The Game of Football - Victorian Britain - Football History - 1872-77

The Game of Football was changing.  In 1872, the FA decided that they would rule on the dimensions of a Football.  It was to be completely spherical and with a circumference of 26 ¾” (68 cm), it had to be encased in Leather and weigh between 14 – 16oz (396 – 453 grams) at the start of the game.  The Encyclopaedia of British Football states "On wet days the ball grew increasingly heavy as the leather soaked up large amounts of liquid. This, together with the lacing that protected the valve of the bladder, made heading the ball not only unpleasant but also painful and dangerous".

Archibald (Archie) Hunter, who was brought up playing football in Scotland in the 1860’s, moved down to England, to play for Aston Villa FC in 1878.  He and the Captain, George Ramsay, played the game passing the ball between them, while the English game was centred around a player ‘dribbling’ for as long as he could.  Archie and George became almost invincible and took Aston Villa FC into the FA Challenge Cup in 1879-80.  The following season they won both that competition and the Staffordshire Cup.  In 1890, Archie fell at a game against Everton FC, suffering a heart attack.  He died 4 years later from heart disease, aged just 35.



FA Cup, introduced 1871

In 1870, the FA introduced 11 a side games, with the additional position of goal-keeper.

The FA Challenge Cup, introduced in 1871, was mostly only played by London clubs, due to the cost of travelling to London to play.That, and the 1 guinea cost of entering.  Charles W Alcock, the secretary of the FA stated "What was ten or fifteen years ago the recreation of a few has now become the pursuit of thousands. An athletic exercise carried on, under a strict system and in many cases by an enforced term of training, almost magnified into a profession".

In 1871, the FA introduced umpires and a neutral referee. Each side could appoint an umpire who players could appeal to.  But the new FA rule also stated: "Any point on which the umpires cannot agree shall be decided by the referee"

In 1872, The FA again updated their Rules of Football, by updating their Set of Laws and clarifying the position of goal-keeper "a goal shall be won when the ball passes between the goal posts under the tape, not being thrown, knocked on, or carried".and "A player shall not throw the ball nor pass it to another except in the case of the goalkeeper, who shall be allowed to use his hands for the protection of his goal... No player shall carry or knock on the ball; nor shall any player handle the ball under any pretence whatever".



"The [representative] International Football Match" of February 24th 1872 England v. Scotland match. The English Rose is visible on the white shirt. The background shows the distinctive gasometer of The Oval

Representative international matches had been played between Scotland and England between 1870 and 72, but on 30th November 1872, the first ever official 'international' football match was played between Scotland and England in Partick, Scotland.  Watched by over 4,000 spectators, it was a goalless draw.  Players wore 'knickerbockers' (long pants) and bobble hats or caps. The hats / caps were part of the 'team strip' until well into the 1900's.

Again in 1872, approximately 50 clubs belonged to the FA.  The furthest from London was in York.  A rival to the FA, the Sheffield Association, played by a different set of rules altogether.  However, in 1877, the Sheffield Clubs joined the FA, swelling their numbers to almost 130.



1872, First "International" Football Match, England v. Scotland, in Scotland, Score 0-0



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