The Football Association turns 150 years-old in 2013. By virtue of being the world’s oldest national governing body, its name doesn’t even need to tell you which country’s game it is responsible for. It was founded at the Freemasons’ Tavern in London on 26 October 1863:
It was then that Ebenezer Morley, a solicitor and sportsman living in Barnes in south-west London, thought that football should have a set of rules in the same way that the MCC had for cricket.
And it was his initiative that led to the meeting at which, on his proposal, The Football Association was formed.
The captains, secretaries and other representatives of a dozen London and suburban clubs met at the Freemasons’ 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 definite code of rules for the regulation of the game.
The FA’s intention was to standardise the rules, to iron out differences - not to create a new game.
Morley became The FA’s first secretary - and later its president - and he drafted modern football’s first rules at his home in Barnes.
The first match under those rules was played at nearby Limes Field on 19 December 1863. Barnes and Richmond drew 0-0.
It will be fascinating to follow how The FA uses the opportunity for celebration and to see how others use it as a chance for reflection. The FA has played a critical in shaping the game, an innovative force in defining the modern game in the nineteenth century, but reactionary in many ways during the twentieth (its deliberate efforts to impede the women’s game lasted for decades, for example, and had global consequences). The anniversary gives us a chance to think about soccer, society and the forces that shape it in the twenty-first century.
This academic conference looks like a very interesting way for some of these questions to be raised and discussed, and as a starting point this is a solid set of topics to be considered at it:
The conference will develop a blueprint for the future of football and its study, and submissions are invited around the following areas:
The histories of football
Football and the arts
The globalisation of football
Fan culture and communities
Racism and nationalism
The business of football
Disability and football
Football and gender and sexuality
For those in the UK, this related monthly lecture series at the National Football Museum should be thought-provoking too. Let’s hope there is plenty of popular discussion online as well exploring these topics, using a landmark date to take a breath from the rush of the game’s daily events.