Conjecture plays a prominent part in connection with the origin of this code of football, since there appears to be no authentic information regarding its inception. There is, however, reliable evidence that a form of the game was played in England in the 12th century, and it is probable that the early style of football arose from one or other of the ball games of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

For hundreds of years in England, football as a sport was banned for various reasons, and especially because it was said to interfere with the practice of archery. From that period the game passed through varying phases of popularity until in 1863 the present governing body, the Football Association, was formed, and laws were framed for its proper control. Under the Associations beneficial regime the game progressed amazingly, and to-day it can claim to be the most popular of British winter sports, and possibly of all sports.

Association football is played between opposing teams of eleven players each, namely, five forwards, three half-backs, two full-backs, and a goalkeeper. The forwards occupy positions called, respectively, outside-left, inside-left, centre-forward, inside-right and outside-right; there is a left half-back, a centre half-back and a right half-back; a left full-back and a right full-back. These players, and of course the goalkeeper, retain, with certain latitude, their respective positions on the left or right side of the field, or the central part in the case of the centre-forward and centre half-back, throughout the game.

The goalkeeper is the only member of the team who is allowed to handle the ball while in play, but even he may not do so if the ball 13 outside the penalty area, nor may he carry it for more than three steps. The other players, usually the left half-back and the right half-back, may handle the ball in certain circumstances only, that is, when it has passed out of play on either side of the field, in which event it is thrown into play again.

The general plan of the playing-field is shown in the accompanying diagram. The length of the playing-field may not be less than 100 yards nor more than 130 yards, and the minimum and maximum breadths are 50 yards and 100 jards respectively.

The goals, each consisting of wooden uprights connected by a crossbar, are 8 yards long and 8 feet high, and the goal area is marked by lines drawn from a point 6 yards from – and at right angles to – each goal-post for a distance of 6 yards, and connected by a line drawn parallel to the goal-line.

A penalty area is formed by lines drawn 18 yards from each goal-post for a distance of 18 yards at right angles to the goal-line and connected by another line drawn parallel to the goal-line. The ball is round, from 27 inches to 2S inches in circumference, and must weigh from 13 oz. To 15 oz., neither less nor more. At each corner of the field a flag is placed.

The official duration of a match is 90 minutes, unless otherwise agreed on, the teams changing ends at the termination of 45 minutes play. The winners of a match are the team scoring most goals, a goal being scored when a player has either kicked, headed, or otherwise propelled the ball into one or other of the goals, except with the arms or hands. A match is drawn, neither side winning, if both sides score an eqnal number of goals or fail to score at all.

If the ball passes out of the playing field at either end of the field it is brought into play again in either of two ways. Should one of the opposing side play the ball behind the goal-lino, it is kicked off by any one of the playera behind whose goal-line it passed – usually the goalkeeper – the ball being placed within the half of the goal area nearest to the point at which the ball left the field. This is called a goal-kick.

If, however, the ball was played behind by any one of the players whoso goal-line it is, then one of the opposing side kicks the ball into play again from within one yard of the nearest corner-flag. The player usually kicks the ball towards his opponents goal, but may kick it in any other direction should he deem it beneficial to his side.

Tripping, striking an opponent, and other dangerous play is not permitted, but charging is allowed. Tripping and other forms of dangerous play, unless deemed to have been accidental, are penalized by a free kick being awarded to the side offended against, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement took place. From a free kick awarded for any such breaking of the laws, and also for handling the ball, a goal can be scored directly from the kick, but no goal can be scored without a second player playing the ball from a free kick awarded for any other reason.

Should intentional tripping, etc., or handling occur in the penalty area, a penalty kick is awarded to the side offended against. The ball is placed on the penalty spot, which is marked opposite the centre of the goal, and 12 yards from the goal, and all the players, apart from the player taking the lack at goal and the opponents goal-keeper, must stand outside the penalty area, and at least 10 yards from where the kick is being token. The player taking the penalty kick must kick the ball forward, and may not pla – the ball again until it has been played by another member of either team. The goalkeeper must not advance from his goal-line. From a penalty kick a goal can be scored direct.

When the ball is kicked or headed out of play on either side of the field, the 35 opposing side is awarded a throw-in. The player who takes the throw-in must stand on both feet facing the field of play and throw the ball in over his head, using both hands. He may throw it in any direction he may choose to. A goal cannot be scored from a throw-in, nor may the thrower play the ball again until it has been touched or been played by another player of either side.

A player is out of play if, where a player of his own side plays the ball, there are not two or more of his opponents nearer than himself to their own goal. If he plays the ball, or attempts to do so, or should he interfere or attempt to interfere with an opponent, he is declared to be off-side, and a free kick is awarded against his team. A player cannot be off-side from a goal-kick, or a throw-in, when the ball was last played by an opponent, or when he is in his own half of the field at the time the ball was last played by a member of his own team; nor can he be adjudged off-side, whatever his position be at the time, if he is behind the ball when it was last played.

The respective captains toss a coin for choice of ends, the winner having the right to select which goal his team shall defend, or alternatively to leave the selection to his rival. The game is controlled by a referee, assisted by two linesmen.

Association football is played by both amateurs and professionals, the paid player having been recognized by the Association in 1885. There are many league and cup competitions in England, the principal of these being the Football League and Football Association Cup, popularly called the English Cup.

The Football League, which now consists of three divisions, was inaugurated in 1888, seventeen years after the Football Association Cup was first competed for. Ireland, Wales and Scotland also have their leagues and cup competitions, both for their first-class and lesser clubs, and every year international matches between the four countries are played, and also inter-league games. Another important competition in England is the Amateur Cup, a tournament limited strictly to amateur organizations.