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The development of the Sheffield Rules

I came across this page this month, which lists several Sheffield Rules. More than just the four I have used so far. So I have now been able to update the various rules and the concise history of the Sheffield FA Rules.

🇩🇪 Hallo! Diesen Artikel gibt es auch auf Deutsch. Wechsele hier zur deutschsprachigen Version.

Here it is now to give a little more detail of the Sheffield rules, but of course not as much detail as various books cover, looking at Sheffield FC in its early days. It is the elaboration of my comparison.

My first mistake that caught my eye in the analysis was that the Sheffield FA was not founded at the same time as Sheffield FC, but in 1867, nine years later. That is, after the Football Association was founded. The latter consisted mainly of London football clubs, but not only London clubs were involved in the founding, but a representative of Sheffield FC, for example, was also present.

So for the time being, it’s about the …

Sheffield FC Rules (1858-1867)

The drafts and first published version 1858

The first draft

Sheffield FC was founded on 24 October 1857 by lawyer Nathaniel Creswick (1831-1917) and wine merchant William Prest (1832-1885). Both were cricketers, which was traditionally played in the summer. Football, on the other hand, had already been introduced at the public schools as a winter game. And so that they could continue to play sport over the winter months, they both set up a football department, which was mainly oriented towards football without picking up the ball. Creswick became coach, Prest took care of drawing up an internal set of rules for the club. A first draft of the rules was produced in early 1858. It contained provisions on kick-offs (1), goal kicks (2), permitted and prohibited handling of the ball and opponents (3 to 9), how to score a goal (10), throw-ins (11) and clothing (12). Thus, there was still a lack of information on the playing field and goal dimensions, the number of players and their clothing, on choosing sides and changing sides, offside, corner kicks, goal stops and the referee.

The rulebook uses the word laws, as the rules concerned the club statutes, the laws the rules of the game.
However, I use the word rule, not law, for the laws.

While Laws 1, 2 and 10 do not differ remarkably from today’s usage and according to Law 11 (throw-in) the team throws in the ball that has put it out of bounds, the rules on fair and foul play are quite different.
First of all, concerning handball: The fair catch (3) was allowed, i.e. catching the ball out of the air, which has not yet touched the ground. In this draft it is noted that the ball must come from the opponent’s body. Hitting and pushing (6), picking up the ball with the hands – lying (8) or rolling (9) was forbidden. Only in this draft is there another permitted handball besides the fair catch: a ball bouncing on the ground could be picked up (but not hit or pushed). Whether this was followed by an indirect free kick, as in the case of the fair catch, is not mentioned.
The opponent was not allowed to be pushed, kicked (5), held or pushed (7), unless there was a kick from the spot. Then one was allowed to jostle the opponent strongly while shooting (4). At the same time, the rule advises the person being jostled to stand back until his opponent has touched the ball with his foot.

The allowed picking up of a bouncing ball and the jostling of an opponent from the kick are the unexpected rules, of this draft.

The last draft and the first published set of rules

Before the Sheffield FC Rules were published as late as 1858, there was a final draft which differed from the published rules only in that one rule was deleted. There were other differences from the first draft. The last draft and the rules published in 1858 also contained provisions on kick-off (1), goal-kick (2), permitted and prohibited handling of the ball and opponents (3 to 8 or 9), how to score a goal (9 or 10), throw-in (10 or 11) and clothing (11 or 12). So let’s get straight to the permitted and prohibited behaviour, because nothing relevant changed with the rest: It was forbidden to hold the ball and pick it up with the ground. A prohibition for hitting the ball or picking up a bouncing ball was missing, as was a permission for this. Permitted handball was still the fair catch (now one was always allowed to catch the ball, even if it came from a teammate) and now the bumping of the ball in the last draft. However, pushing was then deleted without exception in the published rules. In the game against the opponent, holding, kicking and kicking were not allowed. The strong jostling of the kick from the spot and now also pushing were still permitted.
The game thus became more combative in the course of the drafts, but remained more association football than a mixed game (a mix of rugby and football).

The 1858 and 1862 rulebooks compared

At the annual general meeting in Sheffield, there were always proposals for changes to the rules. For the nine years between 1858 and 1867, I still have the 1862 rulebook for comparison.
The first set of rules was drawn up on 28.10.1858 at the Adelphi Hotel (present address: 55, Norfolk Street, Sheffield) and published in 1859, the 1862 version on 30.01.1862 at the Falcon Inn, 13, Flatstreet, Sheffield (publication date unknown).

