Matthew Taylor is professor of history at the International Centre for Sports History and Culture at De Montfort University and in this months edition of Prospect magazine, chiming with the World Cup extravaganza he asks the question, “What if football hadn’t been invented?”.
A meeting held on the 26th of October 1863 with representatives of 12 clubs at the Freemasons Tavern in London discussed the common aspects of this newly established came, which was, at that stage, played with very different techniques, rules, and practices…. No particular rules about biting shoulders, but creating compulsory composite rules about ‘hacking’ (at shins in this case) and ‘running with the ball’ or dribbling as the main method of propulsion of the ball were discussed.
He goes on to examine what different advocates pursued – and the eventual establishment of the Football association, the Rugby Football Union and the establishment of these two different sports. But could a game like Gaelic have been the one been the one that soldiers, engineers, and colonial officials took with them as they endeavoured to create an empire where the sun never set? Taylor sees the impact of ‘British sports’ as a result of the global power and influence of Britain itself, positing that any sport could have had the same success, as football flourished in parts of South America, Africa and Asia and embraced as a national sport, and, with the introduction of the World Cup in 1930, became a global game.
As we too participate in a global game with ever increasing popularity, it’s interesting to consider what if and what next? Our national sports are now played and viewed around the world, with diasporic and historical routes and roots, what could the future hold for the games in the next 100 years?