Sunday, June 9, 2019

The English Game

The Factory Act 1847 prohibited the employment of women and young people on Saturday afternoons. The law governed for women and children gradually was applied to the men and soon after there arose an enormous public demand to be amused on Saturday afternoons. The popularity of soccer among working class men grew with the pursuit of leisure. One of the main attractions of soccer to the youth of the time was the absence of special clothing. The game could be played in any clothes and shoes. According to James Laver (1950, cited in Maple), sporting garments originated in ordinary masculine wear.

Once established as the working class pastime British colonists took their rough and tumble game around the world. Railway workers, clerks and business owners were responsible for the spread of the game to Europe, South America and the Commonwealth (Oliver, 1995). Football remained a sport much more associated with the British merchant class than its ruling aristocracy but it also coincided with the British Empire's commitment to Civilising Mission and Muscular Christianity. Victorians were dedicated to spread Christianity throughout the Commonwealth and soccer provided an ideal medium for healthy pastimes for people of India, Africa and Asia. Playing the game also gave ex-pats an opportunity to celebrate the British culture left so far behind. Along with the team game came the uniform although the majority of indigenous peoples played barefoot. Even when boots were later available barefoot football was already established.

In the 1850s, the Irish introduced Gaelic football to Melbourne, Australia. Local cricketers were looking to exercise off-season and when the game was combined with an indigenous Aboriginal game and took on a distinct Australian nature. This became Australian Rules Football.

In the US a meeting at Princeton, in 1867 proved seminal for US College Football. They adopted the English rugby code but insisted on soccer's eleven asides. Later these rules were refined and by 1880, US College Football was launched.

The Rugby Union devised a 15 a side amateur game played with an oval ball. In 1922 a dispute over players arose in the north of England and the rugby code split to form Rugby League with thirteen a side.

Marples M 1954 A history of football London: Secker & Warburg
Oliver G 1995 The Guinness book of world soccer (2nd ed) Enfield: Guinness Publishing Ltd.

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