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The Father of English Football

25 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 26 November 2013

A historic series of meetings happened in London 150 years ago which led to the modern game of football. This was a time when each English football team played by different rules, and the aim of the meetings was to create a standard code. The first, on 6 October 1863, founded the Football Association, and over the course of six dramatic meetings between October and December the rules were simplified, allowing today’s game to develop. Any football team from anywhere in the world now plays by the same rulebook. The prime mover was Ebenezer Morley, and Hardeep Singh Kohli traces the story of the man who became known as the father of English football. At each meeting Ebenezer Morley noted down the decisions and arguments in a notebook, and this Minute Book is now considered one of the most historic documents of the game, valued at £2.5 million.

The arguments were often heated, and ended with a breakaway group dissenting and eventually forming themselves into the Rugby Union. Hardeep talks to Jane Clayton, of the International Football Institute, and visits the FA’s headquarters at Wembley, meeting the FA’s historian David Barber. He talks to David Elleray, Chairman of the FA’s Referees Committee, who is convinced that the decisions taken in 1863 allowed football to become the most successful of international sports, affecting millions of lives. The arguments that led to the modern game are brought to life through dramatised scenes, showing that Ebenezer Morley, thanks to his determination and enthusiasm, turned the original violent and unruly game into the game we know today.

Picture: The Football Association's 1863 minute book (Philip Toscano/PA Wire)

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