Victorian Football - Football History - 1881-88

In 1881 the FA introduced a new law: if a player was "guilty of un-gentlemanly behaviour the referee could rule offending player ‘out of play’ and order him off the ground". They were also suspended for 1 month, with no pay.  Goals had crossbars introduced in 1882 and, in 1892, nets were also added.  Both these Rules cut down on the amount of disputes on whether the ball had passed between the posts or crossed the goal-line.  The difference between winning a Football Trophy, or not!

The subject of Paid and Unpaid players came to the fore in 1884, when the FA expelled Preston North End FC from the FA Cup.  Upton Park FC had complained that Preston were a ‘professional team’ because they were paying their players.  Preston admitted that their players were being paid, but said that it was common amongst clubs to pay players.  Preston FC even employed players from Scotland and found them good jobs in the local area too.

Having been expelled, Preston FC and some other ‘professional clubs’ joined forces and threatened to leave the FA and create their own Football Association.  The FA subsequently set up a sub-committee and, the following year, made another change to their Rules.  They made it legal for clubs to employ players, "providing they had been born or lived within 6 miles of the club’s ground for at least 2 years".

Records show, that in 1885-6, Blackburn Rovers FC spent the grand sum of £615 on wages for their players – and their top players received £1 a week.  A considerable amount of money in those days - although the equivalent would be worth approximately £55 in 2012!  Compare that with the earnings for top football players today.

A year later, in 1887, Sunderland FC were kicked out of the FA Cup, when it was found out that they paid players from Scotland to play for them.  A record in their books showed that "a payment of thirty shillings in the cash book to Hastings, Monaghan and Richardson for train fares from Dumfries to Sunderland".  They also had to pay the cost of the enquiry and the three players concerned were suspended from playing football in England for 3 months.

Paying players changed the face of football and clubs began to arrange matches, attracting larger crowds.  Matches with both home and away fixtures attracted supporters of the clubs.  A meeting was held in March 1888 between several clubs and so The Football League was formed, to provide more regular competitive football.  Aston Villa FC Director, William McGregor, founded The League and was instrumental in changing the game from a pastime to a professional business.  There were six clubs from Lancashire and six from The Midlands.  Many other clubs wanted to join, but the problem of transport costs excluded them.

Again, Preston North End FC came to the limelight and won the first Football League Championship outright, earning themselves the name ‘The Invincibles’.  Using the same formula as before, the Secretary attracted the best players, with high fees and well paid local jobs.  The Invincibles won the FA Cup in the 1888-1889 season.  They also won The League Cup in the same season.  Up to the current season (2011-12), they remain the only club to have won The Double, while not losing a single game.



"Preston North End

Winners of The English Association Challenge Cup and Champions of The Football League 1888-9"

Clubs like Derby County FC, Everton FC, Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, Sunderland FC and Aston Villa FC started to offer increasingly high wages, poaching Preston's best players.  Preston FC have never won The League since.

Previous Index Next