things to do in cambridge

Football in Cambridge has always been popular. One of the first records of football taking place in Cambridge was in 1579, when Cambridge University students played the townspeople of Chesterton. The match ended in a violent brawl that resulted in the sport being banned outside of the University’s grounds by the Vice-Chancellor.

Despite this, Football continued to be popular within the city of Cambridge and by 1838 it was common to see the townspeople play on Parkers Piece. But, the students of Cambridge were no longer satisfied with just playing the people they knew, they wanted to play other schools.

Football really started taking off in public schools in the 1800’s but whenever one school wanted to play another, they ran into huge problems. Each school had their own rules for football, some would even let you control the ball with your hands, some schools would play on small pitches, while others would play on huge pitches, playing other schools was virtually impossible.

In 1848, teachers from a range of schools met at Trinity College to discuss how they could solve the problem, they agreed that they needed to have one set of rules for every school. The meeting produced what became known as the Cambridge Rules. Each teacher went away to their schools with a copy of the new rules, which were implanted straight away, many students were stuck in their ways and took some time to adjust to the change in rules.

Unfortunately, no copy of the original 1848 Cambridge Rules survived, but a copy of the rules created in 1856 can be found in the Library of Shrewsbury School, we expect these rules are very similar to the Cambridge Rules, if not exactly the same.

The Laws of the University Foot Ball Club
  1. This club shall be called the University Foot Ball Club.
  2. At the commencement of the play, the ball shall be kicked off from the middle of the ground: after every goal there shall be a kick-off in the same way.
  3. After goal, the losing side shall kick off; the sides changing goals, unless a previous arrangement be made to the contrary.
  4. The ball is out when it has passed the line of the flag-posts on either side of the ground, in which case it shall be thrown in straight.
  5. The ball is behind when it has passed the goal on either side of it.
  6. When the ball is behind it shall be brought forward at the place where it left the ground, not more than ten paces, and kicked off.
  7. Goal is when the ball is kicked through the flag-posts and under the string.
  8. When a player catches the ball directly from the foot, he may kick it as he can without running with it. In no other case may the ball be touched with the hands, except to stop it.
  9. If the ball has passed a player, and has come from the direction of his own goal, he may not touch it till the other side have kicked it, unless there are more than three of the other side before him. No player is allowed to loiter between the ball and the adversaries’ goal.
  10. In no case is holding a player, pushing with the hands, or tripping up allowed. Any player may prevent another from getting to the ball by any means consistent with the above rules.
  11. Every match shall be decided by a majority of goals.

The Cambridge Rules were printed and were put up around Parkers Piece in Cambridge so that the people were aware of the new rules.

things to do in cambridge

Parkers Piece – Cambridge

In 1863, The FA was formed, a committee drew up a new revision of the Cambridge rules, and once the rules were agreed on they were published in the press,  therefore being the national rules of football. Agreeing on the rules was somewhat difficult, however, with a number of people being angry that you would not be allowed to handle the ball or ‘hack’ opposition players.

Parkers Piece is still remembered for its part in developing the rules of football. Currently, there is a plaque at Parker’s Piece recognising what the park did for the beautiful game. There is also a sculpture that is in the process of being built, which should be ready next year sometime.

things to do in cambridge

Cambridge Rules – Parkers Piece Plaque