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Monday, January 27, 2014

1365 - when football was banned and archery neglected

Centuries ago - during the 1300s and 1400s - football was regarded as a violent sport which caused the young men of the day to neglect the practice of archery. Indeed many laws were passed prohibiting the playing of football.

The first national law that interfered with the game of football was decreed in 1365. Other earlier laws were passed against it, but it was in 1365 that such a law became a national issue. In Scotland King James I decreed as follows - "It is statute, and the King forbiddis, that na man play at fute-ball, under the paine of fiftie schillings to be raised to the Lord of the land, als oft as he be tainted, or to the Schireffe of the land or his ministers, gif the Lords will not punish sik trespessoures."

James I of England also wrote in his Basilikon - "From this Court I debarre all rough and violent exercises, as the football, meeter for lameing than making able the users thereof." This was made the ground of an indictment preferred at the Middlesex Sessions in the eighteenth year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, which charged sixteen persons – husbandmen, yeomen, artificers, and the like – for that they did, "with unknown malefactors to the number of a hundred, assemble themselves and unlawfully play a certain unlawful game, called football, by reason of which unlawful game there arose among them a great affray likely to result in homicides and fatal accidents."

These words give a somewhat accurate description of what is now known as a rugby scrimmage.

But the ban against football / what would later become rugby and soccer and American football / was far too popular, and indeed many lawmen themselves played football so it was a hard sport to suppress.

There later developed the custom of playing football on Shrove Tuesday, which became at one time a great football festival. In 1797 there was an indictment preferred at Kingston-on-Thames to suppress this custom of playing football on Shrove Tuesday, in which persons were charged for that they "did then and there unlawfully, riotously, and routously kick, cast, and throw a certain football in and about the said town". What is interesting to note is that by 1797 the game was played according to Rugby rules.

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