History of the Football Association (FA)

There are a bunch of sports played globally that involve kicking balls around the playground; however, soccer is certainly the popular one of all. Although the game is over a hundred years old, but no rules and regulations were standardized until the establishment of the Football Association in 1863. The purpose of this organization was to make football a positive experience for the players and viewers from all around the world.

In this post, we are going to discuss about the history of the Football Association, why was it formed? Who was behind the venture? What was the motto of this organization? Get all your queries answered to your satisfaction right here.

What is Football Association?

Also known as The FA, the Football Association is basically a governing body of football, which was formed in England. The organization is popular as one of the oldest football associations globally and it is responsible for evaluating all aspects of soccer game, from setting up rules to controlling on-field matters.

  • The Football Association caters to all the competitive soccer or football matches at national level, and also facilitates local tournaments via the country football associations. 
  • A number of competitions are held under the organization; the famous FA Cup is an example. 
  • Another responsibility of the association is to appoint management for the football teams, including women’s, men’s and youth.
  • The FA is a member of FIFA and UEFA and have a permanent seat on IFAB – the organization which is responsible for setting Laws of the Game. 
  • It is also a part of the British Olympic Association, which means it has control over the Great Britain Olympic football team of both, men and women. 

Before The Football Association 

Although the FA was formed in 1863, but people have been playing football way before that. In fact, FIFA has acknowledged Cuju, Zuqiu and Tsu’ Chu as the initial shapes of soccer that were reported during the Han Dynasty in China. The English might say that they are the inventor of football, but they have only presented the more formal version of soccer by modifying the existing, ancient ball games. 

Before the arrival of FA, no particular rules were standardized for everyone to follow. In fact, each organization or school had their own set of regulations that were different from the other. The problem raised when teams from different associations combined to play together. That’s when it became hard to decide which rules to follow.

In 1848, Cambridge University attempted to draft some rules to establish uniformity. These rules are also termed as Cambridge Rules. Later in 1950, Northern clubs came up with another set of ruling that is known as Sheffield Rules.

Before FA, football teams from several parts of the country were bound to follow these drafted laws.

The Birth of FA

On one fine Monday evening of Oct 26, 1863, eleven representatives from different clubs of London met in the Freemason’s Tavern present on the Great Queen Street. The purpose of this gathering was to agree on some common rules that should be acceptable across the country. It was time to think beyond Cambridge and Sheffield Rules and focus solely on ‘The Rules of Football’. 

  • Ebenezer Cobb Morley was the man behind this meeting, who was the founder and captain of Barnes. In 1862, he wrote a letter in Bell’s Life newspaper suggesting a governing body for football similar to the Marylebone Cricket Club.
  • The first meeting was just the beginning of something big, and it took around six meetings in three months to agree on a decision. That’s how the foundation of FA was settled.

Highlights of 1863’s Meeting

Apart from Barnes representative Ebenezer Cobb Morley; ten other clubs were also there at FA’s initial meetings when game rules were outlined. The names appeared at the conference were:

  1. Forest of Leytonstone 
  2. The Crusaders 
  3. Civil Service 
  4. Crystal Palace 
  5. No Names Club of Kilburn 
  6. Kensington School 
  7. Blackheath 
  8. Surbiton 
  9. Perceval House of Blackheath and
  10. Blackheath Proprietary School 

B. F. Hartshome – the captain of Charterhouse was also sent to be the part, but they declined the offer of joining new association.

  • From October to December, a series of around six meetings took place in The Freemason’s Tavern.
  • Surbiton , Charterhouse and Crusaders didn’t attend the meetup, and the clubs were replaced by the Wimbledon School, Royal Navy School and Forest School. 
  • Two rules of the penultimate meeting were removed at the final meetup to which F. M. Campbell withdrew the support of his club to the Football Association. 
  • In the first rule, the player was allowed to carry the ball in hands and run, while the second enabled the obstruction of the same run by kicking, holding or tripping.  
  • Blackheath – Campbell’s team chose to join rugby clubs instead of FA to continue with the sports until the establishment of the Rugby Football Union in the 1871. 
  • The term ‘soccer’ was extracted as the result of this split between two parties: those who wanted to follow the association rules and the rest who didn’t. 
  • The Football Association was left with only 9 members till January 1864 when six clubs withdrawn from the new firm and supported Rugby Rules. These clubs were: Crystal Palace, Barnes, Kilburn, Forest Club, Uppingham, Forest School, Sheffield, Civil Service and Chatham (Royal Engineers). 
  • Ebenezer Morley became the first secretary of FA in 1863 and held the position till 1866. From 1867 to 1874, he became the second present and wrote the Laws of the Game, also known as London Rules. He also participated in the first-ever match played under the association. 
  • Civil Service Football Club has been the only existing club till date out of the list, which is playing sports in the Southern Amateur League nowadays. 
  • Another well-known club, Crystal Palace, was a beginner club formed by field keepers from the Crystal Palace Exhibition Center. 
  • The remaining names on the list are either defunct by now, or they chose not to continue with football and play rugby football instead.
  • Once the final draft of rules was made; the newly established Football Association was all set to born on January 2, 1864. 
  • However, some members of the FA arranged a demo game on December 19, 1863.
  • The match took place between Ebenezer’s Barnes team and Richmond (ironically, they were not a part of the association).
  • It ended with a 0-0 draw, and the Richmond’s representatives were not happy with the result. Hence, they chose to continue with the old rules of the game and contributed to the formation of the Rugby Football Union. 
  • On January 9, 1864, the first official soccer game was played under the FA.
  • The second match was held between Sheffield v/s London. 

The FA Cup

After several years of confusion between the Sheffield Football Association and the London-based Football Association; the FA Cup finally brought the acceptance of a single, undisputed set of rules. The two said associations played around 16 matches under varied regulations: the London Rules, the Sheffield Rules and Mixed Rules. In April 1877, a number of Sheffield Rules were added to the new association to balance out things.

FA and Women’s Football 

Women’s football gained a lot of popularity by 1921 because of the charitable games played by the team after the World War I. However, they faced a lot of jealousy and hatred for being on the top and in 1921, the FA banned the women teams from appearing on the ground under their title. They believed that football had affected women’s bodies, and they should stay out of it.

This ban stayed there for several decades and reversed from 1969 after a sudden increase of interest in football game during 1966 World Cup. As a result, the Women’s Football Association was established. However, it took another two more years to convince the FA for removing its restrictions and to get an order from the UEFA. 

  • Finally, in 1983, the Women Football Association was allowed to affiliate to the Football Association as a ‘Country Association’.
  • In 1933, Women’s Football Committee was formed by the FA to manage women’s football in England.  

FA Relationship With FIFA 

In 1905, The FA joined FIFA. After World War I, the British Associations (Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales) chose to quit FIFA. It happened when it didn’t exclude the members of Central Powers from the organization. By 1922, their stance was changed, and they re-joined the federation in 1924.

In 1928, Switzerland suggested FIFA that payments must be allowed in ‘broken times’ to which FIFA agreed. The Football Association resigned from FIFA because of this settlement. As a result, England didn’t show up in the 1930, 34 and 38 FIFA World Cup. Later in 1946, The FA re-joined FIFA and in 1950, they played their first World Cup.

Final words

The journey of the Football Association was not smooth at all. However, it solved a lot of football-related issues that were the need of the hour. Earlier, every team of the country had their own set of rules, which went smooth until they had to play against another team with different rulings. 

The arrival of FA added uniformity to the game across the country, and it helped the players improve their performance by evaluating their moves on the ground. Today, the Football Association is undoubtedly one of the reliable organizations working for the benefit of sports.