How Has Soccer Changed Over the Years?

Football, also known in some countries as soccer, is a very popular sport that is played by millions of players around the world. Despite its popularity, there are actually only a few people that know the origins of football and how it has evolved. If you are one of those people that are unfamiliar with the history of soccer and it has changed during specific time periods, we are here to fill you with knowledge about those topics. So, here is how soccer has changed over the years.

Before the Creation of Soccer

Before the invention of football or soccer, there was already a ball game that involved kicking that existed in Ancient Chinese during the 3rd or 2nd century BC. [1] This Ancient Chinese ball game is called “cuju,” and this game involves kicking a ball into a net. So, this game is very similar to football, although it has fewer rules and mechanics involved. It is believed that cuju is played as a celebratory game for the emperor’s birthday.

Another ancient game that has similar gameplay mechanics to football is “marn-grook,” which is a game that was invented by the Australian Aboriginals and involved kicking a ball made of encased roots and leaves on a large and open area. [1] Most of the rules in the said game are unknown today, but historians have speculated that it required players to kick the ball and keep it in the air as much as possible.

The Origins of Soccer

The origins of soccer are quite blurry, but most historians agree that the sport originated in England. Before the modern iteration of soccer came to be, there were already different variations of football that were played in England, and this includes “mob football,” which is a game that is played by neighbors in villages and towns and involves kicking an inflated pig’s bladder towards the markers found at each end of a town or village. Mob football was popular in England during the 11th and 12th centuries.

A more organized game of football was described by William Fitzstephen in a text he wrote between 1174 and 1183. William Fitzstephen was a cleric that served Thomas Becket, who would eventually become known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury. In the text, Fitzstephen described football as a “game that is played by students after lunch.” The game would then be watched by the family of those students, as well as older and wealthy citizens. [2]

During the 1300s, football became such a popular sport that it was played almost anywhere in England. Because of its popularity, King Edward III of England banned football and other similar sports because of the “chaos” it brought to different towns or villages. [2] However, despite the banning of the sport, football was still played by many people in England. Aside from England, Scotland also banned football during the 15th century. In fact, Scotland even established a law called the Football Act of 1424, although this particular law fell into disuse for many years and was eventually repealed in 1906.

Laying the Foundations for Modern Football

Before the creation of modern football, there were dozens of different regional styles of football that were played in various parts of England and Scotland. However, by the late 1800s, there has been a push among football enthusiasts to create the standard or official rules for football so that everyone that plays the sport follows the same rules to avoid confusion.

The official rules of modern football were then created in 1863, which is also the same year when the Football Association (FA) was founded. The Football Association was created in order to establish a definite set of rules for football so that it can be considered a sport that professionals can play. [3] There are eleven football clubs in London that had representatives present during the establishment of the Football Association on October 26, 1863. Three of these London football clubs include Barnes FC, the Civil Service Football Club, and the Kensington School Football Club.

The official duration of a football match, which is 90 minutes long, was established in 1866 during a match between the football clubs of London and Sheffield. While 90 minutes is the official duration for football games for many professional and amateur leagues around the world, there are some minor leagues and underage leagues that have shorter games.

Sheffield Rules and Cambridge Rules

There are two particular sets of football rules that have influenced the official rules created by the Football Association, and these are the Sheffield Rules and the Cambridge Rules. [4] The Sheffield Rules is a set of rules that were created by the Sheffield Football Club in the city of Sheffield around the late 1850s. The Sheffield Football Club was founded in 1857, thus making them one of the world’s oldest football clubs.

While the Sheffield Football Club eventually adopted the association football rules, they once created their own sets of rules for football that are aptly named the Sheffield Rules. This set of rules introduced free kicks (kicking the ball after the opposing team commits a foul), throw-ins (throwing the ball using the hands from outside to inside the field), and handball (a type of foul where a player accidentally or purposefully held the ball using his or her hands during a play). These rules would be incorporated into the official rules of association football.

The Cambridge Rules is a simple set of football rules that were made by coaches and football players at the University of Cambridge in England. The Cambridge Rules was created in order to let different public schools near the university play each other without being confused by different sets of rules. This idea would inspire the representative of the Football Association to create official rules that will benefit not only the football clubs of public schools in England but also all football clubs in the country.

