Though the subject of some conjecture and confusion, the history of football is decidedly British and that much we do know. We are attempting to delineate as much of the history of football as possible to allow you to recognise its origins as the sport we now know.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at where football was invented, when it was invented and how the Beautiful Game came about in the first place. We also take a look at when the Football Association first came about, as well as how the game evolved into what we know and love today.
Where Was Football Invented?
The thing we know for certain is that ‘association football’ was born in Britain. Both England and Scotland had great influence on how we play the game today. While Cambridge, Sheffield and Edinburgh are all heavily involved individually as places the Football Association, or English FA, was the first football association in the world and organised the game as we now know it. This, along with the fact that Sheffield FC is the oldest surviving independent club, means that ostensibly the sport of ‘football’ was invented in England.
When Was Football Invented?
The loose idea of football of some sort, i.e., using one’s feet to kick around a ball of some type as sport, goes back to the 8th century in England. In the 1820s, public schools began creating various forms of football with the Foot Ball Club of Edinburgh being founded. The Cambridge Rules were devised in 1848 while across in Cheltenham in 1849, referees were used for the first time in organised games.
Sheffield FC was created in 1857, the club organising its own ‘Sheffield Rules’ in 1858. Football quickly moved to South America at this point, railway workers from Britain introducing the sport to Argentina, something that also explains why countries from this region were so good in World Cups from the beginning.
The Football Association: 1863
The Football Association was founded in England in 1863. This came a year after Notts County was formed, the oldest surviving professional club. Though the game continued to evolve, this era marks the beginning of the sport we knew as association football, otherwise known simply as football or, in some territories, soccer.
How Was Football Invented?
The idea of kicking something around for recreation is potentially as old as time. There are horror stories in history of civilisations kicking around anything, including heads! Kicking stones, moving to balls, can be traced back centuries. This would simply evolve into organised games, much like the advent at a similar point in history of tennis, golf and other recognised sports.
As the idea of a type of football gathered momentum in public schools, rules began to form. In truth, this debunks the idea that football is, and always was, a “working man’s game”, as in fact it was invented by those who would baulk at the idea of being described as such. Where that phrase is more accurate, however, is when we talk about the introduction of the standard 3pm kick-off, which we will go into below.
Football’s Great Evolution
Things moved quickly in the 1860s after the formation of the FA. The first two organised tournaments were played under Sheffield Rules in the city, while Kilmarnock FC was formed in Scotland in 1869 just after goal kicks were introduced into the rules. Goalkeepers are not thought to have been involved until 1870, the same year that the oldest ever international match was organised between England and Scotland in London. Amazingly, it was a 0-0 draw.
In 1871 the FA Cup was founded, making it the oldest football tournament in the world to still exist. Scotland played England again in 1872 in the first international match now recognised by FIFA – another diplomatic 0-0 draw. The late 19th century saw the offside law and crossbars introduced, while many clubs we know and recognise in England today were founded in various cities.
A first division and then a second division is introduced by the FA, creating ‘league’ matches’ and at the turn of the century the sport saw exponential growth around Europe and beyond. FIFA was founded in 1904, internationals become popular, leading to the first World Cup being played in 1930 in Uruguay. The hosts won the tournament as the game became a true worldwide phenomenon.
3pm kick-offs became standardised in British football. What many people won’t know is that, in the past, Britain didn’t have a recognised ‘weekend’ and when it did, it was only Sunday in order for people to worship. In the 1900’s however it was decided that industrial workers should be allowed to finish at 2pm on Saturdays in the hope that they would be sober and fresh on Monday mornings! Football clubs began Saturday 3pm kick-offs as standard to allow such workers to attend.
The game went from strength to strength, especially in the country of its birth, through the 1900s. Wembley became known as the home of football and millions tuned in every year to watch the FA Cup Final. Football hooliganism and other factors meant that the game went into somewhat of a slump in the late 80’s, with those in charge deciding that a rebrand was needed.
The Premier League Era
The Premier League was founded in the early 1990s, its first season being played out during 1992-1993. The new brand meant new interest from abroad and greater TV revenue. Clubs benefitted greatly from this, with new stadiums being built and players coming in from abroad. This era meant that England had once again caught up to Italy, Germany and Spain and began to overtake them. Success was gained by English clubs in Europe, in the all-new Champions League which had replaced the older European Cup, a knockout tournament. Now, football is huge business bringing in millions to clubs around the world.