Football Banned!!

Although the game was gaining popularity amongst commoners, it was still largely disliked by the aristocracy and royalty. In fact on 13th April 1314 King Edward II actually banned football from London where street matches had become incredibly popular.

King Edward himself proclaimed,

“For as much as there is great noise in the city, caused by hustling over large balls from which many evils might arise which God forbid, we command and forbid, on behalf of the king, a pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city in the future.”

The threat of imprisonment for playing football actually made no difference whatsoever; the game continued to be played with much vigour. However King Edward II was commonly regarded as an incompetent king particularly due to the defeat of the English Army by the Scots in the Battle of Barnockborn. This ultimately led to parliament forcing the king to give up his throne to his son in 1327.

King Edward III proved no more of a football fan than his father and passed tough new laws in 1331 banning football further. During the 100 years war with France, which began in 1338 and lasted until 1453 the royal court of England found football most distasteful. Edward III, followed by Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V all passed further laws barring football from the realm. One of the main reasons for this hard line taken was the very real fear that the English population were spending far too much time playing football. This prevented them from practicing archery, a key area of defence during the 100 years war. Edward III passed the following proclamation in 1363 banning all sports and enforcing archery practice.

The King to the Lord-lieutenant of Kent greeting:

Whereas the people of our realm, rich and poor alike, were accustomed formerly in their games to practise archery – whence by God’s help, it is well known that high honour and profit came to our realm, and no small advantage to ourselves in our warlike enterprises – and that now skill in the use of the bow having fallen almost wholly into disrepute, our subjects give themselves up to the throwing of stones and of wood and of iron; and some to handball and football and hockey; and others to coursing and cock-fights, and even to other unseemly sports less useful and manly; whereby our realm – which God forbid – will soon, it would appear, be void of archers:

We, wishing that a fitting remedy be found in this matter, do hereby ordain, that in all places in your country, liberties or no liberties, wheresoever you shall deem fit, a proclamation be made to this effect: that every man in the same country, if he be able-bodied, shall, upon holidays, make use, in his games, of bows and arrows… and so learn and practise archery.

Moreover we ordain that you prohibit under penalty of imprisonment all and sundry from such stone, wood and iron throwing; handball, football, or hockey; coursing and cock-fighting, or other such idle games.

‘Edward the Third 1363’

With the exception of the war it is quite simple to see why royalty disliked football so much. It had originated from the commoners; it was a game of the people and had absolutely nothing to do with the aristocracy at the time. After all the game didn’t even have an official name; it was referred to as ‘ball play’ or ‘playing at ball’.

The term football was used in England for the first time in the 15th Century. However it did not imply that the ball was kicked with the foot, rather that the game was played ‘on foot’. This was not in keeping with royalty-approved sports which all involved riding on horseback.

During the course of the 15th Century most of the Scottish Kings saw fit to ban football. The most famous was the decree passed by parliament and convened by James I in 1424, “That na man play at the Fute-ball.” Again, this had no effect on the popularity of the game as the public took great delight in the rough and tumble of the game.