William Shakespeare

References to the game of football became more and more widespread in England at the time. Even the great William Shakespeare referred to football in his writings. In King Lear (Act I, Scene IV) Kent taunts Oswald by calling him a ‘base football player’. In Comedy of Errors (1592, Act II) Shakespeare writes:

Am I so round with you as you with me, that like a football you do spurn me thus? You spurn me hence, and he will spurn me hither if I last in this service you must case me in leather.

By the 17th Century the Kings of England were still trying to rid the land of football. James I outlawed the game from his royal court because it was, ‘meeter for lameing than making able the user thereof’ i.e. the game ended with too many injuries!

However the significant factor is that the nobility within the royal court now appreciated and enjoyed football. Even clerics of the church started to play.

Eventually with the bans having no effect on the football playing public James I reversed his decision to ban football. In 1633, the Church of England followed suit and issued formal approval to play football.

The only successful banning of football took place during the time of Oliver Cromwell and the Restoration (1660). Even though Oliver Cromwell was a keen footballer in his youth, his ban on Sunday football remained in force for over thirty years.

In 1801 the Author Joseph Strutt published ‘The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England’ which gave an insight into football in the 1700’s. He described two teams of equal numbers who lined up between two goals that were 80-100 yards apart. The goals themselves were two sticks in the ground that were approximately a yard apart. Strut also added: “The ball, which is commonly made up of a blown bladder and cased in leather, is delivered in the midst of the ground, and the object of each party is to drive it through the goal of their antagonists, which being achieved, the game is won.”
So it seemed as if a set of rules surrounding the game was beginning to develop.

The game of football generally muddled along until dramatic changes took place later in the 19th Century.