Barnes 0-0 Richmond (19 December 1863) Barnes, London
The game of football was officially born in 1863, although it had been played in a variety of forms for many years by that point. In fact, it was precisely because of the multitude of different variations on the game, that the birth of the Football Association on 26 October 1863 was so important. Before that date no single set of rules had ever been accepted by the many clubs that played the game. The foundation of the Football Association would, eventually, change that.
For at a meeting at the Freemasons’ Tavern, Great Queen Street, London, there gathered the representatives of twelve clubs who sought to establish a single, uniform set of rules that could be followed by all clubs. Those present, Barnes, Blackheath, Blackheath Proprietory School, Charterhouse School, Crusaders, Crystal Palace, Forest of Leytonstone, Kensington School, No Names Kilburn, Percival House, Surbiton, and the War Office were keen to work towards this.
Arguably the most influential among this group of pioneers was Ebenezer Cobb Morley of Barnes. Morley had written a letter to Bell’s Life which had led to the meeting, and it was he that proposed Arthur Pember of No Names Kilburn as the chair for the first meeting of the new association. Morley himself suggested the formation of the Football Association and was appointed as the first secretary of the organisation. The clubs meeting were almost unanimous in their agreement to join the group. Only B.F. Hartshorne, the captain of Charterhouse, was reluctant to pledge his commitment until it was clear what the other leading public schools would do.
At a meeting held on 24 November 1863 Morley presented a set of rules to the members for their approval. The chief points of contention lay around the issues of carrying the ball and of hacking. Mr Campbell of the Blackheath club suggested that if hacking was not permitted “you will do away with the pluck and courage of the game, and I will be bound to bring over a lot of Frenchmen who will beat you with a week’s practice.” While the rules proposed by Morley (which outlawed hacking and carrying the ball) were passed by 13 votes to 4, they were not to the satisfaction of Blackheath who withdrew in protest and were influential in the codification of the laws of rugby.
The FA acted quickly in producing the first book of laws of the game which were published on 8 December 1863 and available exclusively from John Lillywhite of Seymour Street, Euston Square. The first game of football to be played under these laws was immediately scheduled for 2 January 1864, but such was the eagerness of those involved to play the game that it was quickly brought forward to 19 December 1863.
That match was organised by EC Morley and pitted his club Barnes against near neighbours Richmond (who were not themselves members of the FA). The match itself was not a classic as it finished 0-0. However, as The Field reported at the time, “Very little difficulty was experienced in playing the new rules, and the game was characterised by a good temper, the rules being so simple and easy of observance that it was difficult for disputes to arise.”
The game itself did not have a significant impact on football as it was played throughout the country. The membership of the fledgling Football Association remained limited, and games continued to be widely played outside the laws dictated by the governing body. This was though a start, a first step towards unifying the game and bringing a consistent set of rules to a sport that could be played by all.