At first glance it is noticeable that the number of rules has increased from 1858 to 1862. Also new are three rules on rouge (11-12, 14), offside (13), changing sides (15) and information on goal measurements and rouge flags (16). The remaining rules changed in that all free kicks remained indirect free kicks (10), throw-ins were not given to the team that kicked the ball out of bounds, but to the team that touched it there afterwards, and that in addition to kicking the ball, bumping the ball and touching it with the arm or hand were now forbidden (8). The offside rule was still very general here: A player who is behind the goalposts when taking a shot is not allowed to touch the ball because he is offside. The custom for changing sides was now fixed in writing after every goal or a goalless first half. The goal was 3.66 m x 2.74 m (12×9 ft) and a rouge flag stood at the same height 3.66 m from each goalpost.

More on the Rouge

The rouge flag was part of a scheme introduced in 1862 to reduce the number of draws: The Rouge

Law 11 describes how a rouge is scored.[1]Cf. Sheffield Football Club. In: Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 31/01/1862, p. 2: „The most important alteration is the adoption of ‚rouges,'[!] which will have the effect of preventing … Continue reading

A rouge is obtained when an [attacking] player is the first to touch the ball after it has been shot between the rouge flags. When a rouge is gained, a player of the defending team must stand 1.83 m centrally in front of the goalposts. [What happened then is not stated.]

Law 12 then describes when no rouge was scored.

No rouge is scored if a player of the defending team touches the ball first. In this case, there is a goal kick as described in Law 2.

That is, only if a match ended in a draw did the number of possible rouges decide the winner of the match. If these were also a draw, one made do with further decision possibilities.

The last rule, in the 1862 version, the 17th, concerned the colour of clothing. Since the games were almost all played within the club (for example, blue-collar workers against white-collar workers or those born in the first half of the year against those born in the second half), all members were required to wear a red and a blue flannel cap. This made it possible to distinguish between the teams, which changed in composition.
Only rarely were there matches against other teams, as on 26.12.1860 against the newly founded club from neighbouring Hallam. In each case 16 players played against each other.

Speaking of the number of players, this was never specified in Sheffield’s own rules, nor in the Sheffield Association until 1867, which is the subject of the following.

The Sheffield and Hallamshire FA

They included, in addition to Sheffield FC, all twelve association football playing teams from Sheffield and the immediate vicinity who took part in the Youdan Cup (16.02.-09.03.1867). Sir John Charles Clegg (1850-1937) and Charles Stokes (1850-1937) founded the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA, Sheffield FA for short, as a regional association as late as March 1867.

The following clubs were founder members:

  • Sheffield FC (1858-present)
  • Hallam FC (1860-present)
  • Heeley FC (1862-1898)[2]Founded by parish of Heeley Christchurch. Heeley is district of Sheffield.
  • Norfolk FC (1861-1879)[3] Name in honour of Duke of Norfolk on whose land they played.
  • Pitsmoor FC (1864 at the latest until 1887 at the earliest)
  • Mechanics‘ FC (1865-earliest 1870)
  • Garrick FC (1866-1878)
  • Fir Vale FC
  • Norton FC
  • Wellington FC
  • Mackenzie FC
  • Broomhall
  • Milton FC

Sir Clegg became the first chairman and solicitor Harry Walker Chambers (1842-1907) the first president. Chambers was succeeded in 1869 by legal stationer John Charles Shaw (1834-1918), who was president of the association until 1882. Chambers and Shaw, despite their ages (25 years and 33 years), were already veterans, as Chambers represented Sheffield FC in the formation of the Football Association and Shaw attempted to form a national rules body with Charles Alcock as early as 1863. Their joint endeavour continued. Sir Clegg, who was knighted in 1927, led the founding of the association when he was 17. He must have had the ambition even then that later earned him the nickname Napoleon of Football.

The Sheffield FA rules combined Sheffield FC’s fighting rules with the bstehende FA rules. Main contributors to the Sheffield FA Rules were gauge maker William Chesterman (1837-1930) and Prest and Creswick, all of whom had been involved in the formation of Sheffield FC. The rules were adopted the „First set of laws of the Sheffield Football Association, adopted at a meeting held at the Adelphi Hotel, March 6th, 1867. Based on the 1867 laws of the Football Association.[4]All subsequent annual general meetings of the Association up to 1867 were held at this hotel. In addition to the chairman, president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer, there was a committee with representatives from the various member clubs.

The changes from the Sheffield FC Rules to the Sheffield FA Rules

The number of rules in the rulebook not only changed from 1862 to 1867 from 17 to 14 rules. The only rules that were not deleted or changed were the provisions on changing sides and that the number of goals outweighs that of rouges. Everything else has at least been changed, if not newly included.
Deleted without replacement are the rules on kick-offs, fair catch and rouge, strong jostling, player clothing and picking up the ball with the hands without permission and holding and pushing players.
Of course, this does not mean that everything has become forbidden or arbitrary, but that many things have become clear to everyone, such as the kick-off, the fair catch and the rouge, holding and pushing. The new Law 9 made obsolete the restriction that the ball could not be picked up with the hands and on players‘ clothing, which was now determined within the club.

