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63129.  Fri Mar 31, 2006 12:43 pm Reply with quote

Why do we have half-time in football?

F: For refreshment

A: To change the rules.

Before the mid 1800s, English football was a game in crisis.
Due to land enclosures in the countryside and widespread industrial building in cities, people were unable to play football, which requires large green fields.

One community untouched by this problem were the English private schools, where football flourished due to their vast playing fields.
However, there was a problem. As there were no rule book, different schools played by different rules. At Rugby, for example, the boys caught and ran with the ball between the 1820s and 1840s. Although that game would later become Rugby Football, the game they played was still called football.

The solution to these varying styles of play was to play half a match by one side’s rules and the second half by the others, and this is how the modern notion of half-time evolved.

Nevertheless, most players found this unsatisfactory so on October 26th 1863 several former public school boys from a range of clubs met at the Freemason’s Tavern in Lincoln’s Inn Fields to thrash out standardised rules.

At the end of the meeting, it was announced that these clubs would form into a group called the Football Association. It took several more meetings to come to an agreement, but on December 8th, they finally settled on 13 rules, which famously outlawed handling the ball. Soon afterwards Rugby Football devised and agreed its own rules.

There are various theories of how the beautiful game began, the least beautiful of which is that it started in the Roman city of Chester where Anglo-Saxons kicked around the heads of conquered Danes.

63136.  Fri Mar 31, 2006 1:05 pm Reply with quote

We like this - is there a source that we can cite for the half-time thing? And are we saying that no game had a half-time before this?

63210.  Sat Apr 01, 2006 4:15 am Reply with quote

I think this was bunter's source:,,8802-2090896,00.html

But I am unable to find anywhere else that agrees. I think I will e-mail the FA, they've been quite helpful with me in the past.

63218.  Sat Apr 01, 2006 5:01 am Reply with quote

That does seem fairly convincing, though, and the source is Melvyn Bragg, which is good enough for me.

63221.  Sat Apr 01, 2006 5:11 am Reply with quote

I'm not sure I'd trust an Arsenal fan.


I've e-mailed the FA's in-house historian anyway.

63608.  Tue Apr 04, 2006 1:16 am Reply with quote

This from David Barber, the FA's historian:

Hi James,

I've never come across that theory!

Everything I've read - and I've checked a few histories this morning - suggests that the purpose of "half of the time" (as it was originally called) was to allow teams to change ends.

This was even true in "Eton Rules", "Winchester Rules" etc before The FA's attempt to unify all the various codes in 1863.

Teams would change ends after each goal in those days - but some games, of course, would be goalless. So, in the interest of fairness in, say, unusual weather conditions, teams would always change ends at half-time.

We are often asked why a team has eleven players or why a game lasts for ninety minutes. It has always been difficult to pinpoint the time of change to those stipulations, because these matters used to be "settled by the heads of the sides".


FA Historian

Make of that what you will.

63614.  Tue Apr 04, 2006 4:52 am Reply with quote

I’ve always heard this story - about changing rules at half time - and casually believed it (having no knowledge of football). But when you stop to think about it ... doesn’t “so that they could have a breather” sound more likely? In fact, I’ll bet you anything I know what the real reason was: a smoke break. Virtually all top-level sportsmen, in every sport, smoked non-stop until the 1970s or 80s. You couldn't really expect the lads to run around for ninety minutes without the benefit of a fag to clear their chests. And, of course, they’d need a pee because of all the beer or claret they’d been drinking.

63631.  Tue Apr 04, 2006 7:07 am Reply with quote

Yes, I've asked the picture researchers to try to find an old photo of the players standing around having a fag at half time, which would be amusing enough to justify the question even if we have to approach it from a slightly different angle, I think.

63632.  Tue Apr 04, 2006 7:08 am Reply with quote

Especially if one of them is smoking a pipe.

63643.  Tue Apr 04, 2006 8:05 am Reply with quote

And especially if she's the goalie.

63663.  Tue Apr 04, 2006 9:23 am Reply with quote

63762.  Wed Apr 05, 2006 4:35 am Reply with quote

Long hair and lipstick: just about sums up soccer, don't it?

63802.  Wed Apr 05, 2006 6:32 am Reply with quote

63809.  Wed Apr 05, 2006 7:01 am Reply with quote

in 1846 in Rugby the first truly standardised rules for an organised game were laid down. ... These ... permitted kicking an opponent's legs below the knees, with the reserve that he should not be held still whilst his shins were being worked on.

63823.  Wed Apr 05, 2006 7:48 am Reply with quote

Not exactly the most extensive study ever, but...

6% of football injuries caused by overzealous celebrations?

Exaggerated celebrations after making a goal, such as sliding, piling up, and tackling a teammate when racing away, can result in serious injury. In addition to general measures for preventing soccer injuries, coaches and team physicians should teach self-control and behavior modification to minimize the risk of such injuries. More restrictive rules, which penalize such behavior, may assist in the prevention of score-celebration injuries.


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