Take a group of people, give them a ball and they'll probably start kicking it around... That's been true for hundreds of years. In fact, the earliest record of football in Cambridgeshire can be found in the Cambridge University records of 1579...
|Football 1800's style!|
One record states that a match between 'town and gown' ended in a violent brawl which caused the Vice-Chancellor to forbid the students from playing 'footeball' outside of college grounds!
The problem was that every team played to a different set of rules. Brute force tended to get you further than any ball skills, and games often ended in fights and injuries. But despite the street-style brawls, football remained popular.
|Parker's Piece in 2006|
Finally, in 1848, a group of representatives and students from Cambridge had the bright idea to draw up a definitive set of rules. Copies of the rules were pinned to the trees surrounding Parker's Piece (the big open park in the centre of Cambridge), which had become the favourite place for matches and kick-abouts.
The 'Cambridge Rules' were soon adopted by many of the teams in the area and further afield... When the country's leading clubs and schools got together to form the Football Association in 1863, they used the Cambridge Rules as the basis for a new set of FA rules.
|"The Cambridge Rules appear to be the most desirable for the Association to adopt."|
|J.F Alcock, FA Committee Member 1863|
The first game to be played to these rules was in 1863 on Parker's Piece. Association football allowed no hacking, tripping or handling the ball. As the committee said, it would be the triumph of 'skill over force'.
Commemorative plaque on Parker's Piece
In 2000, the Zion Eagles, a football team for homeless people in Cambridge, discovered that the city had played a major role in the development of the FA rules. They organised a commemorative football match and called for a permanent memorial to be erected on Parker's Piece.
|Cambridge Rules plaque on Parker's Piece|
The Eagles are still pressing for a commemorative sculpture, but in the meantime you'll find a small plaque on a tree in the corner of Parker's Piece nearest the fire station. Barely noticeable as you walk or cycle past, the text on the plaque reads:
"Here on Parker's Piece, in the 1800s, students established a common set of simple football rules emphasising skill above force, which forbade catching the ball and 'hacking'. These 'Cambridge Rules' became the defining influence on the 1863 Football Association rules.
"'The Cambridge Rules appear to be the most desirable for the Association to adopt' J.F.Alcock, F.A. Committee Member 1863.
"'They embrace the true principles of the game, with the greatest simplicity' E.C.Morley, F.A. Hon. Sec. 1863."
Do you think there should be a larger permanent memorial on Parker's Piece? Have your say at the bottom of the page.
The oldest club in the world?
|Cambridge Uni FC, 100-years-old in 1956?|
For many years, Sheffield FC claimed to be the oldest club in the world, having formed in 1857. But with the discovery of the Cambridge Rules, it now appears that Cambridge University FC were around in 1856, making them the oldest club...
However, the Football Association says there's room for both clubs in the record books; Cambridge University for the rules and Sheffield as the world's first true football club!