The Virtual Victorian loves football - and, why not, when so many of our modern teams have their origins in the 1800s when a dribbling form of the sport (as opposed to the handling game developed at Rugby) was played at schools such as Eton, Shrewsbury and Charterhouse. But the rules often varied (even from one half of a game to the other) and those fixtures played by the more robust 'old boys' at Cambridge or Oxford University, or by those who had joined the army, often descended into violence and chaos. Spectators were not encouraged!

However, with the sport growing in popularity, it soon became necessary to impart a sense of Victorian discipline and fair play and in 1863 the newly formed Football Association drew up a set of rules and regulations, proposing the inclusion of referees to offer protection against the all too frequent bone-breaking tackles. Teams were also encouraged to wear more than coloured caps or scarves to identity themselves and by 1872, at the very first FA Cup final, The Wanderers donned what must have been a rather fetching combination of pink, black and cerise, while the Royal Engineers were more subdued in a manly dark red and navy blue.

In truth, the working class players of the era could ill afford such sartorial splendour. Many were factory workers, such as the founding members of Arsenal FC, who worked at the Woolwich Arsenal Armament factory where, inspired by the arrival of two players from Nottingham Forest, fifteen men volunteered to pay sixpence each to set up a club called Dial Square - named after one of the workshops. They purchased a football and played on Plumstead Common, soon changing their name to the Woolwich Arsenal, and the dilemma of a kit was solved when Nottingham Forest donated a set of red shirts - the colour in which Arsenal still play today.

Arsenal FC in the 1880's - a  fine and dashing squad of men!


  1. Football always seems more manly when played by men with whiskers, doesn't it?