees."

In 1871, the FA Cup was introduced. It was the first knockout competition of its type in the world. Only 12 clubs took part in the competition. Once again they were all run by former public school pupils. There were some working class clubs in existence but they did not enter for financial reasons. All ties had to be played in London. Clubs based in places such as Nottingham and Sheffield found it difficult to find the money to travel to the capital. Each club also had to contribute one guinea towards the cost of the £20 silver trophy.

Public school boys had also established football clubs in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. They also formed their own Football Association. Charles W. Alcock, the secretary of the FA, and Arthur Kinnaird, his friend from Cambridge University, who had been born in Scotland, arranged the first international football game to be played on the 30th November, 1872. From this date the England-Scotland match became an annual fixture.

Former public schoolboys lived in industrial areas of Britain. Their families were often owners of local factories or mines. In 1875 John Lewis and Arthur Constantine, who had played football at Shrewsbury School, formed Blackburn Rovers. At first the club was exclusively made up of men with public school backgrounds.






5. Scotland and the Rise of Professionalism

In the 1870s some public school educated factory owners began to consider the possibility of forming football clubs for their workers. There were several reasons for this. Some saw it as a means of publicizing their company. Others saw it as a form of social control. For example, Arthur Hills established West Ham United in response to a trade union dispute. He also used the club to further his temperance campaign.

Blackburn Olympic was established in 1877. Whereas Blackburn Rovers was mainly made up of players who attended public schools, the Blackburn Olympic team largely contained men from the working-class and was funded by Sidney Yates of the local iron foundry. The two clubs played each other on 15th February 1879 but Olympic, now one of the best teams in the country, won 3-1. It was the first sign that the working class was going to dominate football in the future.

Preston North End was originally a cricket club. On 5th October 1878, Preston North End played its first football game. Two years later the club decided to concentrate on football rather than cricket or rugby.

Major William Sudell, the manager of a local factory, became the secretary/manager of the club. Over the next few years Sudell was to create a revolution in football. He decided to improve the quality of the team by importing top players from other areas. Under the rules of the Football Association, Sudell was officially unable to pay these players. Therefore, he arranged to find these players well paid jobs in Preston. He also unofficially paid them a small fee for playing on Saturday. Sudell mainly recruited these players from Scotland. Over the next few years players such as John Goodall, Jimmy Ross, Nick Ross, David Russell, John Gordon, John Graham, Robert Mills-Roberts, James Trainer, Samuel Thompson and George Drummond joined the club. Sudell found these players by watching Scotland’s international games. Other secretary/managers followed Sudell’s example.

The Scottish Football Association responded by announcing it would only select players who played their football in Scotland. However, as they were so much better paid in England they were willing to sacrifice their international careers.

Other teams based in England’s industrial heartlands followed the example of Sudell and began importing Scottish players. This included Derby County, Blackburn Rovers, Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion whereas Aston Villa was virtually formed by two Scotsmen, George Ramsay and Archie Hunter, who had moved to the Birmingham area. They also brought in the Scottish way of playing football. The public schools had pioneered the individualistic “dribbling” game, whereas the Scots invariably came from a trade union background and placed their emphasis on the “passing” game. It is no coincidence that these Scots called it the “combination” system.

Blackburn Rovers decided to appoint a Scotsman, Tom Mitchell, as secretary-manager. These enabled him to recruit the best players available in Scotland and they became the best team in England, winning the FA Cup in 1884, 1885 and 1886.

The Football Association continued to select players who were clearly amateurs to play for England. As a result, England suffered a series of defeats against the better Scotland team.

On 17th March, 1884, the FA selected James Forrest, a 19 year-old player from Blackburn Rovers for the England team against Wales. The following year he was selected to play against Scotland. Scottish officials complained as they argued that Forrest was a professional. It seems they had discovered that he was being paid £1 a week for turning out for his club on a Saturday. Forrest was eventually allowed to play but he had to wear a different jersey from the rest of the team.












6. The Football League

In January, 1884, Preston North End played the London side, Upton Park, in the FA Cup. After the game Upton Park complained to the Football Association that Preston was a professional, rather than an amateur team. William Sudell, the club’s secretary-manager, admitted that his players were being paid but argued that this was common practice and did not breach regulations. However, the FA disagreed and expelled them from the competition.

Preston North End now joined forces with other clubs who were paying their players. In October, 1884, these clubs threatened to form a break-away British Football Association. The Football Association responded by establishing a sub-committee, which included William Sudell, to look into this issue. On 20th July, 1885, the FA 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.

The decision to pay players increased club's wage bills. It was therefore necessary to arrange more matches that could be played in front of large crowds. On 2nd March, 1888, William McGregor circulated a letter to Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Preston North End, and West Bromwich Albion suggesting that "ten or twelve of the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home and away fixtures each season."

John J. Bentley of Bolton Wanderers and Tom Mitchell of Blackburn Rovers responded very positively to the suggestion. They suggested that other clubs should be invited to the meeting being held on 23rd March, 1888.

The following month the Football League was formed. It consisted of six clubs from Lancashire (Preston North End, Accrington, Blackburn Rovers, Burnley, Bolton Wanderers and Everton) and six from the Midlands (Aston Villa, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers). The main reason Sunderland was excluded was because the other clubs in the league objected to the costs of travelling to the North-East. McGregor also wanted to restrict the league to twelve clubs. Therefore, the applications of Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest, Darwen and Bootle were rejected.

The first season of the Football League began in September, 1888. Preston North End won the first championship without losing a single match and acquired the name the "invincibles". Major William Sudell, had persuaded some of the best players in England, Scotland and Wales to join Preston and replaced Tom Mitchell of Blackburn Rovers as the country’s best secretary-manager.

Preston North End also beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 to win the 1889 FA Cup Final. Preston won the competition without conceding a single goal. The club also won the league the following season. However, other teams began to employ the same tactics. Clubs like Derby County, Everton, Sunderland, Aston Villa, and Wolverhampton Wanderers had more money at their disposal and could pay higher wages than Preston. Over the next couple of years Preston lost all their best players and they were never to win the league title again.










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