Banning The Beautiful Game

The term football, used in England for the first time in the 15th Century, did not imply that the ball was kicked with the foot, rather than the game was played ‘on foot’.

This was not in keeping with the required royalty-approved sports which all involved riding on horseback.

Playing football in London has often been curtailed or banned by the authorities.

[K]ING EDWARD II ISSUED A PROCLAMATION banning football in London on 13th April 1314 because:

.  .  .  there is great noise in the city caused by hustling over large balls from which many evils may arise which God forbid; we command and forbid, on behalf of the King, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city in the future.

Taking his cue from the King, Nicholas de Farndone, the Mayor of London (Lord Mayors came later), specifically, banned football in London, proclaiming:

And whereas there is great uproar in the City, through certain tumults arising from the striking of great footballs in the fields of the public, from which many evils perchance may arise, which may God forbid, we do command and do forbid, on the King’s behalf, on pain of imprisonment, that such game be practiced from henceforth within the city .  .  .

Edward III proved no more of a football fan than his father and passed tougher new laws in 1331 banning football further.

During the 100 years war with France, the Royal Court at Whitehall found football distasteful. During this war later monarchs followed Edward III lead, Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V all passed further laws barring football from the realm.

The reason for this hard line was the fear that the English, rather than practising archery, a key area of defence during the 100 years war, were spending far too much time kicking a ball around the village square.

Edward III passed the following proclamation in 1363 banning all sports and enforcing archery practice:

Whereas the people of our realm, rich and poor alike, were accustomed formerly in their games to practise archery – whence by God’s help, it is well known that high honour and profit came to our realm, and no small advantage to ourselves in our warlike enterprises – and that now skill in the use of the bow having fallen almost wholly into disrepute, our subjects give themselves up to the throwing of stones and of wood and of iron; and some to handball and football and hockey; and others to coursing and cock-fights, and even to other unseemly sports less useful and manly; whereby our realm – which God forbid – will soon, it would appear, be void of archers:

We, wishing that a fitting remedy be found in this matter, do hereby ordain, that in all places in your country, liberties or no liberties, wheresoever you shall deem fit, a proclamation be made to this effect: that every man in the same country, if he be able-bodied, shall, upon holidays, make use, in his games, of bows and arrows . . . and so learn and practice archery.

Moreover, we ordain that you prohibit under penalty of imprisonment all and sundry from such stone, wood and iron throwing; handball, football, or hockey; coursing and cock-fighting, or other such idle games.

Edward the Third 1363

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