What was football like in victorian times fashion

A game of two halves

Colour illustration showing a game of rugby at the moment of a try A game of rugby, 1897  © But things were different in one area of society. In the public schools the aristocratic pupils held sway over their middle class teachers, and were free to play as they pleased. Nevertheless, parents were becoming concerned about the treatment of youngsters who, under the prefect-fagging system, were put in goal and suffered the brunt of the violence. Schools had to take action or face the prospect of parents taking their children elsewhere.

Thomas Arnold, headmaster at Rugby school, wanted his pupils to grow up into moral Christian gentlemen. He therefore moderated the prefect-fagging system and advocated regulated sports which provided exercise and encouraged healthy competition. By 1845, the pupils at Rugby felt it necessary for the first time to write down the rules of football at their school to establish exactly what constituted fair play. In the Rugby version, handling the ball was allowed, but, in 1849, pupils at Eton created a rival game. It may well have been an attempt to outdo the 'upstarts' at Rugby, but football Eton-style greatly restricted the use of the hands.

The pupils took their games with them to university, the only problem being that everyone played different versions. A need for a common set of rules arose and at Cambridge University four attempts were made in the 1840s and 1850s. Eventually, in 1863, they decided on a set of rules in which handling the ball was outlawed.

At the end of that year, players from around the country came together to form the Football Association and the Cambridge rules were adopted. It didn't suit everybody, and the representative from the Blackheath club withdrew because he favoured the Rugby style of game. He also advocated a type of tackle that they called 'hacking' - these days we would probably call it GBH.


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