If you’re a football fan, you don’t need me to tell you that times are changing…
In the UK alone, high ticket prices are squeezing out the traditional fanbase, while supporters are left to bemoan the weekly blight of watching players attempt to con the referee at every available opportunity.
In light of this, you can’t blame some fans for nostalgically thinking back to the beautiful game’s Golden Age…
Which is why next month’s Sotheby’s auction of the oldest known set of football rules, on July 16, particularly caught my attention.
The £1.2m estimated lot contains the original handwritten draft rules (1858) and the printed Rules, Regulations, & Laws of the Sheffield Foot‐Ball Club (1859).
Sepp who? The Sheffield FC lads in 1890.
This was a time when people played the game for enjoyment, pleasure and no financial reward.
A time when British fair play was the guiding light.
“Pushing with the hands is allowed but no hacking or tripping is fair under any circumstances whatsoever,” a rule states.
But of course, there’s a sting in the tale…
Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest football club, is behind the auction. Apparently, it was forced into the decision due to the parlous state of its finances. This, sadly, remains a common feature for non-league clubs.
Meanwhile, rumours that this reminder of a bygone age could be bought by a group from Qatar (hosts of the 2022 World Cup) shows that football’s future is more global than ever before – and will be very different from its past.
All of which makes the onus, placed on collectors, to preserve documents like these even more vital as the years go on.