It is impossible to trace the very beginning of soccer until now, not only because it is such a long and complicated history, but also because the lines are so blurred between what we now know as rugby and what we know as association football (the official name for soccer or football). We call it soccer here in the United States, but that name was actually created in Britain as an abbreviation for ‘association football’. The name was used predominantly in Britain in the mid-1800’s until ‘football’ became a more popular name. The term stuck in the USA, however. (Origin)
The first incarnation of what we now know as soccer began in England in 1863 when the English Football Association (FA or English FA) was created. Upon the creation of the FA the first rules of the game were also created. There was a lot of debate between which set of rules should be used in that time; one of the first sets of rules ever created were called the Sheffield Rules, created by the world’s first actual football club Sheffield FC, but these were rejected by the English FA and modified. Soccer has become progressively less physical over time. At the sport’s beginning, the offside rule meant that all players must be behind the ball at all times and there was no red and yellow card rule until the 1970 World Cup (FIFA History).
The English FA still exists today and is the governing body of English soccer. A governing body enforces policies, rules, and regulates officiating, promotion, relegation, and many other aspects of the game. There are Football Associations in every country that has any kind of system of soccer leagues, the governing body in the United States is simply known as US Soccer.
Obviously there has always been a hierarchy of soccer in England since the FA was created and individual clubs began facing others, but the English Premier League, or EPL, as we know it now wasn’t created until 1992. The Premier League may be the world’s most popular league. One of the most exciting seasons in the league was the 2011-12 season in which Manchester City won the title over rivals Manchester United to go ahead on points at the last minute of a match against QPR on the last day of the season. Sergio Aguero scored a stoppage time winner to make the score 3-2 and City went on to win their first ever EPL title. In the 2003-04 season Arsenal FC became the only Premier League team to go through an entire season without a loss (EPL History).
Soccer being such a free-flowing and open game makes it very easy to change perceptions of how it can and should be played. This has caused the approach to it throughout history to change, which makes for an interesting conversation about how the game has changed so much from the rules it began from in Sheffield, UK.
- Hiskey, D. (2010, June 23) The Origin of the Word ‘Soccer’. Today I Found Out. Retrieved from: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/06/the-origin-of-the-word-soccer/
- Federation Internationale de Football Association (1994-2014). History of Football. Fifa. Retrieved from: http://www.fifa.com/classicfootball/history/
- English Premier League (1992-2014). History of the Premier League. Barclays Premier League. Retrieved from: http://www.premierleague.com/content/premierleague/en-gb/about/history.html
The entire soccer world descended upon London and Wembley Stadium for the final of one of the world’s most zealous, enthralling, and absorbing competitions, the Champions League final. 2014’s final caused a massive buzz around a brand new philosophy of building an organization that had finally come to practical fruition in front of nearly 120,000 people. Two German teams in the Champions League final, Bayern Munich’s dynasty finally on the verge of winning a Treble were pitted against the underdog Borussia Dortmund, whose genius manager Jurgen Klopp turned them from a mid-table Bundesliga team to a powerhouse of German football and fierce competitor in European competition. While the match ended 2-1 in Bayern’s favor and Dortmund’s story couldn’t be properly completed, the game itself was an example of how expert ownership created prowess on the field. In Germany, supporter-first and efficient ownership has recently brought German clubs closer to goals they never would have been expected to achieve. Germany’s business model has been vital to German clubs’ success in recent years in both growing the Bundesliga and making individual German clubs more competitive.
One long-term reason the perception of German success has changed so much is Germany’s youth academies. The academy system was overhauled by the German Football Association in 2000, requiring clubs to set up youth teams, stadiums, and leagues in order to create new talent (Artist Academies). As a result of this, the Bundesliga has gone from being 60 percent foreign to 60 percent German, an incredible statistic that shows operation is more efficient, as foreign players typically demand higher wages than domestic ones. The article in The Independent further explains that Bayern Munich generously loaned a bankrupt Borussia Dortmund a very large sum of money in 2005. Just 9 years after German football’s revolution, the two clubs fight for Europe’s biggest prize.