The Development of the Sheffield FA Rules

The first rules were adopted on 6. March 1867 and governed the dimensions of the pitch, goals and the location of the rowing flags (1), pitch selection (2), changing sides (3), how a goal is scored (4), throw-ins (5), offside and who is goalkeeper (6), the precursor to the corner kick (7), the ratio of goals to rouges (8), illegal handball (9, 12 and 13), how not to score a goal (10), unfair play (11) and regulations on players‘ footwear (14).
In addition, there were definitions of various terms mentioned in the rulebook: Place kick, free kick, hacking, tripping, knocking on, holding, and touch. In 1868, the definition of fair catch was added.

From the Sheffield Rules I can compare the rulebooks of March and October 1867, of 1868, 1869, 1871, 1875 and 1876. There are few changes about this time. The biggest changes came from the banning of the Fair Catch (1871), the change from the rouge to the corner kick or kick-off as we have it today, and the introduction of referees (both 1868).

The new rulebook of9 October 1867 also adopted the corner throw instead of the corner kick while retaining the rouge rules (7) and stipulated that the older club choose the jersey colour.

In the rules adopted on 13 October 1868, the rouges were replaced by (now again) corner kicks or goal kicks, depending on which team kicked the ball out of bounds (7). At the suggestion of Fir Vale FC and Norfolk FC, all mention of rouge flags was removed from the rulebook, but I am not aware if they also initiated the removal of the rouge rules.
The corner throw became a corner kick again, but the throw-in became a kick-in at Norfolk’s suggestion (5).
The goal was doubled in width at the suggestion of Mechanics‘ FC (1), the permitted handball at the fair catch was again included in the rules (12, previously 13) and referees („umpires“) were now introduced, one per team, who supervised the game in „his“ team’s half (14). His decisions were final.

On 21 October 1869, at the suggestion of Norfolk FC, it was added to the umpires that they were the only judges in the game and only they had the power to impose punishments (12, previously 14). Mackenzie FC wanted a whole new rule, reported the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent[5]Cf. Sheffield Football Association. In: Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 09.10.1869, p. 8.; but it is not noted here whether they also submitted a substantive amendment. In addition, there was another proposal from Norfolk FC which was adopted: At a free kick, only opponents had to keep a distance of 5.49 m from the ball and teammates, on the other hand, only 2.74 m.

In 1871, Fair Catch was banned in Sheffield FA as it was in the Football Association. Therefore, at the General Assembly in Sheffield on 10 October 1871, the definition of fair catch was deleted and replaced by another hand game to „knocking on“, namely „handling“.
Furthermore, it was stipulated that no attack from behind into the opponent is allowed (10) and that the throw-in player may not play the ball directly after his throw-in, but that another player must have touched it first (5).

At the General Assembly at the end of July 1875 there were again more suggestions from member clubs, which were incorporated into the rulebook: A goal post instead of a goal cord at the suggestion of a Mr. Hall (4), a flag or other signal for referees at the suggestion of Sir John Charles Clegg (12), changing sides only at half-time and after goals only kick-off for the opposing team (3), goalkeeper hand play allowed (hold only, (8), that the ball should be in play until the referee blows the whistle (12, also on Sir Clegg’s suggestion) and that prohibited footwear should lead to exclusion from the game without substitution until footwear conforming to the rules is worn (11).
It was also stated that the clubs were open to all persons and that they could be admitted to the Sheffield Football Association as soon as they were over two years old.

At the General Meeting at the end of February 1876, the Football Association’s goal dimensions of 7.32 m x 2.44 m were adopted (1) and Rule 8 on goalkeepers and the handball allowed to them was reworded: The goalkeeper need not be a predetermined player but may change during the game; however, no more than one player of a team may be a goalkeeper. They may hold, throw or strike the ball with their hand in a defensive situation, but may not carry it.

The Sheffield FA continued to exist, but shortly before 23 April 1877 the Sheffield FA decided at a meeting to adopt the FA Rules.[6]Cf. Sheffield FA Rules. In: Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 23.04.1877, p. 7. More here.


1 Cf. Sheffield Football Club. In: Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 31/01/1862, p. 2: „The most important alteration is the adoption of ‚rouges,'[!] which will have the effect of preventing matches to result in ‚draws.'“
2 Founded by parish of Heeley Christchurch. Heeley is district of Sheffield.
3 Name in honour of Duke of Norfolk on whose land they played.
4 All subsequent annual general meetings of the Association up to 1867 were held at this hotel.
5 Cf. Sheffield Football Association. In: Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 09.10.1869, p. 8.
6 Cf. Sheffield FA Rules. In: Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 23.04.1877, p. 7.
Kategorie: English


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