This day in football history
On 13 February 1314, England’s King Edward II issued a royal order banning football in London.
Evidence suggests that a type of football has been played in England since at least 1175. According to author David Goldblatt in his book The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer, one witness described an early version of the game as one in which “young men, in country sport, propel a huge ball not by throwing it into the air, but by striking and rolling it along the ground, and that not with their hands but with their feet.” The same observer concluded that the game was “abominable enough, and in my judgement at least, more common, undignified, and worthless than any other kind of game, rarely ending but with some loss, accident, or disadvantage to the players themselves.”
By the 1300s, the sport’s popularity in London had grown to such an extent that merchants were concerned that it was disrupting the public order and having deleterious effects on trade. A quote reportedly from the Lord Mayor of London laments “a great uproar in the city, through certain tumults arising from great footballs in the fields of the public, from which many evils may arise.” Edward II responded to the complaints with a royal order “to forbid playing this godless game within the town walls under penalty of imprisonment.”
Despite similar efforts from Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV, and James III to ban the sport, it continued to thrive. Today, there are 14 professional teams in London alone, with another 80 amateur leagues regulated by the London Football Association.