One English sportsman and solicitors brought his law skills to the beautiful game and his name was Ebenezer Cobb Morley.
Whether you call it football or soccer, it’s a sport you can’t get away from. Some rules are easy to understand. Some not so much (bonus points if you know all the laws of the offside rule). Football was a primitive game in the 19th century. The Football League didn’t start until 1888 and before that, there were two separate laws. The first set of football rules was drawn up at Cambridge University in 1848 and were known as the “Cambridge Rules”. The “Sheffield Rules” came up soon after. Two sets of rules weren’t sustainable and something needed to be done.
Hull-born solicitor Ebenezer Cobb Morley was the man to unify the two codes. In 1858, he moved to Barnes and created the Barnes Club 4 years later. A year after that, he wrote to Bell’s Life newspaper with a proposition: a football governing body. This would allow one set of rules for football across the country. Morley held a meeting at Freemasons’ Tavern with 12 other clubs including Barnes (Civil Service, Crusaders, Forest of Leytonstone, N.N. Club, Crystal Palace, Blackheath, Kensington School, Perceval House, Surbiton and Blackheath Proprietary School). The meeting was successful and the Football Association was created.
Morley was the FA’s first secretary between 1863–1866 and became its second president from 1867 to 1874. He drafted the first Laws of the Game at his home and played in the first ever match under FA rules in 1863. He also scored in the first representative match, between the clubs of London and Sheffield 3 years later.
An interesting point to note is the word soccer came from the new “association” rules, contrary to the misconception that it’s an American invention. The new rules were notable for outlawing running while holding the ball in your hands, and this led to the official split between soccer and rugby.
The rules we find difficult to understand now are a far cry from the set proposed in 1862. But without Morley’s efforts, who knows how football would have looked.