Tag Archives: London sport

London Trivia: Local Football

Year in and year out, football causes a stir in London. With several prominent teams and legions of excitable supporters, London may, in fact, have more to do with its biggest sport than any other city or capital in the world.

Yet sports fans today tend to have a fairly current outlook on things, which means there’s a lot about London’s football history we don’t know. Consider, if you will, the following bits of trivia.

The first reference to football in London comes from an account of city recreation by one William FitzStephen and was written in the late 12th century.

King Henry IV is credited with the first actual mention of ‘football’ in town – which came when he banned it in 1409.

Of the current, main league system teams in London, Fulham is the oldest. However, the first team in London was actually Royal Engineers AFC, a club that is also credited in part with having invented something resembling the modern sport. This organization was founded in 1863 and remains active in the Army Football Association. The club’s inception coincided with the decision to form the Football Association, and the decisions were made at the Freemasons’ Tavern.

Built in 1892, Goodison Park was the first stadium that was built specifically for football. Today, the modern version of the park still ranks among the better Premier League venues when it comes to atmosphere.

The first match ever played at Wembley Stadium was a staff scrimmage in 2007. However, the first actual match between professional players was less than a month later, between the U21 squads for England and Italy.

The first ‘London Derby’ event between two professional clubs in the capital didn’t occur until 1905 when Chelsea defeated Clapton Orient.

Despite being such a big part of British sport, betting away from sports venues wasn’t legalized until 1960, with the 1960 Act. Now, betting is intricately intertwined with football culture, and websites with top-rated event coverage online cover the action. It’s remarkable how far the industry has come.

1989-90 saw the greatest number of top-flight clubs from London at the same time, with eight. At the end of that season, Charlton and Millwall were relegated to the second division.

Tottenham Hotspur was the first London club to win a European-wide tournament, triumphing at the 1963 Cup Winners’ Cup.

Arsenal was originally called Woolwich Arsenal, after its cannon-making founders. Since becoming Arsenal, however, the club has never once been relegated.

Chelsea holds the record for the longest unbeaten streak at home by a London club – or any top-flight English club – at 86 matches. This streak stretched between 2004 and 2008, ending in the early stages of the 2008/09 campaign.

Featured image: Millenium Stadium by Virginia Knight (CC BY-SA 2.0) The second half of the match, which finished Brazil 3 Egypt 2; all five goals were scored at this end of the stadium. The flags of countries involved in the men’s and women’s football hang opposite. Ticket sales for Olympic football were slow but the stadium was not as empty as this photograph implies, as most people were seated on the same side as the photographer. Presumably, the TV cameras were on the other side facing us. This match gave British fans a chance to see the young Neymar, who scored Brazil’s third goal.

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