Football Association president, HRH Prince William, celebrated the achievements of football's 'Founding Fathers' as dignitaries gathered at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London to mark the 150th anniversary of the meeting where the Laws of the Game were first drawn up.
"It was in this very place 150 years ago that a group of men sat down together in a pub and, although they did not realise it, they took one of the greatest steps in global sporting history," the Prince explained as he addressed the gala event. "They took a pastime, a popular hobby among young men, and did what comes naturally to human – well, perhaps British – nature: they gave it some rules. Not too many. Just 13 rules in all, which were written down in a rule book, revised over a short period of time, and then shared among the football clubs that made up the new Football Association.
"We take it for granted that association football is a world sport, but it needn't have been that way. The sport would have probably remained the preserve of a few schools and a handful of clubs, perhaps splintering to a number of different versions of the game – if it were not for the rules laid down that evening. That act of getting together and forming the FA, and crucially giving it simple rules, allowed the game to become the global phenomenon which it is today."
UEFA President Michel Platini and his FIFA counterpart Joseph S Blatter were among the guests at the Grand Connaught Rooms, which stands on the site of the Freemasons' Tavern, where the FA's 'Founding Fathers' – Ebenezer Cobb Morley, Arthur Pember, Charles William Alcock, Francis Maule Campbell, John Forster Alcock, Herbert Thomas Steward, George Twizell Wawn and James Turner – came together on 26 October 1863 to lay down the first definitive set of rules for the game.
"We are all privileged to spend our days involved in football, to wake up in the morning and go to bed at night with football in our lives. We sincerely owe a debt of thanks to Ebenezer Morley and his contemporaries for the work they did 150 years ago," FA chairman Greg Dyke said. "But with that involvement comes responsibility, responsibility for ensuring that football continues in good health, for ensuring it continues to thrive."
On Monday, over 20 descendents of the 'Founding Fathers' met at Wembley Stadium to unveil a plaque commemorating their ancestors' achievement. "In terms of historical significance, the eight Founding Fathers of football should be placed alongside other great pioneers of this nation," FA general secretary Alex Horne said. "The FA is delighted that in its 150th year we have been able to identify living descendants and honour their forefathers at what is now the home of English football, Wembley."
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