Association football, more commonly known as football or soccer, can be traced to traditional football games played formerly in Europe, particularly medieval England. The modern game of association football originates from the formation of the The Football Association in London, England in 1863 based on multiple efforts to standardise the varying forms of the game. This allowed clubs to play each other without dispute and which specifically banned handling of the ball during open field play (hence the division between association football and rugby football). At the time, football clubs had played by their own, individual codes and game-day rules had usually to be agreed upon before a match could commence. For example, the Sheffield Rules that applied to most matches played in the Sheffield area were a different code.
The Cambridge rules, first drawn up at Cambridge University in 1848, were particularly influential in the development of subsequent codes, including Association football. The Cambridge Rules were written at Trinity College, Cambridge, at a meeting attended by representatives from Eton, Harrow, Shrewsbury, Rugby, Winchester schools. They were not universally adopted. During the 1850s, many clubs unconnected to schools or universities were formed throughout the English-speaking world, to play various forms of football. Some came up with their own distinct codes of rules, most notably the Sheffield Football Club, formed by former public school pupils in 1857, which led to formation of a Sheffield FA in 1867.
During the early 1861s, there were increasing attempts in England to unify and reconcile the various football games that were played in the public schools as well in the industrial north under the Sheffield Rules. In 1862, J. C. Thring, who had been one of the driving forces behind the original Cambridge Rules, was a master at Uppingham School and he issued his own rules of what he called "The Simplest Game" (aka the Uppingham Rules). In early October 1863, a revised version of the Cambridge Rules was drawn up by a seven member committee representing former pupils of Eton, Harrow, Shrewsbury, Rugby, Marlborough and Westminster.
Ebenezer Cobb Morley, who is regarded as the "father of football".
Ebenezer Cobb Morley, a solicitor from Hull, wrote to Bell's Life newspaper in 1863, proposing a governing body for football. Morley was to become the FA's first secretary (1863-6) and its second president (1867-74), but is particularly remembered as it was he who drafted the first Laws of the Game at his home in Barnes, London, that are today played the world over. For this, he is considered not just the father of the Football Association, but of Association Football itself.
On the evening of 26 October 1863, representatives of several football clubs in the Greater London area met at the Freemasons' Tavern on Long Acre in Covent Garden. This was the first meeting of The Football Association (FA). It was the world's first official football body and for this reason is not preceded with the word English. Charterhouse was the only school which accepted invitations to attend. The first meeting resulted in the issuing of a request for representatives of the public schools to join the association. With the exception of Thring at Uppingham, most schools declined. In total, six meetings of the FA were held between October and December 1863. Committee member J. F. Alcock, said: "The Cambridge Rules appear to be the most desirable for the Association to adopt."
After the third meeting, a draft set of rules were published by the FA. However, at the beginning of the fourth meeting, attention was drawn to the recently-published Cambridge Rules of 1863. The Cambridge rules differed from the draft FA rules in two significant areas; namely running with (carrying) the ball and hacking (kicking opposing players in the shins). The two contentious FA rules were as follows:
IX. A player shall be entitled to run with the ball towards his adversaries' goal if he makes a fair catch, or catches the ball on the first bound; but in case of a fair catch, if he makes his mark he shall not run.
X. If any player shall run with the ball towards his adversaries' goal, any player on the opposite side shall be at liberty to charge, hold, trip or hack him, or to wrest the ball from him, but no player shall be held and hacked at the same time.
At the fifth meeting a motion was proposed that these two rules be removed from the FA rules. Most of the delegates supported this suggestion but F. W. Campbell, the representative from Blackheath and the first FA treasurer, objected strongly. He said, "hacking is the true football". The motion was carried nonetheless and â€” at the final meeting â€” Campbell withdrew his club from the FA. After the final meeting on 8 December the FA published the "Laws of Football", the first comprehensive set of rules for the game later known as association football. The game also came to be called "soccer" as a shortening of "Association" around the same time as Rugby football, colloquially referred to as "rugger", was developing as the main carrying of the ball version of English football, and "soccer" remains a common descriptor in countries with other prominent football codes today.
These first FA rules still contained elements that are no longer part of football, but which are still recognisable in other games (Rugby Union, Australian rules football): for instance, a player could make a fair catch and claim a mark, which entitled him to a free kick, and; if a player touched the ball behind the opponents' goal line, his side was entitled to a free kick at goal, from 15 yards in front of the goal line.
The laws of the game agreed on by the FA members stipulated a maximum length and breadth for the pitch, the procedure for kicking off, and definition of terms, including goal, throw in, offside. Passing the ball by hand was still permitted provided the ball was caught "fairly or on the first bounce". Despite the specifications of footwear having no "tough nails, iron plates and gutta percha" there were no specific rule on number of players, penalties, foul play or the shape of the ball, captains of the participating teams were expected to agree on these things prior to the match.