Football History

Football as a generic game in Scotland stretches back almost 600 years. Over the course of the fifteenth century four separate acts of parliament were issued which attempted to curtail ‘futeball’, highlighting its popularity as an activity long before the formal regulation and codification of the game during the nineteenth century.

Football, as a recreation, was enjoyed by monarchs (James IV and Mary Queen of Scots), and commoners alike and historically can be found as an activity across most of the country, from the Scottish Borders and the Western Highlands to the North East Lowlands and even up as far as the Shetland Isles. It is perhaps of no surprise then that the oldest existing football in the world (dating from around 1540) was discovered in the Royal Palace at Stirling Castle or that Scotland can claim to be home to the world’s first known football club (Edinburgh, 1824).

The earliest surviving football trophy in the world, an ornate silver medallion, was won by the 93rd Highland regiment when they defeated Edinburgh University Football Club by three goals to nil in 1851. The Association code of football arrived in Scotland during the late 1860s and was initially adopted by clubs in Glasgow, Lanarkshire and the South of Scotland.

Oldest existing football in the world (dating from around 1540) was discovered in the Royal Palace at Stirling Castle, Courtesy of the Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum

Oldest existing football in the world (dating from around 1540) was discovered in the Royal Palace at Stirling Castle, Courtesy of the Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum

The 1851 Football Medallion; oldest existing football trophy in the world. Image Courtesy of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regimental Museum

The 1851 Football Medallion; oldest existing football trophy in the world. Image Courtesy of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regimental Museum.

Foot-ball Match, Ebgland v Scotland 1872

Match ticket from the world’s first international football match under Association rules, 1872. Image courtesy of the Scottish Football Museum.

Association football became established in Scotland primarily through the efforts of Queen’s Park Football Club, who were formed in the south side of Glasgow in 1867. The Queen’s Park club was responsible for organising the first official international football match (Association code) between Scotland and England in 1872. The players representing Scotland in this historic encounter were all members of the famous Glasgow club. The Scottish Football Association, formed in 1873, is the second oldest national Football Association in the world while the Scottish Cup, which remains the blue riband event within Scottish football, dates from 1874 and is the oldest existing trophy within Association football. The Scottish Football League, the third oldest league in the world, was founded in 1890 with professionalism being introduced to the Scottish game in 1893. Hampden Park, long regarded as the home of Scottish football, was the largest football stadium in the world between 1908 and 1950 and still holds most of European football’s primary attendance records (including the overall record of 149,415 for Scotland’s match with England in 1937).

Hampden 1937

Hampen Museum Exhibition
Hampden Museum Heritage Display

Scottish Football’s links to the rest of the world

Historically Scotland has played a significant role in the development and proliferation of association football. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Scots travelled across the world, integrating into different cultures and introducing their own customs. Football was a popular export and Scottish engineers, teachers, doctors and factory workers helped to organise and promote football as a recreation. The most notable individuals who originated from Scotland or can claim direct Scottish ancestry include William McGregor (The ‘Father of the Football League’ in England), Alexander Watson Hutton (the ‘Father of Argentine football’), John Prentice (the first President of the Shanghai Football League), Thomas Donohoe and Charles Miller (football pioneers in Brazil), Arthur MacPherson (first President of the Russian Football Union) and David Forsyth (the ‘father of Canadian Soccer’). In 1886 the Scottish FA co-founded the International Football Association Board, which remains the worldwide authority over football’s Laws of the Game. The Scottish FA has been affiliated to FIFA, world football’s governing body, since 1910, and UEFA, European football’s governing body, since 1954.

Scottish Football Association
The International Football Association Board
FIFA
UEFA

 

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Sports Heritage Scotland was established in 2015 by national sporting bodies and heritage organisations representing the sports of cricket, curling, golf, football, rugby and shinty.

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The Memories Project
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