Ebenezer Cobb Morley was born in Hull in 1831. He moved to London where he worked as a solicitor. He was a keen sportsman and established Barnes Football Club in 1858.
Morley became captain of the club and in 1863 he wrote a letter to Bell's Life newspaper proposing a governing body for football. This letter resulted in a meeting taking place at the Freeman's Tavern in London in October, 1863. The clubs represented at the meeting included Barnes, Blackheath, Perceval House, Kensington School, the War Office, Crystal Palace, Forest (later known as the Wanderers), the Crusaders and No Names of Kilburn. Charterhouse also sent an observer to the meeting.
The Football Association was established at this meeting. The aim of the FA was to establish a single unifying code for football. As Percy Young, has pointed out, that the FA was a group of men from the upper echelons of British society: "Men of prejudice, seeing themselves as patricians, heirs to the doctrine of leadership and so law-givers by at least semi-divine right."
Ebenezer Cobb Morley was elected as the secretary of the FA. At a meeting on 24th November, 1863, Morley presented a draft set of 23 rules. These were based on an amalgamation of rules played by public schools, universities and football clubs. This included provision for running with the ball in the hands if a catch had been taken "on the full" or on the first bounce. Players were allowed to "hack the front of the leg" of the opponent when they were running with the ball. Two of the proposed rules caused heated debate:
IX. A player shall be entitled to run with the ball towards his adversaries' goal if he makes a fair catch, or catches the ball on the first bound; but in case of a fair catch, if he makes his mark (to take a free kick) he shall not run.
X. If any player shall run with the ball towards his adversaries' goal, any player on the opposite side shall be at liberty to charge, hold, trip or hack him, or to wrest the ball from him, but no player shall be held and hacked at the same time.
Some members objected to these two rules as they considered them to be "uncivilised". Others believed that charging, hacking and tripping were important ingredients of the game. One supporter of hacking argued that without it "you will do away with the courage and pluck of the game, and it will be bound to bring over a lot of Frenchmen who would beat you with a week's practice." The main defender of hacking was F. W. Campbell, the representative from Blackheath, who considered this aspect of the game was vital in developing "masculine toughness". Campbell added that "hacking is the true football" and he resigned from the FA when the vote went against him (13-4). He later helped to form the rival Rugby Football Union. On 8th December, 1863, the FA published the Laws of Football.
1. The maximum length of the ground shall be 200 yards, the maximum breadth shall be 100 yards, the length and breadth shall be marked off with flags; and the goal shall be defined by two upright posts, eight yards apart, without any tape or bar across them.
2. A toss for goals shall take place, and the game shall be commenced by a place kick from the centre of the ground by the side losing the toss for goals; the other side shall not approach within 10 yards of the ball until it is kicked off.
3. After a goal is won, the losing side shall be entitled to kick off, and the two sides shall change goals after each goal is won.
4. A goal shall be won when the ball passes between the goal-posts or over the space between the goal-posts (at whatever height), not being thrown, knocked on, or carried.
5. When the ball is in touch, the first player who touches it shall throw it from the point on the boundary line where it left the ground in a direction at right angles with the boundary line, and the ball shall not be in play until it has touched the ground.
6. 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 whatever prevent any other player from doing so, until he is in play; but no player is out of play when the ball is kicked off from behind the goal line.
7. In case the ball goes behind the goal line, if a player on the side to whom the goal belongs first touches the ball, one of his side shall he entitled to a free kick from the goal line at the point opposite the place where the ball shall be touched. If a player of the opposite side first touches the ball, one of his side shall be entitled to a free kick at the goal only from a point 15 yards outside the goal line, opposite the place where the ball is touched, the opposing side standing within their goal line until he has had his kick.
8. If a player makes a fair catch, he shall be entitled to a free kick, providing he claims it by making a mark with his heel at once; and in order to take such kick he may go back as far as he pleases, and no player on the opposite side shall advance beyond his mark until he has kicked.
9. No player shall run with the ball.
10. Neither tripping nor hacking shall be allowed, and no player shall use his hands to hold or push his adversary.
11. A player shall not be allowed to throw the ball or pass it to another with his hands.
12. No player shall be allowed to take the ball from the ground with his hands under any pretence whatever while it is in play.
13. No player shall be allowed to wear projecting nails, iron plates, or gutta-percha on the soles or heels of his boots.
Ebenezer Cobb Morley held the post of secretary of the Football Association until 1866. He continued playing for Barnes and in 1866 he scored in the first representative match, between the clubs of London and Sheffield on 31st March 1866. The following year he was appointed as president of the FA.
Morley also established the Barnes and Mortlake Regatta for which he was also secretary (1862-80). He served on the Surrey County Council for Barnes (1903-19) and was a Justice of the Peace.
Ebenezer Cobb Morley died in 1924.
© John Simkin, May 2013