Published on February 8th, 2013 | by Travis Summer


FA 150 – History of the FA

Wembley Stadium, home of the England national team [Flickr: Brent Flanders]

The Football Association, a non-profit organisation that acts as the governing body in football throughout England, celebrated its 150th anniversary at the birthplace of where football’s first set of rules was created.

In 1863, the first official rulebook was drawn up in London at the Freemasons’ Tavern in Holborn, with Ebenezer Cobb Morley, the first FA secretary, responsible for the proceedings.

The FA remained true to tradition and celebrated the special occasion by gathering a host of the biggest names in the sport at the original meeting place, now named the Connaught Rooms.

England managers Roy Hodgson and Fabio Capello, as well as a number of stars including David Beckham, Michael Owen and Sir Alex Ferguson were joined via video link by the president of the association, Prince William, who said: “Like you, I’m a football fan, I’ve loved the game from a very young age, as a player with my friends and as a supporter of club on country. I consider it a huge honour to lead the FA.”

Sir Bobby Robson

To further celebrate the landmark, the oldest football organisation in the world has planned several special dates and events, beginning with two friendly matches against international giants Brazil.

The first took place on home soil at Wembley Stadium earlier this week and the other will be in Rio de Janeiro on June 2.

The FA also announced that former England manager Bobby Robson, who had over 60 years of involvement in football, would be commemorated by having National Football Day named in his honour.

It aims to promote grassroots football, with 150 clubs from different levels planning to take part in the event, which falls four days short of England’s friendly with Scotland.

FA Cup

Just nine years after the creation of the Football Association’s rulebook, the longest running domestic cup competition in world football was created; the FA Cup, a tournament that now has more than 700 teams competing on a yearly basis, is a far cry from the 15 teams competing in 1872.

Over the early years, the FA continued its development as an organisation. England played their first international home fixture and successfully defeated Scotland 4-2. International success continued when the team travelled to Austria for their first overseas match in 1908, where England triumphed 6-1.

In 1923, the England national side moved into their first permanent home after the impressive Wembley Stadium was built. Bolton Wanderers played West Ham United, in what was the first FA Cup Final at the new ground, playing in front of 126,047 spectators. The FA then declined FIFA’s invitation to the first World Cup in 1930 and also snubbed the following two in the 1934 and 1938.

The first FA Cup final was broadcast in 1938, and the following year numbers were added to the back of players’ shirts. Due to the outbreak of the Second World War, it proved to be the last final for six years, as the FA had to suspend all competitions. After the war, the FA made a kind gesture by donating thousands of items of sports equipment to prisoners of war.

First manager

England appointed their first ever manager, Sir Walter Winterbottom, in 1946, as the team continued to evolve, although England were twice thrashed home and away in 1953 and 1954 by Hungary with the great Ferenc Puskas instrumental in both fixtures.

Coincidentally, the home defeat was England’s first defeat to overseas opponents. In between England’s defeats, one of the most memorable FA Cup finals was played between Blackpool and Bolton; the game will forever be remembered for Stanley Matthews.

Matthews, nicknamed “the wizard of dribble” inspired his team to come back from 3-1 down to defeat Bolton 4-3 and claim the trophy that had eluded him in two previous finals.

Despite the match being more famous for Matthews’ heroics, Stan Mortensen scored three goals for Blackpool, becoming the only player to score a hat-trick at the original Wembley Stadium in an FA Cup final.

They think it’s all over

The year 1966 will be cemented in English football as the greatest sporting achievement the nation has seen. England hosted the World Cup and on home soil lifting the trophy for the first time by defeating West Germany 4-2 in the final, with Geoff Hurst scoring three goals and becoming the first man to score a hat trick in a World Cup final.

It’s a year that is certainly the most successful the FA has seen on the pitch during its 150-year existence.

In 1979, Trevor Francis wrote his name in football folklore when he transferred from Birmingham City to Nottingham Forest becoming the first football player to transfer between clubs for more than £1 million.

The year 1986 saw Diego Maradona break England’s hearts when he scored with his hand, forever known as the “Hand of God” that knocked England out of the World Cup.

The tragedy at Hillsborough months later led to all-seater stadiums in England.


Paul Gascoigne became a national hero despite England losing to West Germany on penalties, after his heroic efforts in the Italia 1990 World Cup. Two years later, one of the most significant periods in football history was marked by the formation of the Premier League.

In 2001, Sven-Goran Eriksson became the first foreign manager to manage England and later that year his side claimed one of the most unforgettable results in modern day football when they defeated arch rivals Germany 5-1 in Munich.

The same year, David Beckham scored one of the goals of the decade as he struck a last-minute free-kick to equalise against Greece and qualify England automatically for the 2002 World Cup.


Five years later, the new Wembley Stadium, built on the site of the old one, was completed at the cost of a whopping £757 million.

In 2012, the FA opened its new £105million centre of excellence in Staffordshire. The new St George’s Park will house all 24 England teams, from youth to senior levels.

The nation has produced – and continues to produce – some of the finest footballers the game has seen, along with a fair share of special moments.

Football means so much to millions of people and with the FA’s continued guidance; the country will continue to host one of the best league and cup competitions in the world.

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