Last week, the Football Association (F.A.) celebrated its 155th birthday, having been founded on 26 October 1863. Harrow played a dominant role in shaping the Association, and the game in general.
One of the F.A.’s earliest tasks was to establish common rules, and those governing the game at Harrow underpinned the original 14. The first ‘official’ football match was London v Sheffield on 31 March 1866. During the match, Old Harrovian Charles Alcock (Druries 1855) became the first player to be ruled offside in an official F.A. fixture. Despite this, he joined the F.A. Committee and, in 1870, became F.A. Secretary, at the age of 28.
Alcock quickly organised the first ‘international’ at the Oval, on 19 November 1870, at which England beat a team of Scotsmen resident in London. W.P. Crake (West Acre 1866) represented England. In 1871, Alcock persuaded the F.A. to establish a knock-out cup competition. A cup was purchased for £20, 15 clubs entered and the format was based on the Harrow inter-House contest.
Fittingly, Old Harrovians played a great part in the first final - played on 16 March 1872, in front of 2,000, on a pitch devoid of crossbars, goal nets, centre-circle, halfway line and free-kicks. Royal Engineers lost 1-0 to Wanderers, captained by Alcock, and containing three other OHs: Crake, M.P. Betts (The Head Master’s 1862) and R.C. Welch (Home Boarders 1864). Betts scored the winning goal.
- With thanks to David Elleray and the Old Harrovian Association Football Club.