To mark the FA’s 150th birthday, FourFourTwo looks back at the strange world of football in 1863.
Bladder balls: If you wanted to get hold of a football 150 years ago, your first stop would be your local butcher’s. Most footballs were handmade using inflated animal bladders – usually ox bladders, although pig and bullock bladders were also used. The bladders were enclosed in leather cases, with the seams tied together with boot laces. “A shoemaker will generally manufacture the cases better than those which are purchased ready made, unless a ball be procured from the old established shops in London,” advised Every Boy’s Magazine, a popular title from the time. The finished “casers” were hard and heavy, especially when soaked in rain and caked in mud. Any attempt to head them was extremely ill-advised. For those who couldn’t be bothered with animal bladders, India rubber provided a new-fangled alternative. However, balls with rubber bladders were considered more liable to burst than those made from animal organs. “We admonish our readers to take note of experienced advisers and not to buy an India rubber ball for outdoor play,” warned Every Boy’s. Rubber balls didn’t gain popularity until they were mass-produced by sporting goods companies, including Lillywhite’s, founded by John Lillywhite in 1863.
Read the full story in the July 2013 issue of FourFourTwo.
When the Football Association launched a year-long celebration of its 150th anniversary in January, outgoing chairman David Bernstein made mention of the organisation’s founders. “It was on this very site 150 years ago that Ebenezer Cobb Morley and his friends met in what was then the Freemasons’ Tavern,” said Bernstein, in a speech at the Grand Connaught Rooms in Central London, adding that the FA’s founders had “changed the world”.
It was Ebenezer Cobb Morley who organised the “meeting of captains” on 26 October 1863 at which the Football Association was formed. Morley was the captain of the Barnes club, and as a player was singled out for his “very pretty play” in newspaper match reports. At the inaugural meeting he proposed “that it is advisable that a football association should be formed for the purpose of settling a code of rules for the regulation of the game of football”.
The meeting was chaired by Arthur Pember, of the Kilburn-based NN (No Name) club. Like Morley, Pember was one of the era’s best players, and a regular goalscorer in pre-association matches. Appointed the FA’s first president, Pember was instrumental in the outlawing of hacking – an issue that threatened to tear the organisation apart before it got going.
Read the full story in the May 2013 issue of When Saturday Comes.
My new book, The Victorian Football Miscellany, is now available. It’s the culmination of many (hundreds of) hours’ worth of trawling through the archives to find interesting, amusing and eye-opening stories from the earliest days of football. The book contains more than 200 entries, which, although by definition miscellaneous, should add up to provide a pretty thorough history of Victorian football.
From the jacket: “The Victorian Football Miscellany is a quirky and fascinating collection of trivia, facts and anecdotes from football’s earliest years. Delve into an absorbing world of ox-bladder balls, baggy-kneed knickerbockers and outstanding moustaches, and read remarkable tales of the first ever cup final, the invention of the shinpad, the evolution of dribbling, the first own goal and a seemingly-invincible penalty-taking elephant. Other entries cover the foundation of the Football Association, the development of the Laws of the Game and the origins of football’s most popular clubs. Packed with stories, profiles and lists, this is an indispensable guide to the colourful and unusual world of 19th century football.” Read more…
Published in issue 12 of Late Tackle.
Andy Townsend has an unmatched ability to say quite lot without ever really saying anything. His co-commentary is so free from any substance or meaning that it seems to become a kind of white noise, audible only to dogs and Clive Tyldesley. If you do make an effort to tune in – to actually listen to the things Andy Townsend says – what you’ll hear will be a succession of bland, general purpose statements, all of which amount to nothing more than stating the blindingly obvious. Townsend’s analysis pretty much exclusively consists of telling the viewer what they’ve just seen. “He beat his man, Clive, but then he dragged his shot wide.” The only real insight offered is of the “He’ll be delighted/disappointed with that, Clive” variety. Read more…