In the 14th century there were many attempts to ban football. In 1314 the Mayor of London, Nicholas de Farndone, issued a proclamation to ban the game of football in the City as it was causing disruption. The punishment was imprisonment. Prior to this ban there were no rules in comparison with the game we know today, and no regulations dictating the size of pitch; or distance between the ‘goals’. The sport allowed an unlimited number of players to participate, using a ball made from an animal bladder. This game was violent and caused damage to both people and property, in some cases resulting in death. Medieval football would certainly not have stopped for our modern VAR (Video Assistant Referee).
The Mayor of London’s proclamation was issued on behalf of King Edward II, who felt men should instead practice archery, which was more ‘beneficial in warfare’. Many Kings after Edward II attempted to ban football in favour of archery, including Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V and Edward IV. Even Henry VIII attempted to ban football, despite reportedly owning a pair of football boots.
With the rise of Puritanism in the 16th and 17th centuries, football was targeted again, along with other sports and pastimes such as the theatre. Punishment for playing the game could result in being sentenced to the stocks, a restraining device that was used for corporal punishment and public humiliation. The Puritans wanted to keep the Sabbath as a day of peace and football was seen as a disturbance, so it was banned. The Puritans certainly would not have been watching Super Sunday on Sky Sports.
Nevertheless, football remained popular. Despite many laws being issued, no amount of bans or legislation could completely stop the game being played throughout the centuries. On 26 October 1863 representatives from clubs across London met to regulate the game at the Freemasons Tavern on Great Queen Street in the West End of London. The Football Association was born.