Soccer in England: From Bloody Peasants to Millionaires

It is without a doubt that soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world. Traces of soccer’s history go back to the Ancient Greeks, where they had a game called phaininda. This involved athletes hurling and catching the ball in a field with groups divided into two teams.

Globally, 25 million kids play soccer, otherwise referred to as ‘football,’ every year. In the U.S. alone, there are over 12,726,000 outdoor soccer participants, and more than 60% of all American children play sports outside of school. Even if you are a huge soccer fan, chances are you don’t know the history of soccer and how it grew to immense popularity in England, the home of the world’s oldest soccer club, the first national team, and the oldest knockout national competition. There is no better place to watch soccer and experience it first hand than in England.

The first reference to soccer in England was in 1314, written as a writ for preserving the peace in London. Peasants were throwing large ‘footballs’ and other harmful objects onto public fields causing serious damage to others. One person even died from a wound sustained after running into a sheathed knife. No matter the Royal Decrees that were sent out banning the sport, it remained a popular favorite for peasants all around.

Soccer also brought people together as it was an extremely entertaining spectator sport. Even still, riots broke out in the streets of London in light of the First English Civil War. In one case, rioters in Canterbury used a soccer match to attract an unruly crowd to their cause.

The Brits got their act together and established rules of the game in the 18th century. The game slowly but surely moved its way into boy’s public schools, and was soon joined by it’s rival Rugby.

The Association of Soccer grew tremendously in the late 19th century as amateur clubs linked themselves to schools and churches. Neighborhood loyalty grew there and blossomed out of control. In one case, Liverpool had over 100 soccer clubs.

This fierce competitiveness between neighbors fueled the push for the formal soccer leagues we know today. This was even further amplified with the rise of rich and poor clubs after the two World Wars leading to the multi-million dollar soccer stars of late.

England is a country bursting with soccer history, so why don’t you plan a trip and catch a game for yourself? It will be a trip you will always remember!