20 July 2016
England’s Football Association (The FA) legalised professionalism in association football on 20 July 1885
On this day in history, 1885: England’s Football Association (The FA) legalises professionalism in association football (now known as simply football or soccer) under duress from the ‘rival’ British Football Association.
The FA was formed in 1863 at a meeting in the Freemasons' Tavern in Great Queen Street, London. The meeting was instigated by Ebenezer Cobb Morley, a London solicitor who formed Barnes FC in 1862 and is often called the ‘father’ of The FA, after he wrote to the popular Bell’s Life newspaper suggesting football should have an official set of rules like cricket.
By 1885 The FA was a national body, after county and district association clubs sprang up all over the country. Some northern clubs began paying footballers, taking the game away from the concept of amateurism cherished by many of the southern clubs, and The FA was forced to formally legalise professionalism after the formation in 1884 of the ‘British Football Association’.
FA stalwart and Aston Villa committee man William McGregor recognised football needed an organised system of regular fixtures involving the top clubs and a ‘Football League’ with 12 clubs was formed in 1888. The FA was still the ultimate authority with the League as a self-contained body within it.
Today The FA is recognised as the world’s oldest football association, responsible for overseeing all aspects of the amateur and professional game in its territory.
Pictured: Some of the original handwritten 'Laws of the game' for association football drafted for and on behalf of The FA by Ebenezer Cobb Morley in 1863, on display at the National Football Museum, Manchester. Photo by Adrian Roebuck.
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