14th September 1891. Play the Game!

The year 1891 saw many changes in Association Football, with referees and linesmen taking the place of umpires; The Royal Arsenal was the first southern club to embrace professionalism, and penalty kicks were introduced with Today seeing the first successful conversion at Molineux by J. Heath of Wolves versus Accrington.

However this penalty would never have been condoned by the superior upper-class Corinthians, founded in 1882, as in its early days their ethos of fair play was based on the principle that a gentlemen would never foul anyone, so they spurned any notion of penalisation. 

The Football Association (FA) was founded in 1863 to ensure boys in public schools could continue to play as adults by agreeing a set of rules which originally embodied some inspiration of the Corinthian spirit of superior effortlessness.(1)

This was epitomised by the great C.B.Fry who played for Corinthians, noted by its refusal to compete in any cup or for any prize, but whose players dominated the English side, and in two matches, against Wales, supplied them all.(2)

In 1904 the team was to beat Manchester United in a friendly, 11-3, their biggest defeat: Shush!


Corinthians 1896-97.

Corinthians 1896-97.

Early games were played on an oval pitch, according to The Cambridge Rules (University), and accepted by all the major Public Schools who dominated football at the time.(3)

However, the acrimonious formation of the FA caused a rift between the Rugby and Dribbling Codes, a divergence not over running with the ball, but over ‘hacking’.

Rugby men felt it was manly and courageous to tackle an opponent by kicking him on the shins; the shin-guard, originally worn outside socks, was invented in 1874! (4)

The Dribbling Men were regarded as cowards; thus was born the Rugby Union with Blackheath the first team.

Association players were still handling the ball, which when caught, one could ‘make a mark’ and a ‘free kick’, but soon were to reject all the distinctive Rugby conventions.

Now only the goalkeeper could handle the ball, the touchdown was abolished, and forward passing became the essence, with ‘Offside’ formalised. From being a purely local activity football was set to become a nationally organised game.

In 1885 professionalism was legalised in England, (but not in Scotland), something abhorrent to Corinthians and many other southern clubs, a conflict set to rumble on into the next century.

Corinthians founded 1882 played its last match on the 12th of April 1939, merging with Casuals F.C., and only managing to play one game before war intervened. Their future was to continue to ‘fly the flag’ in the amateur leagues of London and the Home Counties.

(1) The FA was founded today in 1863 at a meeting at the Freeman’s Tavern in Great Queen St. London, when men of Cambridge University, credited with being the first football club, issued their set of definitive rules, becoming official on December 1st.

(2) Fry  excelled at Oxford where he was a Triple Blue.

(3) In the first FA Laws, a ‘touch down’ rule, allowed a free kick at goal after a ball had been kicked over the opposing goal line and touched down (the Rugby ‘try’).

(4) By Sam Widdowson of Nottingham Forest.


bbc.co.uk/Prog. 3.8.2016. Radio 4.

wikipedia.org/corinthian_F_C./Pic of Corinthians.

Minto, Peter. 2013. The Flying Sportsman.

Lacey, Josh. Tempus. p. 71.

Cavellini, Robert. 2007. History of Corinthians. Tempus p. 99.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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