Another reason German ownership has been so revolutionary is its inclusion of supporters and emotionally-invested controlling owners in the running of their organizations. Borussia Dortmund is yet another perfect example of this, although Bayern Munich and several other Bundesliga clubs have impressive followings (Champions League). As soccer economics expert Stefan Szymanski explains in his blog, German clubs were not allowed to be owned by corporations until 1998, and in 2000 the German FA passed the 50+1 rule that required current club members to remain in control of their clubs (Less Debt). German clubs have kept their fans involved by offering memberships to the club with tickets at lower prices that come with.
Szymanski also points out several issues with the German model and its perceived success. Although German teams are packing stadiums, the numbers are skewed when compared to other leagues because the Bundesliga requires team to play less games than other leagues. Profits are another issue. Even though Bundesliga clubs are pulling themselves out of debt more easily than before, ticket prices being lower create less profit for clubs than England’s high prices (Champions League). Szymanski reports that the English Premier League consistently reports 50 percent more profit than the German Bundesliga.
Light has recently been thrown onto Germany’s recent success, and we have explored that it is not an accident. Ingenuous ownership and revolutionary reform has brought parity within Germany and prowess to once debt-ridden clubs.
- Pitt-Brooke, J. (2013, April 26) Champions League success: How artist academies created joy in Germany. The Independent. Retrieved from: http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/european/champions-league-success-how-artist-academies-created-joy-in-germany-8588969.html
- Szymanski, S. (2013). The Champions League Final and the German football business model part II. Soccernomics. Retrieved from: http://www.soccernomics-agency.com/?p=457
- Szymanski, S. (2010, November 5). Less debt- But is German soccer’s business model really on the ball? London Evening Standard. Retrieved from: http://www.standard.co.uk/business/markets/less-debt–but-is-german-soccers-business-model-really-on-the-ball-6532848.html
If you’ve watched the popular movie The Damned United, you know the story of how the bad-tempered yet confident Brian Clough brought Derby County up two divisions in the English leagues (this was before the Premier League) and won the first division only to let his ego get the best of him and destroy a dynamic friendship with Peter Taylor, his trusty assistant at Derby, and send Leeds United into failure at his new job.
The film made it seem so simple, Clough and Taylor were geniuses of their time when it came to signing players back when wages were just as high as a career that required a high school diploma. Now professional athletes all over the world make millions or even billions, and it is well-documented that soccer players in England were capped at a very low wage in the beginnings of the sport. In the last 30 or 40 years the sport has undoubtedly become much richer, but it is interesting to attempt to understand what that means for the future of the game. Wages are one of the biggest changes the game has made. In 1957, a top England player would have earned just £1,677 in entire year (Footballers’ Wages). In 2011 Carlos Tevez signed a new contract that would pay him £250,000 per week. Recently Manchester United veteran Wayne Rooney signed a contract worth £300,000 per week (Wayne Rooney).
An article in the BBC by David Bond explains how English citizens worry about how soccer changes (Has Football Changed for the Better?). While stadiums are more welcoming than in the era of danger and hooliganism that the 1980’s were subjected to, ticket prices have skyrocketed and lavishly-paid players often make terrible role models for young people. The article contrasts Germany’s model of ownership with the English one. In England, a club can be owned by any one person, which makes the game much more expensive and “treats fans as clients”, as the chief executive of Borussia Dortmund, a powerful club in Germany, puts it. Clubs like Borussia Dortmund involve fans in electing club presidents and making other decisions about how to run the team.
The game has also changed on the field, not just in fans and players’ wallets. Perhaps as a result of the sport growing richer, playing styles and even equipment have made somewhat controversial changes. One of the most controversial changes is diving. In the new era of soccer players have resorted to simulation and embellishment to win a call from the referee. An article in football.co.uk explains these changes and their root of money (Old School). Every facet of the game, from fashion to tactics to individual skill, has changed as a result of soccer becoming more money-fueled.
- Bond, D. (2013, April 29) Has Football Changed for the Better? BBC. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/22314015
- Bailey, L. (2013, November 14) The Old School vs. The New School: How football has changed. Football. Retrieved from: http://www.football.co.uk/manchester_united/the_old_school_vs_the_new_school__how_football_has_changed_rss4488176.shtml
- McNulty, P. (2014, February 21) Wayne Rooney: Man Utd Striker Signs New 300,000-a-week Deal. BBC. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/26287482
- The Telegraph (2011, January 18) How footballers’ wages have changed over the years: in numbers. The Telegraph. Retrieved from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/competitions/premier-league/8265851/How-footballers-wages-have-changed-over-the-years-in-numbers.html