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This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Football Association (FA). And it was exactly a century-and-a-half ago on 19 December 1863 that the first-ever football match was played in London under the new FA rules.
So how was the FA founded? On a cold winter’s evening in 1863, seven gentlemen representing London and suburban football teams gathered in the Freemason’s Tavern on Great Queen Street, Holborn, for what would be a historic meeting.
Included in discussions were Barnes FC, Forest (Leytonstone), No Names (Kilburn), Crystal Palace, Kensington School, Blackheath Proprietary School and Charterhouse. Together they recognised a desire to regulate the game of English football and set out to establish a governing body. That night, these ‘founding fathers’ created the first-ever football association – the FA.
In subsequent weeks the FA firmed up a rulebook for football, drafted by Ebenezer Cobb Morley, aiming for consistency in the game. No longer, for example, could you kick the shins of the opponent, known as ‘hacking’.
The first game to be played under the new rules kicked off at Limes Field in Barnes on 19 December 1863, resulting in a 0-0 draw between Barnes and Richmond.
From a humble pub to the lights of Wembley Stadium, from the grass roots to the Premier League, the early days of the FA can be clearly seen on today’s global footballing stage.
Anna Sparham, Curator of Photographs at the Museum of London