Cambridge Rules


Dating originally from a seven hour meeting in 1848, between fourteen men representing public schools such as Eton, Harrow, Winchester and yes, Rugby, the Cambridge Rules were the basis of the newly fledged Football Association's Laws of the Game which were published in 1863.

In between times, the Cambridge Rules were revised and tightened up on a number of occasions, not least in 1862 prior to a game between Cambridge Old Etonians and Harrovians.  The rules specifically agreed for this game included 11 v 11; an umpire from each team, plus a neutral referee; goals 12 feet wide and up to 20 feet high; the game's duration to be an hour and a quarter and a three-man offside rule.

Here is a version of the Cambridge Rules which was published in October 1863.  This was just before the FA held its first meeting and two months before the FA published its first set of laws.

  1. The length of the ground shall not be more than 150 yds. and the breadth not more than 100 yds. The ground shall be marked out by posts and two posts shall be placed on each side-line at distances of 25 yds. from each goal line.
  2. The GOALS shall consist of two upright poles at a distance of 15 ft. from each other.
  3. The choice of goals and kick-off shall be determined by tossing and the ball shall be kicked off from the middle of the ground.
  4. In a match when half the time agreed upon has elapsed, the side shall change goals when the ball is next out of play. After such change or a goal obtained, the kick off shall be from the middle of the ground in the same direction as before. The time during which the game shall last and the numbers in each side are to be settled by the heads of the sides.
  5. 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 whatsoever prevent any other player from doing so.
  6. When the ball goes out of the ground by crossing the side lines, it is out of play and shall be kicked straight into the ground again from the point where it first stopped.
  7. When a player has kicked the ball beyond the opponents' goal line, whoever first touches the ball when it is on the ground with his hand, may have a FREE kick bringing the ball straight out from the goal line.
  8. No player may touch the ball behind his opponents' goal line who is behind it when the ball is kicked there.
  9. If the ball is touched down behind the goal line and beyond the line of the side-posts, the FREE kick shall be from the 25 yds. post
  10. When a player has a free-kick, no-one of his own side may be between him and his opponents' goal line and no one of the opposing side may stand within 10 yds. of him.
  11. A free kick may be taken in any manner the player may choose.
  12. A goal is obtained when the ball goes out of the ground by passing between the poles or in such a manner that it would have passed between them had they been of sufficient height.
  13. The ball, when in play may be stopped by any part of the body, but it may NOT be held or hit by the hands, arms or shoulders.
  14. ALL charging is fair; but holding, pushing with the hands, tripping up and shinning are forbidden.

These rules were agreed by a nine man committee consisting of one representative each from Shrewsbury, Marlborough and Westminster Schools, plus two each from Eton, Harrow and Rugby.



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