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The changing rules of football
Of course we are all aware that the rules of football change from time to time and the anaoraks amongst us can probably say when substitutes were first introduced and who was Lynn’s first substitute. (Peter Tough for Tony Haskins 21 September 1966 v Nuneaton Borough).
But there are other milestones that have happened over the years. For example the penalty kick was introduced in 1891 but the penalty spot did not arrive until 1902.
In the intervening years there was the penalty line which ran parallel but twelve yards away from the goal line. This can be seen clearly on the picture below and the penalty kick could be taken anywhere along the line.
1901 Cup Final
Picture 1901 FA Cup Final Tottenham Hotspur v Sheffield United
Source: Internet: http://commons.wikimedia.org/
Posssibly less obvious on the photograph is a second line six yards behind the penalty line where the remaining players had to stand when the kick was taken. Another visible feature is the six yard semi-circle in the goalmouth which was also replaced in 1902. A move which was explained in the Eastern Daily Press of Monday 8 September 1902:
"Hitherto, the area in which the goalkeeper might not be charged unless he was holding the ball or obstructing an opponent was bounded by semi-circles defining six yards from the goalposts. In future these will disappear and instead of them, lines will be drawn six yards into the field of play, and being joined together by a line drawn parallel to the goalline.
The space thus bounded off will be known as the ”goal area”. It will be seen that it is somewhat larger than the space which it replaces, so that the goalkeeper’s immunity from attack is slightly increased."
1905 Cup Final
Picture 1905 FA Cup Final Aston Villa v Newcastle United
Source: Internet: http://www.facupfinals.co.uk/

Although you may not be able to see it in the photo – the penalty spot is there, and had been since 1902. However, the eagle eyed might notice that the pitch marking still isn’t quite the one we know and love today. The “D”, marking 10 yards from the penalty spot, did not arrive until 1937, prior to that opposing players could stand anywhere along the 18 yard line while a penalty was being taken.
Meanwhile another rule in the game of old that we would not recognise today is the goalkeeper’s ability to handle the ball in his own half. In the 1870s the FA introduced rules that distinguished between goalkeepers and other players: It was Rule 8 that stated "The goalkeeper may, within his own half of the field of play, use his hands, but shall not carry the ball."
So we come to Leigh Roose. Lynn’s Chuck Martini might have been a character but he had nothing on Roose who entertained anyway he could - including sitting on the crossbar at halftime and holding impromptu "beat the goalie" competitions after games. Facing a penalty against Manchester City, Roose faked nerves by wobbling his knees maniacally. Roose saved the shot but was pelted with objects by Manchester fans when he celebrated.
Roose, who went on to play for Stoke City, Everton, Sunderland, Celtic, Huddersfield Town, Aston Villa and Arsenal, used the rule about handling the ball in his own half to the extreme as he began to bounce the ball up to the half-way line before launching an attack. Although the rule applied to all ’keepers, few followed Roose’s example as they did not have his accuracy and strength in kicking or throwing which gave him time to get back and defend if necessary. He was so effective that several clubs complained to the Football Association about his strategy feeling he was ruining the game as a spectacle by his ability to break up creative and attacking play.
In June 1912 the Football Association decided to change Law 8 to read: "The goalkeeper may, within his own penalty area, use his hands, but shall not carry the ball."
In the early days of football (well not that early as the game was played as far back as the 12th Century) but, rather, around the mid 19th Century there was no offside laws but two opposing views. One was that the ball could not be passed forward - progress towards the opposing goal was made by dribbling or scrummage and the other which allowed forward passes and had no offside at all.
England’s oldest football club Sheffield FC (formed 1855) had no offside, players known as "kick throughs" were positioned permanently near the opponents goal.
Cambridge University are thought to have introduced an offside law to their rules in 1848 although no copy exists, however in 1862 the Cambridge rules included the offside rule (along with 11 a-side, a match duration of an one hour and a quarter, an umpire from each side plus a neutral referee and goals 12ft across and up to 20ft high).
The offside rule decreed that a man could play a ball passed to him from behind, so long as there were three opponents between him and the goal.
In 1863 the FA, trying to consolidate the different sets of rules, began with the "no forward pass law".
"When a player has kicked the ball, any one of the same side who is nearer to the opponent's goal line is out of play, and may not touch the ball himself, nor in any way whatever prevent any other player from doing so, until he is in play; but no player is out of play when the ball is kicked off from behind the goal line."
Three years later, however, the FA adopted the Cambridge rule with various "tweaks" that were introduced during the next few years including exemption from offside at goal kicks (1866), corner kicks (1881) [how can you be offside from a corner in the first place?], offside limited to the opponents half of the field (1907), throw ins (1921).
The three player rule lasted until the start of the 1925 season when the "two player" offside rule was introduced.
In the Norfolk & Suffolk League the 1924-25 season saw 781 goals scored from 182 matches, the following season and the new offside law saw 898 goals scored from the same number of matches. In the Football League the change was more dramatic 4,700 goals were scored in 1,848 Football League games in the 1924-25 season and this rose to 6,373 goals from the same number of games in 1925-26.