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The most desirable code oder The manly game of football? Discussions about the first FA Rules

Before the Football Association rulebook was adopted on 8 December 1863, there were five meetings to establish the bylaws and rulebook for this association of football clubs; a rulebook that was to be binding on all members.

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The meetings

Six meetings were held between 26 October and 8 December 1863, all at the Freemasons‘ Tavern in London, namely on 26 Oct, 10 Nov, 17 Nov, 24 Nov, 1 Dec and finally on 8 Dec. Arthur Pember, who later became FA Chairman, was in charge. At the first meeting, 14 clubs were represented, at the last meeting eight clubs, as seven clubs left the association early and another joined later. A total of 44 club representatives attended the meetings, but only six remained involved in the FA as of 1864 [1]http://www.scottishsporthistory.com/uploads/3/3/6/0/3360867/meeting_attendees.pdf.

On 24 November 1863 there was the fourth meeting and the formation of the FA might well have been possible on that day had it not been for discussions about running and hacking, i.e. running with the ball in hand and kicking purposefully against an opponent.

Cambridge Rules as a role model?

After reading out letters to the FA, the suggestion came that the FA Rules could be modelled on the Cambridge University rules published only a few days earlier. These rules had been negotiated and published by representatives from Eton College, Harrow School, Rugby School, Shrewsbury School, in addition to 1857 Marlborough School and Winchester School [2]Sykes University, on the other hand, was no longer on the committee. and were somewhat different from the rules that Reps. had published in 1857. There was now a fixed pitch size (max 150×100 yd), a fixed goal width (15 ft) but no height limit, stricter offside (without exception anyone standing between the ball and the opposing goal) and changing sides only at half-time instead of after each goal. In addition, there were differentiated rules for when the ball went into the side or out of the goal. It was now decisive whether it rolled in and who touched it first („touchdown“) or whether it flew in and could be caught out of bounds. If there was an entry or kick from the point of touchdown in the case of the rolling ball, there was a free kick from the 25-yard post that was on the sideline in the case of the direct catch. Handball (except for the fair catch) and illegal play (holding, pushing, tripping, kicking the shin) remained prohibited.

Charles W Alcock called the Cambridge Rules „the most desirable code of the rules for the association“, which already started a small discussion. Treasurer Francis Maule Campbell proposed „worthy of consideration“ as an alternative for „most desirable code“ and Ebenezer Cobb Morley proposed „embrace the true principles of the game with the greatest simplicity“ – Chairman Pember chose Morley’s proposal after the meeting’s vote resulted in a stalemate for all three proposals.
G. Lawson also proposed the passage for the rules that the FA Committee would not insist on rules proposing running with the ball. There were only a few votes in favour of this in the vote, but also no votes against or abstentions. It was only afterwards that an exchange of words began. Campbell spoke up and stated that various members had not voted because they had not understood the content of Lawson’s casket and demanded a new vote. These members Campbell was referring to were all supporters of running and hacking and of course had little interest in the FA not being keen on this type of play.
There was subsequently the start of a discussion, but Arthur Pember nipped this in the bud and postponed settling the issue until the following meeting on 1 December 1863.

Does running and hacking belong to the game of football?

Campbell was a player for Blackheath FC, a club that played the combative variety of football. Today, this variant is called rugby. Blackheath‘ FC’s 1862 rulebook allowed tackling as soon as a player started running with the ball. To prevent it from degenerating into the kind of violence that football matches escalated into in the 1840s and 1850s, the Blackheath rulebook notes the remark, which seems absurd to us, that the permitted attacking of the player with the ball does not include attempts to strangle or strangle, as this behaviour is completely contrary to the principles of the game. Football was supposed to prepare the mostly aristocratic boys for the values of a gentleman – this included body checks, but not strangling.
Even if handball and hard tackling of the opponent was allowed, kicking was not allowed from behind or against the knee of the opponent and generally no kicking unless he had the ball, put it straight down on the ground or made a mark in the ground with his heel after catching the ball directly from a kick or knocking on the ball with his hand (= fair catch). It was also not allowed to hold and kick a player at the same time. The ball was also not allowed to be picked up from the ground. Running with the ball was only possible by a fair catch, after which the player did not make a heel mark in the ground, but started running. If the player decided he would rather make a mark, he was awarded an indirect free kick for his team.

