8th September 1888. Not Always The Beautiful Game.
A manuscript of the reign of James IV of Scotland records: ‘Paid 2 shillings for bag of fut ballis’.
The first English Football League season of 1888-89 began Today with Preston becoming the champions without losing a match and also winning the Cup without conceding a goal.
The season was memorable for James Ross scoring seven goals in his first game for Preston against Stoke in Division 1 on 6th October. It was a record not equalled until 14th December 1935, again in Division 1, when Arsenal’s Ted Drake, with just eight shots at goal, scored with seven of them against Aston Villa.
By 1914 football had become an established part of urban life with 158 professional clubs in England and Wales, with thirty more in Scotland.
Earliest references to football are all negative as in 1314 when London Mayor, Nicholas de Fardone issued a ban on football by order of Edward II, ostensibly against the ‘great evils’ of ‘noise and disturbance’. It recorded, ‘there is a great noise in the city caused by hustling over large foot ball’, or in the Norman French of the time: ‘rageries de grosses pelotes de pee’.(1)
In the reign of Henry IV there was a proclamation of 1409. ‘forbidding levying of money for foteball’.(2)
The 15thc sees the earliest description, in Latin, of a football game in Cawston, Nottinghamshire, where they ‘met for a common recreation called by some foot-ball game’.(3)
Conflicting as it would with archery practice the game would have met with displeasure of the authorities.
Violence, as today, was always a problem as revealed in the Parish Archives at North Moreton, Oxon, in May 1595: ‘Gunters son and ye Gregory fell together by ye years at football… Old Gunter drew a dagger and both broke their heads and they died both within a fortnight later’.
Then Shakespeare in King Lear reveals the low opinion of the pastime when Kent insults Oswald by calling him a ‘base football player’.
Not until the 19thc via the Cambridge Rules did the game become organised and ‘civilised’ with the introduction of rules and officials.
Nowadays a reminder of the unrestrained mayhem of days of yore is the Ashbourne, Derbyshire, Shrove Tuesday melle, between ‘Up-Town’ and ‘Down-Town’, a mixture of rugby and football which would have infringed, at a cost of 40 shillings, the 1835 Highways Act forbidding football on roads.
(1) Birley, Derek. Sport and making of Britain P 32.
(2) Magoun, Francis, Peabody (1929).
(3) Included in MS College of Miracles of Henry VI.1481-1500-‘Kicking Game’.
1835 Highways Act.
A MS [Manuscript] Acc. 11.4.1497. Heading Ref.
Riley, Henry, Thomas. Monumenta Gildhallae, Londoniensis. Vol 3 p 439-41.
Football in medieval England and Middle English Lit. American History Review, V.35 No 1.