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Gaona Aviles Jose Pablo FES 3


Football & English Society

Football is a world-known, world-played game. However, few people know how

it was created. In this essay I will explain part of the history of this Amazing
sport and how it has changed through time and how it has affected English
society and how the society has changed the game.

The early game of football was not like the one we know nowaday, it was a
rough game placed only in special occasions, such as local or religious
holidays. The best example of this particular game is the Shrove Tuesday
football played in Derby, this game is played by the whole town, which is
divided into two teams and “each side sought to drive an inflated pig´s bladder
through the porch of their opponents church.”1

Although folk football matches were all across England, they did not constitute a
nacional game up to that time. Nevertheless, is relevant to mention that even
though the game was played by most communities or towns, there were several
edicts between 14th and 17th Century which tried to ban or prohibit football due
to damages to property, injuries or even death.

By the mid 19th Century the game had developed certain discipline and order,
but it was still played mostly by people in small towns and villages. Few years
later it began to be popular hmong more priviledged sectors, specially public
schools. However, many people such as “Samuel Butler, Head of Shrewsbury
said football was more fit for farm boys and labourers than for young
gentlemen”2. With time, the game emerged as a key element in english
education, because it was responsable for building carácter, manliness,
organisation and Leadership skills.

Football had such importance in english society during the 19th Century that
most schools had their own team, even churches, civil services, and collages
like Oxford or Cambridge were influenced . Nevertheless, the same problem
persisted, there were not specific rules for the game, but in Cambridge a group
of students tried to codify this rules. However, the first ones to make a real code
were the first clubs (Sheffield and Blackheath), this resulted in the formation, in
1863, of the Football Association and subsequently the division of Rugby

But the game in public schools was still different from the one played by the
workers, which came from small towns into the big cities due to the Industrial
Revolution. This people maintained the game they played in their home-towns
WALVIN, James: “The Only Game” Ed. Pearson Education Limited,
2001; p. 23
WALVIN, James: “The Only Game” Ed. Pearson Education Limited,
2001; p. 25
but they could only play it during weekends, specifically on saturdays.
As it might be appreciated, football was present in every social status (from
workers to public schools and from farmers to lords), this “democratisation” of
football is what permitted this game to be a world phenomenon. In his book,
The Only Game, James Walvin mentions how this game put down it roots and
emerged as an increasingly popular game, with great commercial potencial
(page 29), which was later discovered and exploited by business men.

With the incresement in the number of teams across england, more leagues
and competitions proliferated, such as the FA Cup, local enterpreurs observed
the growth of public willing to watch football matches and took advantage of this
by building stands and charging for watching and skilled players found a way to
earn money.

The expansion of football in England was so massive that by 1914 the number
of professional clubs was 158 while the number of boy´s club was around
12000. Not only the number of players increased but the number of spectator
too. (Eg. in 1872 the number of people watching the FA Cup final was 2,000, by
1880 the number of spectators was 9,000 and by 1913 it reached 120,000
people). By the end of the 19th Century, football was an inescapable feature of
urban life, it could be found anywhere, in parks, schools, local fields, etc.

During the professionalisation process of football, there were several social

complaints because people argued that it was against the essence of its
creation, wich was pure pleasure. However, authorities decided they Could not
ban the game so they decided to regulate it.

The demand of football spectators increased amazingly after the 1890s, in 63

matches the attendance to football matches reached 1,200,000 people and in
the first years on the 20th Century the figures reached 2 million spectators. By
this times the majority of the crowd was conformed by working-class men.
There was a need to create more adequate venues for spectators and by 1910
58 clubs moved into new facilities. However, football was not yet the profitable
Business we know nowadays, in those times “only six of the 62 prominent clubs
paid a dividend to their shareholders”3. The Business of football was quite
different to the others, millions of fans culd be seen attending the matches, yet
the wages for players were low and the profit for shareholders was low and

On the other hand, the game was accesible for the fans. Firstly because the
entrance fee to a football match was very cheap, between 1 and 6 pence, but
also because of the cheap transport systems, such as trains or buses. Even
though the unemployment rates increased in the early 20th Century, people
kept going to football matches.

WALVIN, James: “The Only Game” Ed. Pearson Education Limited,
2001; p. 40
Football unleashed many social and economical changed during the 1910s, the
expansion of the game resulted in commercial interests such as newspaper
specials, cigarrote cards, custom-made kits, but, definitely the most affected
was the gambling industry which suffered a huge boost due to increasing
rivalries between teams. This sport was so important that it was given the royal
approval when the King watched the Cup Final in 1914, and unlike many sports,
it was not suspended until 1915, at the end of the season.