Most games in the Middle Ages were played in chaotic conditions and had very few rules. In the 12th century football became a part of the Shrovetide celebrations and groups of boys would meet outside the city walls of London to play. Older men, fathers and wealth onlookers would arrive on horseback to watch and ‘see their inner passions aroused as they watch the action and get caught up in the fun being had by carefree adolescents’ (according to William FitzStephen).
Both Edward II and Richard II tried to ban football, especially as the game moved into the streets of London and was played in the small alleyways. With it came raised noise levels and ‘many evils’. The king was also concerned that this evil game was leading to a decline in his subjects participaing in archery, which of course had more value for military reasons.
Dispite continued royal disapproval, the game continued to be popular and the author of the Anatomie of Abuses wrote that the game of football was the cause of ‘fighting, brawling, contention, quarrel-picking, murder, homicide. And great effusion of blood, as daily experience teacheth’.
Not much has changed then…..
Dawn Denton ©