Clubs in Sheffield played a significant role in the development of the rules of football, leading to how the modern game is played today. The Sheffield Rules were devised and played in the city between 1857 and 1877. As a result, corners, throw-ins, and heading the ball were introduced into Sheffield football.
The world’s first competitive inter-club match between Hallam FC and Sheffield FC in 1860 and the world’s first football tournament, the Youdan Cup, were played according to the Sheffield Rules. Following the 1860 Boxing Day derby between Hallam and Sheffield, players and committee members retired to The Plough pub for much-needed refreshments.
In 1862, another game between Hallam and Sheffield began the move towards having a fixed goalkeeper. After a brawl broke out between opposing players, the game became known locally as the ‘Battle of Bramall Lane.’ Hallam’s Waterfall was sent to guard the goal as a punishment for his part in the melee. In addition, the offside rule was introduced into the Sheffield Rules in 1863. This required that one player must be between an opposition player and the goal for that player to be deemed onside.
The Youdan Cup played in 1867 reinforced the historical importance of the Sheffield Rules. The tournament was played between February and March and involved 12 local sides. Hallam won the final at Bramall Lane, watched by a then world-record crowd of 3,000 spectators. Interestingly, Hallam won the game with two rouges scored in the last five minutes. Rouges had been introduced in 1861 using flags placed 4 yards on either side of the goal. A rouge was awarded if the ball was kicked between the flags and touched down. In the event of a tie in goals, rouges could be used to decide the result. Rouges were subsequently abandoned in 1868.
The victorious players of Hallam were presented with the Youdan Trophy at a dinner held at 7 p.m. At the Plough on March 16th, 1867. Soon after the Youdan Cup, the Sheffield Football Association was formed, and it adopted the Sheffield Rules. The Sheffield FA was the first of several regional associations formed in subsequent years. Nottingham, Birmingham, and Derbyshire adopted the Sheffield Rules, as did most other areas in the north. However, London Rules still prevailed in the southern half of the country.
The first ‘golden goal’ was scored in Sheffield. This was in the final of the Cromwell Cup in 1868, which ended goalless after 90 minutes. Extra time was played until a team scored a goal which ‘The Wednesday’ did.
The Football Association was formed in London in 1863. The early years of the modern game were dominated by the rivalry between London and Sheffield for leadership over the game’s development of the rules of football. That rivalry took the form of games between southern and northern clubs, discussions between the two associations, and many pints of beer consumed over arguments about the rules of football.
Thomas Vickers And John Shaw
The Plough pub hosted committee meetings throughout the period when the modern rules of the game were emerging. A key figure in discussions between Sheffield and London was Thomas Vickers, who, along with John Shaw, was a founding member of Hallam FC, served as President of the Sheffield FA between 1869 to 1885. Vickers, a familiar figure in the Plough, was instrumental in merging the Sheffield Rules into the national game.
As early as 1863, a local newspaper in Sheffield was calling for all clubs to agree on ‘universal rules’ This was finally achieved in 1882, followed by the creation of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in 1886, which was given full authority to determine the ‘laws of the game.’ IFAB was succeeded by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) in 1904. FIFA still retains absolute authority over the laws of the game.