The Ball is not round!
LAW 2 — THE BALL
The ball is spherical.
The early history of football is littered with attempts to standardise the rules by which the game was played. Perhaps the first were the Cambridge Rules, which were first agreed in 1848. Unfortunately, no copy of the original rules survives, but an 1856 copy of them has. Then there is Sheffield FC, who were founded as the first football club with their own codification of the game — the Sheffield Rules of 1858. And, of course, the Football Association was founded with a code derived in part from the Cambridge University Rules in 1863. We at Spirit of Football think that these are the rules that, more than any code, have become the basis for the modern game — which is why we celebrate them at Battersea Park, where they were first deployed in a game.
Nonetheless, there was little agreement amongst those who played the game in its various guises for more than two decades, until a meeting of the Welsh, Irish, Scottish and English FAs in Manchester on the 6th December 1882 proposed the establishment of a permanent board to regulate the laws of the game and to produce a common set of rules under which international matches could be played. This was to become the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which held its first meeting in London on 2nd June 1886. The minutes of that meeting can be read in this PDF (Adobe Acrobat required). You can read the subsequent history of IFAB on Wikipedia, so I won’t repeat what’s already out there.
Fast forward to the present. IFAB met at Gleneagles last week. Apparently. FIFA’s coverage amounted to one press release, a news item and the agenda. But they have yet to release anything that I can find that summarises what actually happened. Nor can I find anything on the FA’s website.
“But why?” I hear you ask. “This is, after all, football’s legislature meeting to decide the future direction of the game.” Well, perhaps there aren’t enough people in the relevant organisations to do that. Perhaps there’s no obvious place to post news of IFAB’s decisions. “But IFAB have their own website, don’t they?” you ask. Amazingly, at the moment, the IFAB archives are hosted in Torrance, California by none other than the Soccer South Bay Referee Association. “What? Who are they?”, you rightly ask. Well, er… um… quite. Unfortunately, the powers that be seem to have missed the boat on www.ifab.com to Industrial Fabricators Incorporated. “Oops!” you say, “that’s a bit of an oversight”.
Oh well. I suppose football never has been and probably never will be run on democratic lines. It’s not like the players can have a vote on the merits of a penalty decision, or put forward a motion of no confidence in the referee. Nor, I imagine, does the average fan particularly care about such administrivia. But it does seem that football’s legislative body is unusually and unaccountably coy.
Lots of political and footballing heavyweights seem to be touting Queen’s Park to Sepp Blatter for a FIFA award for their role as “trailblazers of the modern game”.
Queen’s Park’s contribution to football, both on a local and worldwide scale, cannot be over-stated. As the first club to play to the passing style and rules of football in the 19th century, their legacy is the brand of football played across the globe today.
Some of the most fundamental elements of the modern game owe their existence to this special club. I can think of no more fitting recognition than the FIFA Order of Merit.
Whatever the merits of the case, it’s good to see that there’s a greater awareness of (and desire to recognise) the significant moments in the history and development of football.
Let’s hope that we can be as successful in raising the profile of Battersea Park as the site of the first game to be played under FA rules — the game that we commemorate as the starting point for The Ball’s journey to the Opening Ceremony of the World Cup — because as it stands, there’s not even a blue plaque to mark the spot.
Thanks to The Global Game for the heads-up.
An interesting interview with Danny Jordaan, CEO of the local organising committee for the 2010 World Cup in the Guardian yesterday, wherein he says:
An African team must get to the final of the World Cup at least. African teams have never got to a semi-final before. All African teams must at least reach the second round – all six of them, and we should have at least two in the last four
Blimey, that’s ambitious — but hey, wouldn’t that also be great?
My, how time flies. South Africans will be able to buy tickets to World Cup matches from June, according to an article on AllAfrica.com. Apparently, football fans from other countries will be able to buy tickets in September with the a variety of options including follow-your-team type packages being offered.
Worryingly, there seems to be the suggestion that tickets will only be offered as part of a “hospitality” deals ranging from “catering, entertainment, commemorative gifts and parking” to “air tickets, ground transport and accommodation”, although I may be misunderstanding the blurb.
Additionally, FIFA’s selected hospitality provider, MATCH is said to have “acquired 36000 rooms countrywide, including 11000 rooms from small, medium and micro enterprises such as B&Bs and lodges.” So better get booking now if you’re planning to go to South Africa independently…
[Update] Yahoo is running a story claiming that 120,000 World Cup tickets are set to be given away “to allow people from the country’s lower classes to watch… with the cost of the free tickets set to be met by the event’s sponsors.”