One English sportsman and solicitors brought his law skills to the beautiful game and his name was Ebenezer Cobb Morley.
To everyone scoffing at people who call football “soccer” – stop it.
The term was popularised in the US but derived from 19th century “university slang”, akin to rugby being called “rugger”. Around that time, football was still a primitive game finding its feet – quite literally.
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.
The lawyers of the game
Hull-born solicitor Ebenezer Cobb Morley was the man to unify the two codes. In 1858, he moved to Barnes and created Barnes FC. As founder, Ebenezer also took part in the Barnes and Mortlake Regatta, serving as its treasurer in 1860 and secretary from 1862.
In 1863, 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 10 other clubs including:
- Civil Service
- Forest of Leytonstone
- N.N. Club
- Crystal Palace
- Kensington School
- Perceval House
- Blackheath Proprietary School
The meeting was successful and the Football Association was created.
Ebenezer – the secretary
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.
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.
Morley left no children when he passed away in 1924 due to pneumonia. He left a lot of his life and work in creating the modern game as we know it. In his lifetime, he witnessed:
- The creation of the Football League (and subsequent expansion to two leagues)
- Preston North End’s Invincibles in 1888
- The creation of the FA Cup (he presented the trophy in 1872)
- The first-ever official international football match, between England and Scotland that same year
- The invention of the football net by John Alexander Brodie in 1891
- Bury’s record 6–0 win over Derby County in the 1903 FA Cup Final
- Manchester United’s rise and fall in the early 20th century
- Great Britain winning the first Olympics football tournament in London in 1908 and in 1912