By Chris Wright
To mark the FA’s 150th birthday they’re doing all sorts of bits and bobs, including having England ‘keeper Joe Hart pose with the most expensive book he’s ever likely to get his paws on – the original copy of the FA ‘Minute Book’, i.e, the original hand-written draft for the laws of association football which was first penned in 1863 and is worth more than £1,000,000.
Yowsers! Careful with that thing Joseph. No wonder he looks a bit nervous about the whole ordeal…
Written by Ebenezer Morley, the first secretary of the FA, the ‘Minute Book’, featuring the 13 original laws of organised football, is pretty much ‘Genesis’ when it comes to our sainted sport – coincidentally, back in 1863 the law was decreed that “no player shall carry the ball”, making Hart’s position look a little redundant given the circumstances.
Here are those 13 original rules in full…
1. The maximum length of the ground shall be 200 yards, the maximum breadth shall be 100 yards, the length and breadth shall be marked off with flags; and the goals shall be defined by two upright posts, 8 yards apart, without any tape or bar across them
2. The winner of the toss shall have the choice of goals. The game shall be commenced by a place kick from the centre of the ground by the side losing the toss, the other side shall not approach within 10 yards of the ball until it is kicked off
3. After a goal is won the losing side shall kick off and goals shall be changed
4. A goal shall be won when the ball passes between the goal posts or over the space between the goal posts (at whatever height), not being thrown, knocked on, or carried
5. When the ball is in touch the first player who touches it shall throw it from the point on the boundary line where it left the ground, in a direction at right angles with the boundary line and it shall not be in play until it has touched the ground
6. When a player has kicked the ball any one of the same side who is nearer to the opponent’s goal line is out of play and may not touch the ball himself nor in any way whatever prevent any other player from doing so until the ball has been played; but no player is out of play when the ball is kicked from behind the goal line
7. In case the ball goes behind the goal line, if a player on the side to whom the goal belongs first touches the ball, one of his side shall be entitled to a free kick from the goal line at the point opposite the place where the ball shall be touched. If a player of the opposite side first touches the ball, one of his side shall be entitled to a free kick (but at the goal only) from a point 15 yards from the goal line opposite the place where the ball is touched. The opposing side shall stand behind their goal line until he has had his kick
8. If a player makes a fair catch he shall be entitled to a free kick, provided he claims it by making a mark with his heel at once; ad in order to take such kick he may go as far back as he pleases, and no player on the opposite side shall advance beyond his mark until he has kicked
9. No player shall carry the ball
10. Neither tripping nor hacking shall be allowed and no player shall use his hands to hold or push his adversary
11. A player shall not throw the ball or pass it to another
12. No player shall take the ball from the ground with his hands while it is in play under any pretence whatever
13. No player shall wear projecting nails, iron plates, or gutta percha on the soles or heels of his boots
Incidentally, the cost for a football club to join the FA back then was a princely £1 and one shilling. We imagine the rates have gone up ever-so-slightly since then.