Running and hacking were what the supporters around Campbell wanted included in the FA Rules and when Campbell summed up the past meeting at the fourth meeting on 1 December 1863, he deliberately left all the resolutions against hacking and running unmentioned. [3]See: NN: Football Association. In: Supplement to Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 05.12.1863. p. 1. … Continue reading In response to Pember’s amendment, Campbell said he was calling for this decision to be rescinded because the proposal to adopt the current Cambridge Rules had not been submitted by the deadline. This was true, as the rules had not been published until after the deadline. Chairman Pember put to the vote whether the FA Rules should be based on the current Cambridge Rules – a large majority voted in favour. Campbell protested. Morley countered that the inclusion of running and hacking could discourage many clubs from becoming members of the FA, as the risk of injury from such football was much higher. It would also not increase the ‚acceptability‘ of the game of football. Campbell countered that he had been playing football since he was eight years old and was still playing and could play football now as a 19-year-old because the game would not be as brutal as in years past.

„Hacking is the true football game.“

The Cambridge Rules, he said, appealed to those „who like their pipes and grog or booze more than the manly game of football. I think they are against ‚hacking‘ because too many members of the club started late in life and were too old for the spirit of the game, which was so accomplished at their public schools after life. […] If they abolish it, you will give up all the courage and grit of the game, and I will bring many Frenchmen to beat you with a week’s practice.“ [4]Quoted from. NN: The Football Association. In: Supplement to Bell’s Life in London, 05.12.1863. p. 1. URL: … Continue reading. Campbell earned a lot of laughter for this, but he continued to rant undeterred. There was a willingness to compromise, but the proposal to use the Cambridge Rules as a basis and not to insist on running and hacking would make an agreement impossible and would also be a big mistake because renowned, old football clubs would not want to become members of the FA in this way. Campbell was alluding here to public school clubs like Rugby and Eton.
By now it was obviously clear to him that he was in the minority as a supporter of the fighting rules, but he still tried to increase the pressure: If the rules are adopted as they are, the advocates of hacking and running will feel obliged to cancel their membership of the FA and call a meeting of their own, deliberately including the schools [5]F.M. Campbell and the three other advocates put their warning into action when the FA Rules came into force and resigned from the FA. However, they did not agree a meeting, the clubs continued to … Continue reading.

A deep divide

Arthur Pember was furious and went after Campbell on whether he had only attended FA meetings to resign immediately if the Blackheath Rules were not adopted? He said that was not a fair and honest way of dealing. Campbell replied and reiterated that until the proposal regarding the Cambridge Rules he was prepared to compromise, having deliberately not brought them properly into the meeting knowing of the strong minority in the Assembly, he now sees no possibility of compromise. Pember irritated: the accusation that the proposal was deliberately not properly tabled was „ungentlemanly“ and Alcock reiterated that the proposal could not have been made earlier because the rulebook was only a few days old.

Campbell wants to postpone the meeting again, into the Christmas holiday period, so that representatives from public schools can also attend the FA meeting. He wanted to increase the number of supporters in order to achieve a small majority for running and hacking. But with his hostility towards the opponents of running and hacking – and that was the majority of the assembly – he had apparently lost any concessions and favours. Pember nevertheless put it to the vote again whether running and hacking should be included in the FA Rules and the result was even clearer than before: four representatives voted for the inclusion, 13 against. The decision was now final: the Cambridge Rules were adopted, but not in their entirety, but slightly adapted in the sense of the majority of FA members.

Campbell came forward again and asked cynically why public schools were deliberately ignored. Pember replied dryly that public schools would never abandon their own set of rules anyway, so they could not be considered as FA members and therefore should not be considered as an interest group.

The meeting was closed and another one was called a week later. It had only one reason and this is how it happened: The FA rulebook was adopted at that meeting, on 8.12.1863.

