A significant part of the Spirit of Football project is our focus on the origins of the game. We decided from the outset to identify Battersea Park in London as our “Mount Olympus”, but of course historical issues are never quite that simple to resolve. There are many competing candidates for the “inciting moment” of the beautiful game and we simply picked the one that made the most sense to us.
One of those candidates just celebrated their 150th anniversary… On the 24th October 1857, a bunch of cricketers who enjoyed a winter kickabout decided to form Sheffield FC — predating the FA’s rules and the match in Battersea Park by a number of years. The “Sheffield Rules” are indeed the first recorded rules for the game we now call football and were a vital step in its development.
Our decision to use the January 1864 game as the starting point is to do with universality. The Sheffield Rules did indeed lead fairly directly to the FA rules, but there were many competing factions in football until the FA rules were formulated. We attribute the successful spread of football throughout the world to the universal adoption of a single set of rules — so that wherever teams might come from, they share a common language.
Kudos to Sheffield FC for their part in this process.