The Split of the Football Association and the Rugby Football Union

During a meeting in the late 1860s between the representatives of each football club in the Football Association, F.M. Campbell, who was the first representative for the Blackheath Football Club and the FA’s first treasurer, announced the withdrawal of Blackheath from the club due to the removal of two major rules in the sport’s official rulebook. These two rules involved allowing players to run with the ball while holding it in their hands and enabling players to stop an opponent by holding, tripping, and hacking (kicking a player in the shins).

F.M. Campbell and other members of the Blackheath Football Club then joined other football clubs that were not a part of the Football Association to establish the Rugby Football Union in 1871. [5] The split of the two governing bodies in football led to the creation of two separate sports, with one being “association football” while the other being “rugby football.” Association football would eventually become known in other countries as “soccer.”

The first football game that featured FA rules was held on December 19, 1863, and it was a match between the Barnes Football Club and the Richmond Football Club, who were actually not members of the Football Association. The match ended in a draw where all players scored zero goals. The Richmond Football Club would later help in the creation of the Rugby Football Union.

Football Leagues

Before the establishment of the Football Association, there were already competitions and tournaments for football that were held in England, Scotland, and Australia (after it became a European settlement in the 1770s). One of the longest-running football competitions in Australia is the Cordner-Eggleston Cup, where the competitors are football players from the Melbourne Grammar School and Scotch College, Melbourne. The said competition started in 1858, and it is speculated to be the first match that featured the Australian rules of football.

 The longest-running football league that followed FA rules is the English Football League (formerly known as the Football League), which has been running since 1888 and was once considered the top-level football league in England before the formation of the Premier League in 1992. [6] The Premier League is arguably the most popular football league in England today, and it features 20 of the best football clubs in the country that is chosen through promotion and relegation with the English Football League. So, the winningest (or the clubs with more wins than the others) are relegated and promoted to the Premier League, while the other clubs would compete in the English Football League.

The Modern Football

The earliest balls that were used for playing football were made from animal bladders, although more people made them from pig’s bladders instead of the bladders of other animals. The bladders are then inflated so that they would appear more like a ball that can be kicked or held. Football would later change in 1851 when businessmen and shoemakers Richard Lindon and William Gilbert created oval and round-shaped balls made from rubber bladders that could be filled up with air.

Richard Lindon and William Gilbert’s football design would then be improved in 1855 by Charles Goodyear, the self-taught chemist who would invent vulcanized rubber and would be named after the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. [7] Goodyear presented a spherical football that is made from vulcanized rubber at the Exposition Universelle, an international exhibition that was held in Paris. Goodyear’s football would become a very popular form of football for games organized in the US.

The modern association football that we now see today in popular football leagues and games would appear in the 1960s, and this football features hexagonal and pentagonal patterns that are made possible by stitching together hexagonal and pentagonal pieces of rubber and other synthetic materials together.

Evolution of Football into Many Variants

Despite having the Football Association that imposes the official rules of association football, there are still many variants that have been created over the years that have similar rules to association football but can sometimes have different mechanics that make them truly unique. Some of the most popular variants of association football include futsal (a five-a-side or five players per team on the field indoor football game), papi fut (a popular football variant in Central America that is played in outdoor basketball courts), and beach soccer (a type of association football that is played on the beach).

There have been many things that have been changed in football or soccer in the past, from its sets of rules to the actual ball used for the game. But in recent decades, football hasn’t really changed much because of how perfect it already is. In the future, you can already expect football to still be the same and still be as incredibly popular as it is today.


[1] (n.d.). Football history. Retrieved April 14, 2023, from

[2] Spartacus Educational (n.d.). History of football. Spartacus Educational. Retrieved April 14, 2023, from

[3] The PFSA. (n.d.). FOOTBALL HISTORY: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW. The Professional Football Scouts Association (PFSA). Retrieved April 14, 2023, from

[4] Football Stadiums. (n.d.). Which Was The First Football Team? Football Stadiums. Retrieved April 14, 2023, from

[5] (n.d.). Origins of Rugby. Retrieved April 14, 2023, from

[6] Page, D. (n.d.). A Brief History and Overview of the English Premier League. Retrieved April 14, 2023, from

[7] Logan, W. (2021, November 20). Who Invented The Soccer Ball, Is Charles Goodyear First? Best Soccer Gear Info. Retrieved April 14, 2023, from