2013 has seen the Football Association celebrating 150 years since the eight Founding Fathers of the football met to create the game as we know it today.
The range of special events to mark the anniversary have included everything from showcase England games against the likes of Brazil and Scotland at an elite level, through to the Sir Bobby Robson National Football Day and the honouring of 150 of footballs volunteers at an event hosted by HRH The Duke of Cambridge at a grassroots level.
On 26th October, the FA will host a Gala Dinner at the Grand Connaught Rooms to mark exactly 150 years to the day since the first meeting took place which formed the nation’s favourite game.
How It All Began
In 1863, Ebenezer Cobb Morley, a solicitor and sportsman living in Barnes in south-west London, but originally from Hull, thought that football should have a set of rules in the same way that the MCC had them for cricket.
So, the captains, secretaries and other representatives of a dozen London and suburban clubs met at the Freemason’ Tavern in Great Queen Street, near to where Holborn tube station is today. Their purpose was to form an Association with the object of establishing a code of rules for the regulation of football . The clubs represented at the first meeting were: Barnes, Civil Service (War Office), Crusaders, Forest (Leytonstone), No Names (Kilburn), Crystal Palace, Blackheath, Kensington School, Perceval House (Blackheath), Surbiton, Blackheath Proprietary School and Charterhouse.
The intention of those original meetings was to standardise the rules and to iron out differences in the forms currently being played, not to create a new game. Morley became the FA’s first secretary, later its president, and he drafted modern football’s first rules at his Thames-side home in Barnes.
It took six meetings for the FA to finally approve those rules. The first match under them was played at Limes Field, a couple of minutes’ walk from Morley’s home, on Saturday 19 December 1863. Barnes and Richmond drew 0-0.
The Freemasons’ Tavern was extended and remodelled from 1905 and was renamed the ‘Connaught Rooms’ in honour of the Grand Master, the Duke of Connaught. At around the same time, Limes Field was built on with housing that is now in ‘Limes Field Road’.
Before the FA was formed, football was in a hybrid state. Today it spans a world that is caught up in its magic. To those men of a clear vision and high resolve who first gathered together at the Tavern, the FA, and all football fans, owes a great debt.