Event marks Battersea Park’s role in birth of football

Published: 8 January 2014

Celebrations will be taking place tomorrow (Thursday) in Battersea Park to commemorate its role as the birthplace of modern football.

While many fans may believe that Wembley is the spiritual home of the sport – that honour belongs to Battersea Park which was the venue for the world’s very first football match played according to the rules that govern the game today.

And to commemorate the 150th anniversary of that historic fixture, a special plaque will be unveiled in the park and there will be a recreation of that first game involving teams organised by The Spirit of Football - a not–for–profit community interest company dedicated to promoting the sport.

Tomorrow’s event, which is backed by the London FA, will see players wearing period dress play the first half of the commemorative game according to the original association football rules and the second half under the rules of the modern era.

Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia, who will unveil the commemorative plaque said: “Battersea Park occupies a very special place in the rich and colourful story of football.

“It was the location chosen to stage the world’s very first game played according to association football rules. This was a landmark moment in the history of the modern game and it will be my honour and privilege to unveil a special Wandsworth green plaque in recognition of Battersea Park’s role in the development of this global sport.”

Although football had been played in England in various forms since the middle ages, it wasn’t until the latter part of the nineteenth century that a uniform set of rules was compiled. Up until that point, the sport was a hybrid that involved both kicking and handling, with competing teams having to negotiate the rules of each game before kick off, largely dependant on the state of the pitch.

By the 1860s pressure was building for a uniform set of rules,and this led to the establishment of the Football Association in October 1863. In December of that year the FA drew up the original 13 rules of association football which have remained largely unchanged and govern the modern global game.

And to test out these new rules the FA arranged a showcase fixture in Battersea Park on January 9, 1864 involving all the best players in England. A team captained by the FA President beat one led by the FA Secretary 2-0, with both goals scored by Charles William Alcock, a celebrated footballer and sports journalist who went on to become Honorary Secretary of the FA.

A toast raised at the conclusion of the game was “Success to football, irrespective of class or creed.”

Tomorrow’s celebrations will also include a five-a-side tournament involving local schools before the plaque is unveiled and the commemorative fixture kicks off. This game will use a ball provided by The Spirit of Football, which will then be carried on a special pilgrimage covering 30,000 miles across Europe and the Americas en route to the World Cup in Brazil. For more information about this journey visit www.spiritoffootball.com