British Colleges Sport are the organisation at the forefront of
the development of football in Further Education.
BCS take seriously it's responsibility for the development of
the game, and with an estimated 3,500 plus players playing football
every Wednesday afternoon in the BCS leagues, football is the
number one participation sport in British College Sport .
As the official partner of the Football Association, BCS also
oversee the Football Development Strategy for FE which has been
developed in partnership with the FA as a key part of The FA
National Game Strategy 2008-2012.
THE ORIGINS OF FOOTBALL
Modern football was born in 1863 when the English
Football Association was founded yet the roots of the game stretch
back centuries. Indeed there is evidence they were kicking a
rudimentary ball around more than 2,000 years ago in China. Other
countries have their own claims to have played the first football -
ancient Greece and Rome included - but it was in England where the
village contests of medieval times evolved into popular ball games
in the public schools of the 19th century. By 1863, the first basic
rules were established. Tripping opponents was forbidden and
handling the ball would soon follow suit. The new sport did not
For all the evidence of early ball sports played elsewhere in
the world, the evolution of football as we know it today took place
in Britain. The game that flourished in the British Isles from the
eighth to the 19th centuries featured a considerable variety of
local and regional versions - which were subsequently smoothed down
and smartened up to create the modern-day sports of association
football, rugby football and, in Ireland, Gaelic football.
Primitive football was more disorganised, more violent, more
spontaneous and usually played by an indefinite number of players.
Frequently, games took the form of a heated contest between whole
villages - through streets and squares, across fields, hedges,
fences and streams. Kicking was allowed, as in fact was almost
everything else. Sometimes kicking the ball was out of the question
due to the size and weight of the sphere being used - in such
cases, kicking was instead limited to taking out opponents.
Curiously, it was not until nine years after the rules of
football had been first established in 1863 that the size and
weight of the ball were finally standardised. Up to then, agreement
on this point was usually reached by the parties concerned when
they were arranging the match, as was the case for a game between
London and Sheffield in 1866. This encounter was also the first
where the duration was prearranged for 90 minutes.
Shrovetide football, as it was called, belonged in the 'mob
football' category, where the number of players was unlimited and
the rules were fairly vague. For instance, according to an ancient
handbook from Workington in England, any means could be employed to
get the ball to its target with the exception of murder and
One theory is that the game is Anglo-Saxon in origin. In both
Kingston-on-Thames and Chester, local legend has it the game was
played there for the first time with the severed head of a
vanquished Danish prince. In Derby, it is said to have originated
in the third century during the victory celebrations that followed
a battle against the Romans. Yet there is scant evidence of the
sport having been played at this time, either in Saxon areas or on
the continent. Indeed prior to the Norman conquest, the only trace
found of any such ball game comes from a Celtic source.
Another theory regarding its origin is that when 'mob football'
was being played in the British Isles in the early centuries AD, a
similar game was thriving in France, particularly in the northern
regions of Normandy and Brittany. So it is possible that the
Normans brought this form of the game to England with them.
Scholars have also suggested that besides the natural impulse to
demonstrate strength and skill, in many cases pagan customs,
especially fertility rites, provided a source of motivation for
these early 'footballers'. The ball symbolised the sun, which had
to be conquered in order to secure a bountiful harvest. The ball
had to be propelled around, or across, a field so that the crops
would flourish and the attacks of the opponents had to be warded
A similar significance was attached to contests between married
men and bachelors that prevailed for centuries in some parts of
England, and, likewise, to the game between married and unmarried
women in the Scottish town of Inveresk at the end of the 17th
century which, perhaps by design, was regularly won by the married
women. Women's football is obviously not as new as some people
For all the conflicting views on the origins of the game, one
thing is incontestable: football has flourished for over a thousand
years in diverse rudimentary forms, in the very region which we
describe as its home, Britain.