The state of the Football Association in 1867

Four years after the FA was formed in 1863 the membership was stagnant and the Hon. Sec. sent out the following letter:

The Football Association, 1867

Dear Sir, — I wish to call your attention to this Association.
It has now been in existence for nearly four years, and its rules have had the careful consideration of all the most experienced football players in the Metropolis. The result, after many meetings and much patient labour, is that a code of rules has been formed, at once simple and easy of adoption. They are, as far as possible, free from unnecessary danger, yet retaining all that is most scientific and interesting, in all the diversified games that have been in vogue. I now ask the co-operation of your club in the great object which is so desirable, viz. the establishment of an universal code according to which all matches may be played. If your club is willing to aid the Association, will you be good enough to authorise me to include it amongst its members, that you may have the power of proposing any amendments in the rules at the next general meeting ?

Yours faithfully,

K. G. Graham,

Hon, Sec. Administrator.

This letter aptly describes the ideas and objects of the officers of the Association. The response was gratifying, particularly in the adhesion of the two important public schools, Westminster and Charterhouse. A mass of correspondence fell upon the hon. sec, questions being asked and advice given, together with persuasion that they should help in the great undertaking. New clubs wanted copies of the rules, either to use in their entirety, or as guides to found their own rules upon. These were always sent, and every letter punctiliously answered all over the country. As an instance, Mr. Ernest M. Royds, from the Bank, Rochdale, wrote that a football club was being got up in that town and wanted to see the Association rules. He seemed satisfied with them himself, but his fellow-members “wanted to know a few more things which the rules didn’t mention” Some of the questions were very amusing, but it seems quite extraordinary how so many doubts could arise about what appeared to be very simple rules. It must be remembered, however, how little the game was played in those days. Mr. J. E. Sturgis, writing from Eton College, said he had given the proposal that Eton should join the Association every consideration, but had come to the conclusion that the rules, though unobjectionable in themselves, were too lax and too simple. They were, however, so similar to the Eton rules, that they could undertake to play them if necessity required. He thought their rules involved so much more science and honest work, that he hoped he should never see any game but the Eton game played there. He concluded by saying he thought the Association a capital institution, and one which tended to increase the importance of football, yet he thought it for the interest of the game to preserve the varied forms of it which existed in the public schools.

Mr. Edward S. Roscoe, writing from Radley College, regretted they could not join, though he wished sincerely all schools would play the same, rules. He concluded by saying if Eton, Harrow, and Rugby would give up their separate rules, other schools might be induced to follow their example. Mr. F. Ellis from Rugby declined, owing to the Association rules differing so thoroughly from theirs. He wished, however, a code of rules could be drawn up which might be used by all playing the Rugby game. He concluded with ‘ If the Football Association wish to complete thoroughly their good work, they might turn their attention to this subject.” The Association”, however, had its hands quite full, and all its energies taxed to carry through the work it had undertaken, which was to form a code to be agreed upon by the majority of clubs who troubled to attend their meetings, and by this means, if possible, to make one general game of football, as cricket was. Mr. W. M. Chinnery promptly wrote that he would bring the matter before his committee of the London Athletic Club, but in the meantime took upon himself to give the name of the club as joining and supporting the Association. Besides direct replies to the circular, letters from country towns in all parts of England came, saying clubs were being formed, but they could not agree upon the rules to be adopted. Could they have a copy of the Association rules and any advice in the matter ?
Thus, by the publicity given, the hon. sec. of the Association became in the year 1867 a sort of general adviser to the new clubs which were springing up in all directions.

It was really only from this year that the Association established itself as a recognised institution. The result of all the correspondence trebled the list of members, which were made
up of the following clubs :

List of Members, Jan. 1, 1868

Amateur Athletic Football Club
Barnes Football Club
Bramhain College (Yorks) Football Club
Brixton Football Club
Charterhouse School Football Club
C. C. C. Clapham Football Club
Civil Service Football Club
Clifden House (Brentford) Football Club
Cowley School (Oxford) Football Club
Crystal Palace Football Club
Donington Grammar School (Lincolnshire) Football Club
Forest School Football Club
Hitchin Football Club
Holt (Wats) Football Club
Hull College Football Club
Kensington School Football Club
Leamington College Football Club
London Athletic Football Club
London Scottish (Rifles) Football Club
Milford College (South Wales) Football Club
N. Ns. Kilburn Football Club
Reigate Football Club
Royal Engineers (Chatham) Football Club
Sheffield Football Club
Totteridge Park (Herts) Football Club
Upton Park Football Club
Wanderers Football Club
West Brompton College Football Club
Westminster School Football Club
Worlabye House (Roehampton) Football Club

Though only this number had actually joined, the hon. sec, through his correspondence, was aware of numerous other clubs who were playing the rules.

On October 5, 1867, the Committee of the Association met to congratulate themselves upon the new blood which had been infused into their ranks, and to consider the best means of further promoting its extension during the coming season. With the object of securing the united co-operation of the clubs now playing their rules, and attracting others, it was decided to arrange a county match to be played under the Association Rules. The captains of all the leading clubs were communicated with, in order to obtain their opinions on the subject of the qualification necessary to constitute county players. At a subsequent meeting, on October 14, these opinions having been obtained, it was unanimously resolved that to be a bond fide representative of a county, a player must have resided three years or have been born in the county. The match decided upon was Middlesex v. Surrey and Kent, Mr. C. W. Alcock for
the former and Mr. R. G. Graham for the latter being appointed as captains to select the teams. The date fixed was November 2, to take place at Beaufort House, Walham Green. Thoroughly representative teams were secured, and but for the unfortunate occurrence of the ground being withdrawn almost at the last moment, it would have proved in every way a great success. As the first county match which had ever been played at football, it becomes historical.

Extract from An early history of the Football Association. By RG Graham. The Badminton Magazine of Sports and Pastimes Vol.V111.January to June 1899

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