The Football Association (FA) is searching for the living descendants of the founding fathers of soccer — the eight men who created the rules of the game and the world’s first association 150 years ago.
Relatively little is known about some of the eight, who met at the Freemasons Tavern in London’s Covent Garden on Oct. 26, 1863, to codify the first 13 laws of the game which gave rise to the global spread of the sport.
The FA is searching both within Britain and internationally for their descendants, with cultural historian Jane Clayton from the International Football Institute in Lancashire leading the hunt.
The eight men at that first meeting were Ebenezer Cobb Morley (1831-1924), Charles William Alcock (1842-1907), Arthur Pember (1835-1886), Francis Maule Campbell (1843-1920), John Forster Alcock (1841-1910), Herbert Thomas Steward (1839-1915), George Twizell Wawn (1840-1914) and James Turner, whose dates of birth and death are not currently known.
Charles Alcock was the man who created the FA Cup, which began in the 1871-1872 season and was based on an old knockout game he had played at the public school Harrow, while Morley was the first secretary of the FA.
Pember, a barrister, was the first president of the FA from 1863 to 1867 before he emigrated to the US in 1868 and worked as a journalist for the New York Times and wrote a number of travel books, before living in Australia and New Zealand.
Living descendants that can be identified and located will be sent an invitation to a special ceremony at Wembley in October where their ancestors are to be honored.
Clayton said: “I have been scratching the layers away and we are trying to build up a picture of some of these people we do not know much about.”
“It is impossible to know how many direct living descendants there are after 150 years and two world wars, but we hope to make some real progress by making the search public. Some people might not even realize they are related and could have a very nice surprise if they look back at their own family histories,” she said. “This is an important historical search. We know so much about people who were pioneers in their chosen fields, but surprisingly, little is known about the individuals responsible for gifting us the most popular sport in the world.”
“We have initiated the historical search and whilst information is limited, we have a good base upon which to work. We are confident that by October, through genealogical research and the public’s help we can trace some of the living descendants of the founding fathers of football,” Clayton said.
The original 1863 FA Minute Book, written in Morley’s hand, contains the first laws of the game and such is its historical significance it has been labeled among the most important books of all time.
Television presenter Melvyn Bragg included it alongside the Magna Carta, On The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin and The First Folio by Shakespeare as one of 12 books that changed the world.
England manager Roy Hodgson said: “We should all recognize not only the sporting contribution that these men have made, but the impact that football has had in this country and around the world.”
“Football is part of the fabric of our society and without the vision of these eight men 150 years ago, it may not have come to exist. It is only right that we honor the founding fathers of this nation’s favorite game,” he said.