Laying Down the Law
Graduates of English schools wanted to continue to play ball-and-goal games so they began to form clubs. In 1862 some of the grads drew up the Cambridge Code—10 rules that allowed the ball to be handled only to stop it in the air and place it back on the ground.
On October 26, 1863, representatives from 11 schools and clubs met at the Freemasons Tavern to hash out official rules of the game. One club, Blackheath, eventually withdrew from the debates after the group voted not to allow running with the ball or hacking an opponent. When that decision was made, the break between the games that would become soccer and rugby became official. The remaining 10 representatives formed the Football Association and published the original 14 Laws of the Game in December 1863.
Remarkably, these first laws contained no mention of fouls, penalties or referees. Despite its violent heritage, soccer at this time was considered a gentlemen’s sport. No gentlemen, it was thought, would attempt to foul to gain an advantage. Early matches were officiated by two umpires, one provided by each team. In the 1880s, a referee was added to keep time and settle disputes. When a disagreement arose, umpires would refer to this official—hence the name “referee.” By 1891, the referee had been moved on to the field of play and the umpires had become linesmen. Today, linesmen are called assistant referees.
Today, there are 17 Laws of the Game that determine everything from the size of the pitch or playing field, to proper attire for soccer players (see sidebar), to number of players per side and the length of the game. The Laws of the Game are now preserved and modified when necessary by the International Football Association Board (IFAB).