The participants

For the 1st, 2nd and 5th and 6th meetings these gentlemen have entered their names on the list (stating their age, office with the respective club and at which meeting they were present):

  • Shillingford, George William (Perceval House, Blackheath): 19, secretary: 1, 2,
  • MacIntosh, William John (Kensington School): 18, captain: 1,
  • Turner, James (Crystal Palace): 24, Player (later cashier): 1, 2,
  • Day, Francis (Crystal palace): 25, secretary: 1, 2,
  • Morley, Ebenezer Cobb (Barnes FC): 32, captain: 1, 2, 5, 6
  • Gregory, Thomas Dyson (Barnes FC): 28, secretary: 1, 2, 5, 6
  • Bell, Theodore (Surbiton): 23, former captain at Uppingham School: 1,
  • Moore, Frederick Henry (Blackheath): 24, captain: 1, 2, 5, 6
  • .
  • Campbell, Francis Maule (Blackheath): 20. Secretary: 1, 2, 5, 6
  • Gordon, William Henry (Blackheath Proprietary School): 18, Captain: 1, 5, 6
  • Steward, Herbert Thomas (Crusaders FC): 24: 1,
  • Alcock, John Foster (Forest): 22, Captain: 1, 5, 6
  • Mackenzie, Alfred Westwood (Forest): 23, hon. Secretary: 1, 5, 6
  • Pember, Arthur (No Names): 28, captain: 1, 2, 5, 6
  • Wawn, George Twizell (War Office): 23: 1,
  • Hartshorne, Bertram Fulke (Charterhouse School): 19, Captain: 1
  • Bell, NN (Dingley Dell): unknown: 1,
  • McIver, L. (Kensington House)
  • Redgrave, J. A. (Kensington House)
  • Brand, F. (Royal Naval School, New Cross): 2,
  • Johnston, W. P. (Royal Naval School, New Cross): 2,
  • Hawker, C. (War Office): 2,
  • Urwick, F. (Crystal Palace): 5, 6
  • Siordat, J. L. (Crystal Palace): 5, 6
  • Morgan, J. (Forest School Walthamstow): 5, 6
  • Bouch, J. jun. (Forest School Walthamstow): 5, 6
  • Daltry, A. E. (Wimbledon School): 5, 6
  • Lawson, G. (No Names): 5, 6


1 http://www.scottishsporthistory.com/uploads/3/3/6/0/3360867/meeting_attendees.pdf
2 Sykes University, on the other hand, was no longer on the committee.
3 See: NN: Football Association. In: Supplement to Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 05.12.1863. p. 1. (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Football_Association_(Bell%27s_Life_in_London),_1863-12-05.png).
4 Quoted from. NN: The Football Association. In: Supplement to Bell’s Life in London, 05.12.1863. p. 1. URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Football_Association_(Bell%27s_Life_in_London),_1863-12-05.png (last accessed: 31/07/2018). Original quote: „That it [the rule] savours[!] far more of the feelings of those who liked their pipes and grog or schnapps more than the manly game of football. I think that the reason they object to ‚hacking‘ is because too many of the members of the club began late in life, and were too old for that spirit of the game which was so fully entered into at their public schools and by public school men in after life.“
5 F.M. Campbell and the three other advocates put their warning into action when the FA Rules came into force and resigned from the FA. However, they did not agree a meeting, the clubs continued to play under their own rules and agreed common rules before matches against other clubs. It took seven years before a meeting was held to standardise their rules and thus simplify matches. However, F. M. Campbell was not involved in this venture. Edwin Ash of Richmond FC and Benjamin Burns of Blackheath FC published a letter to the editor asking all clubs that played „the rugby-type game“ to attend a meeting on 4 December 1870 and another on 26 January 1871, at the Pall Mall Restaurant in London. At the second meeting, the Rugby Football Union was formed with 21 clubs. By 22 June 1871, the Rugby FU rulebook had been drawn up and adopted at an extraordinary general meeting on 24 July. In fact, this rulebook not only banned kicking, but also hacking. However, this did not now lead to further splits
Kategorie: English


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