July 31, 2021

The first rules in football history up for auction

« Article 8: holding the ball (…) or hitting and pushing it (with the hand) is completely prohibited. “ In one sentence, the honorable members of the Sheffield club officially gave birth to the codified version of modern football. It is October 21, 1858 and William Baker, one of the best players on the team, signs the dozen of “Rules, regulations and laws” from this club in the north of England. A few months later, a printed version is distributed to all its members.

Two known copies remain in circulation and one of them will be auctioned on Tuesday, July 20, by Sotheby’s in London. Estimated price: 50,000 to 70,000 pounds sterling (between 60,000 and 80,000 euros). This copy, hand-annotated with the evolution of the rules, was found in a hand-sewn book, bringing together newspaper clippings and various memorabilia from the Victorian era. The other copy was in the archives of the Sheffield club, which sold it and its collection of historical documents at an auction in 2011, raising 881,000 pounds.

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An observer today remotely transported at that time would probably not recognize the players who played on the Sheffield pitch as playing football. Rugby is then practically the same sport and the distinction between the two disciplines barely perceptible. Despite article 8, intercepting the ball by hand if it is shot by the opposing team remains authorized.

“An unbeatable spectator sport”

In addition, the size of the field is not defined, nor even the number of players. As a jersey, everyone must wear a flannel cap, either red or navy blue to recognize the teams. There is no referee, the captains of the two teams agreeing in the event of a dispute, at a time when fair play no doubt made sense. But with this booklet of sixteen pages, the basic rules were laid down: the game is mainly done on the feet, the touch is created, as well as the corner and the indirect free kick.

In medieval England, ball games were regularly played. In the middle of the XIXe century, English universities and private schools begin to codify them

Greece and China claim to have played football in ancient times, or something close to it. In medieval England, ball games were regularly played. In the middle of the XIXe century, English universities and private schools began to codify them. In 1848, the University of Cambridge wrote a first version. In 1857, Sheffield was the first football club created especially for the sport and the first to write rules outside universities. “It was (there) that football was first revealed as an unbeatable spectator sport, where club competitions were established and football fans demonstrated their loyalty and passion,” explains Gabriel Heaton, specialist at Sotheby’s in books and manuscripts. It was the first expression of modern football culture that we know today. “

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