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The Morley Doodle and False Reports

On 16 August 2018, Google published a Doodle in honour of Ebenezer Cobb Morley’s 187th birthday in Cuba, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, China, Vietnam, India, Greece, France, Croatia, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Germany and the UK. Google’s description of the doodle alone is teeming with errors or at least contentious statements, which I would like to name in this post. And I would like to encourage you not to take everything at face value.

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

The fact that I am dealing with the development of football rules and regulations at all is due to a lack of source-based work. In my search for year numbers, I noticed that year numbers contradicted each other and that only in the rarest of cases is reference made to the contemporary source (e.g. newspaper reports). The assumption that many simply obtain information from two or three sites and do not check them further is confirmed again and again. This is also the case with this doodle.

== Subsequent note: I did not check the links after creating the post. It is quite possible that some reports were reported after the fact. ==

That SWP dates the first FA meetings to 1982 and India Today Morley birth year to 1861, BGR confuses it with 1924, the year he died. Sure, these are careless errors.

I’m just citing here the sources that posted something about Morley Doodle on 16 August 2018 in German or English. Unless they cite Google, I cannot specify where these sites in turn got their information from.

Before the FA Rules of 1863, the game of football was chaotic. 
(Sources: Google and presumably copying from it: CNN, Googlewatchblog, Express (England), Stern, SWP, Gala, heute.at, The Statesman, News18, Click on Detroit, Augsburger Allgemeine, Latestly, local10, Fox Sports Asia, DNA India, Spiegel Online)

Arguable. What is „chaotic“? Unregulated? More dangerous? A clearer designation would have made sense here. Chaotic may also mean that there was no set of rules valid throughout England. But that remained the case for many years after 1863.

The game of football before 1863 was brutal. The FA Rules regulated this, for example, by rule 13: No player shall wear shoes with protruding nails, iron plates or gutta-percha on the soles and heels.
(Sources: Google and presumably copying from it: Computer Image, Googlewatchblog, NDTV, The Sun, CNN, Moneycontrol, Indian Express, Star, SWP, Gala, zeenews, The Statesman, Hull Daily Mail, news.com.au, India Today, BGR, Click on Detroit, Latestly, local10, Fox Sports Asia, DNA India, Spiegel Online)

Wrong. This Rule 13 exists even in the rulebooks of those schools that we now believe played some kind of rugby or American football, so Rugby School. And that was as early as 1845.

Morley certainly stood up for a less dangerous game of football in 1863, but firstly not alone, but with Alcock and Pember among others, and secondly it was about hacking, dangerous tackling you could call it. I published a post around the discussions about banning hacking only last time here. Dis discussion led Blackheath FC pro hacking, but even in their 1862 rulebook anything protruding from shoes is banned. But the Cambridge University game in particular was no more brutal than the FA Rules football game.

Morley Rulebook / Morley drafted 13 rules [or similarly phrased].
(Sources: Google and copying/quoting from it: Computer image, Googlewatchblog, NDTV, The Sun, CNN, Indian Express, Express (England), Stern, heute.at, zeenews, Hull Daily Mail, Hindustan Times, News18, news.com.au, BGR, Click on Detroit, Augsburger Allgemeine, Latestly, metro.co.uk)

Wrong. Yes, Morley brought to the first meeting his idea of the rules as a draft. This had 23 rules. What is wrong is that the rules published in 1863 are his or that he proposed 13 rules. However, the drafts that were discussed at the preparatory meetings differ in parts from the rules published in 1863. The published set of rules is based to a very large extent on Cambridge University rules also published in the second half of 1863. The FA regulated it in some places, namely:

  • the pitch size (from 100×200 yd to 100×150 yd),
  • the goal dimensions (from 15 ft to 8 yd, but rounded to two decimal places makes no difference in our system of measurements),
  • at the kick-off, there was no minimum distance of 10 yd at the FA for all non-performers,
  • the entry from the touchline instead of the throw-in,
  • the change of sides, which at Cambridge in 1863 was only carried out at half-time, at the FA initially after each goal.

Everything else such as goal scoring, illegal play and handball, specifications on footwear (yes, that too), free kicks, etc. were identical in both rules.

Morley formalised the offside rule substantially.
(Sources: Google and presumably copying from it: Computer image, zeenews, Hull Daily Mail, News18, India Today, BGR)

I do not have the sources to confirm this statement. The newspaper reports for the 1866 General Assembly (not before!) do not record at whose suggestion the previous offside rule was changed. In 1863 anyone was offside if they were closer to the opposing goal line than the ball, in 1866 you were offside if less than three opposing ends were in front of the attacking player at the moment of the pass. The Googlewatchblog and Stern take it to the extreme, writing that there was no offside rule in 1863.

There was no such thing as offside.
(Sources: Computer Image, Googlewatchblog, Star, Gala, BILD)

Very well there was an offside rule in 1863. I quote Law 6 from the FA Rulebook published in 1863: „When a player has kicked the ball any one of the same side who is nearer to the opponent’s goal line is out of play and may not touch the ball himself nor in any way prevent any other player from doing so until the ball has been played; but no player is out of play when the ball is kicked from behind the goal line.“ Translated: „If a player has kicked the ball to a team-mate on his/her own side who is closer to the opponent’s goal line than the ball, he/she is out of play and may not touch the ball himself/herself nor in any way prevent any other player from doing so until the ball has been played; but no player is out of play when the ball is kicked from behind the goal line.“ (The last half-sentence refers to the then-predecessors of our current corner kick, explained in a little more detail here.

