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1840s in association football

The following are the association football events in the 1840s decade. All events are English unless specified otherwise.


  • 1841 – Rugby School is definitely playing a handling game by this time.
  • 1843 – A set of written rules is believed to be in existence at Eton College. These allow handling of the ball to control it but not running with it in the hand and not passing it by hand. The earliest known 11–a–side games take place at Eton.
  • 1843 – Guy’s Hospital Rugby Football Club is founded by staff and students of the famous medical school in London. It is today believed to be a constituent of Guy's, Kings and St. Thomas' Rugby Football Club which therefore claims to be the world’s oldest football club in any code. This claim is contested due to doubts about continuous existence between 1843 and 1883.
  • 1845 – Written version of Rugby School Football Rules which allows the ball to be carried and passed by hand. These rules are the earliest that are definitely known to have been written and they are a major step in the evolution of Rugby league, Rugby Union and other handling variants. The Rugby School rules make a clear distinction between the "handling" game and the "dribbling" game, the latter being defined as running with the ball at one's feet.
  • 1845 – Although Eton allows the ball to be touched and controlled by hand, it does not allow running with the ball in the hand or passing of the ball by hand. So, whereas Rugby School effectively creates the first "handling game" rules, Eton could by default therefore be creating the earliest "dribbling game" rules.
  • 1845 – Introduction of referees at Eton. Linesmen at the time are called umpires.
  • 1847 – Another set of public school rules is created at Harrow School which, like Eton, plays the "dribbling game".
  • 1848 – The original Cambridge University Rules are written by students who are still confused by different rules operating at the various schools. Besides Rugby, Eton and Harrow there are also rules of a sort in place at Winchester, Shrewsbury and elsewhere. Cambridge is the first attempt at codifying the rules of Association Football (i.e., the "dribbling" game) as distinct from Rugby Football. No copy of the original Cambridge Rules survives. The essential difference in the two codes is that Association Football does not allow a player to run with the ball in his hands or pass it by hand to a colleague. However, the early rules do allow players to touch and control the ball by hand.
  • 1849 – In Cheltenham, the first use of three official referees in a match.