1859 copy of rules of football to be auctioned

A copy of the earliest printed rules of football will be auctioned later this month and is expected to fetch more than £50,000.

One of two surviving copies of the rules printed in 1859 by the world’s first football club, Sheffield Football Club, will be sold at Sotheby’s on July 20, with online bidding opening from July 12.

The 16-page pamphlet, which was discovered in a Victorian scrapbook, was created after Sheffield FC’s committee met in October 1858 to formalise the rules of the game, which had been created at public schools and universities.

The indirect free kick, corner kick and the crossbar were all elements of the game developed by Sheffield FC.

Sheffield FC was founded in 1857, six years before the Football Association, and is recognised by the FA and Fifa as the world’s oldest football club.

The rule book is expected to fetch more than £50,000
The rule book is expected to fetch more than £50,000 (Sotheby’s/PA)

The pamphlet is signed in pencil by William Baker, the committee member who signed off the formal rules in club minutes on October 21 1858.

Every member of the club was given a copy of the rules and the only other surviving copy was sold by Sotheby’s as part of Sheffield FC’s historic archive for £881,000 in July 2011.

Baker also played for the club and took part in a match against an FA side at Battersea Park in March 1866.

Sheffield FC still exists today, competing in the Northern Premier League Division One East, the eighth tier of the English football pyramid.

The copy of the rules was found in a scrapbook compiled by local clergyman the Rev Greville John Chester, who died in 1892 at the age of 62.

Dr Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s manuscripts specialist, said: “As well as being an important artefact in its own right, the pamphlet also gives us a unique insight into the development of the rules of the game through handwritten annotations, presumably added by its first owner, as the rules continued to be developed and altered in the early years.

“This exceptional piece of sporting history takes us straight back to the origins of ‘the beautiful game’ over 160 years ago.

“It was in Sheffield that football was first revealed as an unrivalled spectator sport, that the experience of interclub competition was first experienced, and that football fans first revealed their loyalty and passion.

“This was the earliest expression of the modern footballing culture we know so well today.”