Posted: 8/27/2006


      t has been described as one of  the 12 most influential books that changed the world, by distinguished author, Melvin Bragg. It's none other than The Rules of Association Football, which has been republished by the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford.
  It's a very small book, since there were only 13 original rules, still only 17 today.
Before the historic meeting at the Freeman's Tavern in Lincolns Inn at Great Queen St, London on October 26th  1863, the game of football was chaotic. 
It was very popular amongst the public schools of England. They were, and are, very exclusive 'private ' schools.
  The games rules varied quite considerably. The fields may be vast and the game going on until dusk, with immovable trees and other barriers having quaint rules, or in the inner city schools, brick or dirt school yards with pillars and other impediments. When these gentlemen went on to Oxford or Cambridge University there were arguments about rules, until a small group of about a dozen sat down in a pub on that historic day. There were representatives from Wanderers, NN (No Name), Kilburn, Richmond, Barnes, War Office, Crusaders, Blackheath, Furnival House, Blackheath School, Charterhouse School, Kingstonians, Surbitan, Kingston School
By the end of the day THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION had been formed. Blackheath withdrew over the issue of  'hacking' (shin kicking) and holding.  A subscription of 1. 1 shilling per annum was to be charged as a membership (1 guinea).
In this book of rules are advertisements by Jas. Lillywhite, selling jerseys, football, hose and knickerbockers.
  Barnes played Richmond under these new rules and in was 0-0.  In 1865 a tape 8ft high was to be stretched across the top of the goal posts.
Mid 19th Century the game became popular in the Midland and Northern towns, and when parliament decided that Saturday afternoon was to be a half day off, then even more people played.
  In Sheffield, an industrial city with textiles and steel, the factory workers were given Wednesday afternoon off, and Sheffield Wednesday was formed. School teams, village teams, works teams, pub teams, police force teams all sprang up.
Back to 1857, before this explosion and SHEFFIELD FC was formed, the very first football team in the world.
  On Saturday I travelled to their bright new home behind the Coach and Horses Pub, in Dronfield, for a Northern Counties East League match vs Garforth Town. They had a splendid 56 page official program and on sale were Pie and Chips for 2.00, Hot Dogs for 60 pence, Sausage rolls for 50 pence and tea for the same.
  Members of the Sheffield  cricket club met during the winter of 1857 to look at ways of keeping fit during the winter in Sheffield, where cricket and fencing were the sports of choice for young men.
William Prest a  wine merchant, and Nathaniel Creswell an attorney and silversmith talked into the night and on October 24th 1857 formed the club.
  They were also instrumental on drawing up the Sheffield Rules, and by 1862 there were 15 such clubs in the Sheffield area, including Hallam FC, formed in 1860, the SECOND oldest club in the world, but with the oldest soccer field, still used today. The Sheffield FA was formed in 1877 with Albion Artillery, Attercliff, Crodsey, Exchange Brewers, Hallamshire Rifles amongst others.
  The Sheffield Rules included a solid crossbar, the first use of corner kicks, first free kicks, first fouls, throw ins and the first floodlit match. The Clegg Brothers are an integral part of the history of Sheffield FC and of the game in general. JC Clegg and William Clegg were born and bred footballers and both played for England.  Sir Charles Clegg played in the world's very first international match, Scotland vs England, and he later became a referee, taking charge of the FA Cup Final in 1882 and 1892, and in 1923 he was appointed President of the Football Association.
It was not, and still isn't called the English FA like the Italian FA, Swedish FA etc, because it was THE very first to be formed in 1863. THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION. In 1963 to celebrate the centenary of Sheffield FC, a match vs Queens Park of Glasgow was played at Sheffield United's ground, Bramall Lane, attended by the Duke of Edinburgh. I was a student in Leeds at the time and went there, but sad to say there were more people lining the rout to look at the young handsome Duke, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, than there were inside the ground.
  Sheffield F C's  nickname is  CLUB and has played through 2 World Wars. On 4th April 1904 they won the FA Amateur Cup beating Ealing 3-1 before 6,000 fans at Valley Parade, Bradford.
  In 1888 The Football League was formed with 12 teams, all from the Midlands and the North.   Aston Villa, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Accrington Stanley, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Everton and Preston North End ( where you can now find the National Football Museum ( admission free) at their Deepdale Stadium. In 1889 a league was formed in Denmark, and in 1892 in Argentina and a year later in Italy-Genoa being the first Italian club.
  Nowadays there is no FA Amateur Cup since the distinction between Amateurs and Professionals was dropped about 30 years ago.
They beat Garforth Town 3-1 in front of about 250 fans on a sunny day, and after the match people went out the side gate and into the Coach & Horses Pub for a beer, a coca-cola and some sandwiches, and to watch the pro soccer highlights on TV.
It is only one of two clubs honored by FIFA with an Order of Merit. The other being the famous Real Madrid of Spain.
  The club has had a difficult time over the years and almost went out of existence, moving from ground to ground around Sheffield, until  Richard Tims came on board 3-4 years ago, and poured money and ideas into it. I spoke with him at what is now called the Bright Finance Stadium in the pretty village of Dronfield, Derbyshire, not in Yorkshire at all, where Sheffield is located. Lots of sponsorships from McDonalds and local businesses have had the effect of a much spruced up stadium and plans are set for a leisure center and much more. There are 2 small stands and a next door field where horses run free that is about to be bought.  Richard on this day was also the public address announcer and announced the teams and the raffle winners.
  Today's mascot dressed in the red and black team uniform was  3 1/2 year old McKenzie Cameron, who named her favourite TV show as Peppa Pig, her favourite food as Sweet Corn and who has 2 pet rabbits named Jessie and Jasper!!
  After the match I drove about half an hour away, looking for the home of Hallam FC, , who actually play in the same league. So when they play a local derby the 2 oldest clubs in the world compete.
I had to stop many times for directions, and passed Bramall Lane, home to Premiership Sheffield United, and Hillsborough, home of Sheffield Wednesday where 96 fans were crushed to death during a Liverpool vs Nottingham Forest FA Cup semi-final in May, 1989.  Also where in the 1966 World Cup, Franz Beckenbauer played his first World Cup match, and scored in the 5-0 defeat of Switzerland.
     I stopped at The Bulls Head, The Sportsman, The Fox and Duck, the Ranmoor Inn for directions before I found THE oldest soccer field in the world, SANDYGATE Stadium, in a surprisingly upmarket suburb. Opponents often complain about the bumpy and sloping pitch which they share as an outfield with the local cricket team, who were playing when I arrived, but nobody is about to close down the oldest football field in the world.
  A quiz. What have Joseph S. Blatter and  Rick Savage of Def Leopard have in common? No, I know they both make a lot of noise!!
Actually they are paid up members of Sheffield FC. There is a big notice board on one side of the ground with names such as John Harkes of Virginia, USA , Gordon Banks  WC 1966 goalkeeper, Toshihide Nose of Toyko, Japan, Paul Johnson of New South Wales,Australia, John Bannister of Oregon City, USA, Giordana Bardegia of Italy, Jan Leonhardt of Placean, Germany.
If you want to be a part of football history look at and for 25.00 you can get a life membership. They also promote an excellent cause, BOOTS FOR AFRICA, and run a women's team, 8-9 youth teams and a Disability team.
   1857-2007, 150 years of the beautiful game.