Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Football's founders honoured

Descendants of the founding fathers of football will attend a ceremony at Wembley Stadium today as a blue plaque is unveiled in their honour.

The families of six of the eight men who drafted the original 13 laws of association football 150 years ago have travelled from as far as the United States and New Zealand for the event after being tracked down on behalf of the Football Association (FA).

The event kicks off a week of celebrations to mark the FA's 150th birthday, which will culminate in a gala dinner on Saturday - the anniversary date itself.

Surprisingly little was known about Ebenezer Morley, Arthur Pember, Charles William Alcock, Francis Maule Campbell, John Forster Alcock, Herbert Thomas Steward, George Twizell Wawn and James Turner, who came from across England and gathered to form the FA.

Mr Morley, a London solicitor who formed Barnes Football Club in 1862, wrote to popular newspaper Bell's Life suggesting that football should have a set of rules in the same way that the Marylebone Cricket Club had them for cricket, due to ongoing disputes about the way the game should be played.

His letter led to the first meeting between the men at the Freemasons' Tavern in Great Queen Street, where the FA was formed on October 26, 1863.

From that point, football has grown immeasurably and the FA now helps to support seven million people playing the game at grassroots level across the country, right the way through to elite level.

Mr Morley will not be represented as his family tree ended upon his death in 1924 as neither he nor his siblings had any children.

But 16 relatives of six of the other men are expected to attend following a four-month search led by cultural historian Dr Jane Clayton of the International Football Institute at the University of Central Lancashire. She traced them to Washington DC, Chicago, Auckland, Rossendale in Lancashire and London.

It was also discovered that the family tree of Mr Pember crossed with that of another figure of huge historical and cultural significance, Charles Darwin. In 1925 Mr Pember's great-niece married the evolutionary theorist's grandson, Charles Galton Darwin.

Dr Clayton said: "For the search to have been so successful is incredibly pleasing as, from a historical perspective, we now know a lot more about a number of the men that created the most popular sport in the world 150 years ago.

"The research carried out to date has been extensive but the work continues in the hope of discovering more descendants across the world."

Alex Horne, general secretary of the FA, said: "In terms of historical significance, the eight founding fathers of football should be placed alongside other great pioneers of this nation. The game has become a focal point of the lives of nearly every household in England since it was formed, so to now understand more about the history of these men is incredibly important.

"The FA is delighted that in its 150th year we have been able to identify living descendants and honour their forefathers at what is now the home of English football, Wembley."

Broadcaster Mike Read, honorary chairman of the British Plaque Trust, and a lifelong Bury FC fan has been in discussion with the FA about the commemoration for several months.

He said: "The founding fathers of football helped give the world a sport which down the generations has inspired many billions. We wanted to ensure that the momentous moment was marked in the appropriate manner."

Earlier this month the first ever football match was played in the grounds of Buckingham Palace as part of the anniversary celebrations, while the Duke of Cambridge, who is president of the FA, paid tribute to the sport's unsung heroes by honouring 150 grassroots volunteers at a Palace reception.


From Belfast Telegraph