26 October 1863: the Football Association is founded

On this day in 1863, 12 London football clubs got together at the Freemasons’ Tavern in London to form the Football Association to govern the increasingly popular sport.

The rules of football are pretty straightforward, you'd think: kick the ball in the goal, and don't use your hands. Even the offside rule isn't particularly difficult to grasp if you make even the slightest effort.

But it took a surprisingly long time to settle on a standard form of play.

Ebenezer Morley was a Yorkshireman, a solicitor, and the founder of Barnes FC in southwest London. At the time, there were a lot of arguments about what the rules should be. So Morley invited representatives of 12 London clubs to form an association to govern the game. A meeting was set for Monday 26 October 1863 at the Freemasons' Tavern in Great Queen Street, and the Football Association was born. 

After six meetings, the FA came up with 13 rules, which were approved and written down in the FA Minute Book on 8 December. But they were a little different to the current rules.

For a start, the goal had no crossbar – a goal counted no matter how high it crossed the line between the posts. There was no goalkeeper. Teams changed ends after each goal scored. Players were allowed to make a “fair catch” – if they caught the ball cleanly, they were awarded a free kick (much like Australian Rules football today, perhaps). Throw-ins had to be at right angles to the touchline. And if the ball went behind the goal, things got complicated, and could end up with the attacking team being awarded an unopposed free kick in front of the goal. And the offside rule wasn't introduced until 1866.

By 1871, the FA counted 50 clubs who had paid the annual £1.1s membership fee. Charles Alcock decided it would be a good idea for a Challenge Cup to be established "for which all clubs belonging to the Association should be invited to compete". And so the FA Cup was born.

Alcock also came up with the idea of the first international match, and on 5 March 1870, England played Scotland at the Oval cricket ground, with the result a 1-1 draw. Oddly, because the Scottish players were based in London, Fifa doesn't recognise this as a proper international match. The first "official" international match took place between Scotland and England in Glasgow in 1872.

Recommended

1 April 1999: The minimum wage is introduced in Britain
This day in history

1 April 1999: The minimum wage is introduced in Britain

On this day in 1999, the national minimum wage was introduced in Britain, bringing an instant pay rise to 1.9 million low-paid workers.
1 Apr 2021
27 February 1900: The launch of the Labour Party
This day in history

27 February 1900: The launch of the Labour Party

Responding to the need for a single political party to represent the trade unions, the Labour Party was formed on this day in 1900.
27 Feb 2021
24 February 1981: Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer announce their engagement
This day in history

24 February 1981: Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer announce their engagement

On this day in 1981, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer made their engagement official in front of the world's press at Buckingham Palace.
24 Feb 2021
24 February 1809: Drury Lane theatre burns down
This day in history

24 February 1809: Drury Lane theatre burns down

On this day in 1809, celebrated playwright Richard Sheridan was effectively ruined when the Drury Lane theatre went up in smoke.
24 Feb 2021

Most Popular

Inflation is taking off in the US and markets really don’t like it
Inflation

Inflation is taking off in the US and markets really don’t like it

US inflation is at its highest for 25 years. Stockmarkets – and tech stocks in particular – have taken the news badly. John Stepek explains why, and w…
13 May 2021
Inheritance tax planning: the rules around gifting
Inheritance tax

Inheritance tax planning: the rules around gifting

There are plenty of legal ways to minimise an inheritance tax bill. Perhaps the simplest is to give away assets to reduce the size of your estate. Dav…
11 May 2021
Is it time to top up on gold? Or should you wait for a better opportunity?
Gold

Is it time to top up on gold? Or should you wait for a better opportunity?

Fears of inflation, money-printing and a global pandemic are all conditions that should drive the gold price higher. But it has been struggling. Domin…
12 May 2021