Morley was the father of modern football.
(Sources: Google and presumably copying from it: Computer Image, Time of India, NDTV, The Sun, Moneycontrol, Indian Express, Express (England), Star, SWP, Gala, today.at, zeenews, The Statesman, Hull Daily Mail, News18, news.com.au, India Today, Click on Detroit, Augsburger Allgemeine, Latestly, metro.co.uk, local10, Fox Sports Asia, Spiegel Online, BILD and already before 16.08.18 numerous publications)

Arguable. Or in other words, I would accept if the two words „one of“ were added. He was certainly one of the fathers of modern football denote. I look forward then to more doodles for Thomas Arnold, Charles William Alcock and one more, in Germany then also gladly Konrad Koch and Walter Bensemann. metro.co.uk, calls Morley the „father of modern football“ in the headline, but then writes correctly in the report „The Yorkshireman is credited as being one of the founding fathers of football as we know it today and it is a reputation he thoroughly deserves.“

And speaking of „modern football“: I wrote an article for 120minuten on this very definition-dependent term and football in England.

Born on 16 August 1831 in the English city of Hull, the son of a minister, Ebenezer Cobb Morley […].
(Source: computer image)

Not football history, but the content or translation wrong. Googling once and already several pages on the first page would have helped which translation for „minister“ is correct here. It is not a minister, but a clergyman. Ebenezer Cobb Morley’s father was the Reverend Ebenezer Morley.

Morley founded the Barnes Club in 1858, the oldest football club in the world.
(Source: computer image, image)

Wrong. Holla, wow, several clubs object to that, namely Sheffield FC, founded in 1857, and – arguably – Edinburgh Foot-Ball Club, founded in 1824 and re-established in 2007, about whose history John Hutchinson and Andy Mitchell recently have recently published a book on the club’s history [1]Cf. Hutchinson, John/Mitchell, Andy: The World’s First Football Club (1824). John Hope and the Edinburgh footballers. A Story of Sport, Education and Philantropy. North Carolina: CreateSpace … Continue reading. The latter apparently initially disbanded in the 1840s (there is no source for this, but the club is not mentioned later) and has now been ‚re-established‘, if one even wants to call it that due to the lack of a source for a disbandment. In Edinburgh they probably prefer the term „paused“.

The FA Rules of 1863 specify, among other things, the number of players and the length of games.
(Source: computer image, image)

Wrong. Both the number of players and the duration of the game were first established in 1897 by the IFAB.

The game of football towards the middle/late 19th century was governed by very few rules.
(Source: Googlewatchblog)

False. The Rugby School Rules of 1845 have 37 rules, the FA Rules of 1863 13 rules. And the public school game of football in Rugby was far more chaotic/dangerous than the game of football allowed by the FA.

From 1863 onwards, the game of football was more attractive and structured.
(Source: Googlewatchblog, CNN, Star, SWP, Gala, today. at, Hull Daily Mail, News18, Westfälische Rundschau, Augsburger Allgemeine, Spiegel Online)

Arguable. For me, they only became more attractive and structured in the following decades of the 19th century, such as the aforementioned new offside rule introduced in 1866. Or the evolving office of the referee (for the evolution: here (Rule V – Referees) and here (Rule VI – Assistant Referees)).

A game like the one shown on the right side of the doodle was only possible from 1866 onwards.

The game of football from 1863 onwards offered spectators more.
(Source: Googlewatchblog, today.at)

Arguable. Spectators as fans did not develop until the 1880s, sometimes the late 1870s.

Even before 1863 there were corner kicks, free kicks and throw-ins. However, these were not introduced across the board until the FA Rules.
(Source: Berliner Morgenpost, Westfälische Rundschau)

Wrong. Free kicks after fouls and corner kicks both existed from 1872. It is true that there was a throw-in and that corner kicks and throw-ins were already enshrined in other rules, such as the Sheffield FC Rules (1858-1867) and Sheffield FA Rules (1868-1877). However, the free kick was always a reward, not a punishment, until 1871.

And besides: the FA Rules were not automatically valid in 1863 in the whole of England or even in the whole of the United Kingdom. Only in London and surrounding areas and a few other clubs for a start.

Morley was the first person to write down the rules of football.
(Source: Express (England), Star, Gala, heute.at, zeenews, Independent, Click on Detroit, n-tv, local10, Fox Sports Asia, DNA India, Spiegel Online, BILD)

Wrong, because there were numerous rulebooks even before 1863. Of these, most of the early ones describe more of a rugby-like game, but at the latest the Cambridge University Rules of 1857 described the game of football that we call football.

The rules of football were formulated at the meeting on 26/10/1863.
(Source: Fox Sports Asia)

False. 26/10/1863 was the first meeting. The rules as published were so drafted at the fifth meeting on 1/12/1863 and finally confirmed and then published on 8/12/1863.


Maybe someone feels like improving the entry on Morley in the German Wikipedia, which has existed for two days now, accordingly.



Screenshot of the Google Doodle on the occasion of E. C. Morley’s 187th birthday.


1 Cf. Hutchinson, John/Mitchell, Andy: The World’s First Football Club (1824). John Hope and the Edinburgh footballers. A Story of Sport, Education and Philantropy. North Carolina: CreateSpace 2018.
Kategorie: English


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