Football is the nearest there is to a world game. There are easy reasons for this. At its most basic football is a game which requires the most rudimentary of equipment, a ball. Its rules are simple compared with those of other games such as rugby or cricket. But it is more than that. Football is also the game which arguably best combines pure athleticism with the felicity of human thought and movement to which we give too often the bone-achingly dull description “hand/eye coordination.”
Football was in a state of flux until the middle of the nineteenth century. Various forms existed. Some codes allowed kicking only, others handling. There were disputes over whether hacking and gouging were allowed. In 1863 the Football Association was created and stopped the confusion. It was the first national sporting association which was purely that. The MCC in practice directed English cricket and was responsible for the laws of the game, but they were first and foremost, a private club, as was the Jockey Club. The FA was the first formally constituted sporting body created to explicitly to direct an entire sport.
No sport has had such a rapid rise to popularity. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century it went from a poorly organised game, to something which was recognisable as the game we know today. Famous clubs of today were formed by Public School Old Boys, vicars, boys clubs, public houses, in the work place and by cricket clubs. The first international game took place between England and Scotland in 1872 The world’s first cup competition, the FA Cup, was born in 1872.
In 1888 the world’s first sporting league was formed, the Football League. International matches involving countries other than England were being played well before the First World War and football was an Olympic sport from early on in the modern Olympiad’s history. Not
least, football’s world governing body, FIFA, was founded as early as
1904 (with no encouragement from England it has to be said).
By 1900 the top teams had become overwhelmingly professional and club owners were often drawn from the ranks of local businessmen. The game had become much more of a business than any other sport.