LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Sotheby’s will auction the oldest rules of club soccer in July as part of an historic archive that is expected to fetch 800,000 - 1.2 million pounds ($1.3-2.0 million).
The collection is being offered by Britain’s Sheffield Football Club, the world’s oldest, and includes the original handwritten draft rules dating from 1858 and the only known surviving copy of the printed “Rules, Regulations, & Laws of the Sheffield Foot-Ball Club” produced the following year.
“These documents are an enormously important part of the story of football,” said Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s senior specialist in the books and manuscripts department.
“They are a crucial strand that led to the creation of the modern game, and many of the aspects of football that we today take for granted come from Sheffield,” he told Reuters.
“Many of the things like football strips, the idea of football as a spectator sport, the idea of inter-club matches with those powerful rivalries which we take for granted were all first experienced in Sheffield.”
Sheffield Football Club chairman Richard Tims said the club was selling its archive in order to fund new facilities and “secure its future as the home of grassroots football.”
Heaton said the Sheffield rules were part of a broader development of the game which was played in differing versions at Cambridge University and some English schools.
Some of the printed rules going under the hammer in London on July 14 would be familiar to modern day soccer fans, while others may seem liberal in an age when many spectators complain about over-zealous refereeing.
Point number five, for example, states that “pushing with the hands is allowed,” although it adds: “but no hacking or tripping up is fair under any circumstances whatsoever.”
And point eight reads: “The Ball may be pushed or hit with the hand, but holding the Ball (except in the case of a fair kick) is altogether disallowed.”
Heaton said the latter rule reflected how soccer was still in its early stages of development as a separate sport from rugby, where carrying the ball in hand is permitted.
“The idea of rugby being a completely different game hadn’t really emerged yet,” he said. “By 1862 and the second set of Sheffield rules, by that time there was a rule of handball. By 1862 it is much more restrictive.”
The archive on offer includes club minute books from the 1850s and 1860s, a volume of match reports from the early 1860s, and copies of two versions of the printed rules (1859 and 1862). It even records crowd trouble at a local derby in 1862.
According to Sotheby’s, the early success of Sheffield FC encouraged the development of other soccer clubs in the region playing by the rules agreed by Sheffield, and the “rapid development of the world’s first football culture.”
Sheffield versus Hallam FC in December 1860 was the first recorded inter-club soccer match and the first inter-club competition, the Youdan Cup, was played in 1867 in Sheffield.
Among Sheffield FC’s innovations were the free kick, the corner kick and the solid crossbar.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White