London announced the sale on 14 July 2011 of the earliest rules of club football, being sold as part of the historic archive of the worlds oldest football club, Sheffield FC (established 1857), which is estimated at £800,000 ‐ £1,200,000*. This extraordinary and unique piece of sporting history, which represents a crucial step towards the evolution of the modern game of association football, is the earliest set ofrules ever likely to come to the market. The lot includes both the original handwritten draft rules (1858) and the only known surviving copy of the printed Rules, Regulations, & Laws of the Sheffield Foot‐Ball Club (1859). In its entirety, the archive documents the clubs earliest years in astonishing detail and provides a fascinating insight into British sporting and social history.
Chairman of Sheffield Football Club, Richard Tims, commented: The sale of this remarkable piece of sporting history will allow Sheffield Football Club to develop its facilities and secure its future as the home of grass‐roots football. The club is incredibly proud of its long history, and it is fitting that the club has until now provided a home for the oldest recorded rules of club football. But together with its instrumental role in the evolution of the game we know and love today, the club has always placed a particular focus on developing the game for future generations.
The Contents of The Rules of Club Football
The 1858 rules promoted a passing game played with the feet, and included the free kick, throw‐in, goal kick, restrictions on handling the ball, and the banning of hacking or tripping. The code built on earlier football rules (most importantly from Cambridge University and certain public schools) but developed independently, had a huge impact on the development of the game in the twenty years that followed.
Further Highlights of the Archive
The archive comprises club minute books from the 1850s and 60s, a volume of match reports from the early 1860s, the unique copies of two versions of the printed rules (1859 and 1862), and other material. It sheds light on the worlds first vibrant football culture that of Sheffield in the 1860s. These show how regular inter‐club matches became established as well as the culture surrounding the games, including descriptions of football strips, the games early evolution as a spectator sport, and even crowd trouble at a local derby in December 1862.
Sheffield Football Club and its Innovations
Established in 1857, Sheffield Football Club is acknowledged by FIFA and the FA (which it predates by five years) as the worlds oldest football club. Prior to its foundation, organised football was exclusively played within Britains public schools and universities according to widely varying sets of rules.
The early success of Sheffield FC encouraged the development of other football clubs in the region playing by the rules agreed by Sheffield, and the rapid development of the worlds first football culture. Sheffield v Hallam FC in December 1860 is the first recorded inter‐club football match. The first inter‐club competition, the Youdan Cup, was fought out in 1867 in Sheffield, by Sheffield Rules.
Sheffield FC continued to develop its rules throughout the 1860s and 70s, and among the clubs innovations were the free kick, the corner kick and the solid crossbar. The aerial game first developed under Sheffield rules and the first floodlit match took place at there in 1878.
Sheffield FC was associated with the Football Association from 1863, the year of its foundation. The Sheffield rules were a major influence on the FA laws as they developed in the 1860s, but the FA was initially a London organisation and for most of the 1860s far more clubs played under the Sheffield code than the FA code. The fruitful symbiosis of the Sheffield game, based on years of practical playing experience, with the rules of public schools and universities, led to the modern association game. Many aspects of todays game were innovations of Sheffield FC, and there is a direct line from the basic laws agreed upon by a group of likeminded Yorkshire sportsmen in the 1850s to the global game enjoyed hundreds of millions of people today.
* Estimates do not include buyers premium