Description of the Rules of Football as played at Winchester College (1863)

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The rules of football as played at Winchester College  (1863) 

First section ("The Winchester Rules") is taken from a November 14, 1863 newspaper article. Second section ("The Winchester Goals"), having been inadvertently omitted from the first article, is taken from an article published one week later, on November 21, 1863.

The Winchester Rules[edit]

Football at Winchester is played in a very small ground, about ninety yards in length and twenty-five yards in breadth.

Though the game became popular there at a very early period, and has continued to be so, the rules have never been printed, and the copy now before us is a written one.

The ground is defined by rows of hurdles, inside which, at about two yards distance, a rope is stretched three feet from the ground. This prevents any awkward struggles against the fence.

They divide their players into "ups" and "behinds," opening the game with a "hot," very much of the same character as the Eton bully, the players placing their hands upon their knees stooping down, and, the ball having been placed in the centre between the two sides, endeavouring to force their way through their opponents' ranks, as in the case of the Eton bully; this "hot" is also had recourse to whenever the ball is kicked over the hurdles beyond the side lines.

When a goal has been obtained at Winchester, the losing side is entitled to an uninterrupted kick at a distance of about ten yards from its own goal. If, however, from this kick the ball passes the adversaries' goal, it does not count, as there must be, before a goal can be scored, the kick-off, return kick, and a third one.

Catching the ball fairly from the foot, or rebounding from the person of one of the players, is allowed, and entitles the player to a run of three yards and a kick, but his opponents may set up on him and endeavour to take the ball from him. A rather novel feature is introduced in this rule, which is, that if the player escapes from them he may run on, carrying the ball so long as his opponents follow him. Directly they stop he must do so, and, taking his three yards, kick the ball. If an opponent gets the ball from him, he has the same privileges as the original catcher.

There are exceptions to these privileges attending a catch. A ball caught from a kick after goal, may only be placed on the ground, and a rebound from the hurdle or rope is not a fair catch.

"Tagging" is one player on a side kicking a ball after it has been kicked by another of his side, and before it has been kicked or touched by an opponent. It is not allowed, and a goal obtained by such play would not count.

When the ball has been driven behind the goal-line in this or any other way which disqualifies, it is brought to the edge and kicked off by the opposite side.

A rule of the game says a player may not kick the ball higher than the average height of the shoulders, or five feet, unless he kicks the ball while free of the ground.

No player is allowed to be in advance of the ball, lying in wait for it. If chance places him in such a position, he must not kick it or prevent the opposing players from doing so. There is an exception to this rule, which is, in the case of a kick-off after goal, when the players on the side taking the kick are allowed to be in advance to prevent their adversaries from scoring another goal by returning it at once.

Kicking, striking, or holding, except when a player has the ball in his hand, is unlawful.

A goal is saved, that is, not counted, if an opposing player can touch it as it passes, and then, leaping up, alight with one foot beyond the goal-line.

The Winchester Goals[edit]

We should while speaking last week of the Winchester game[1] have stated that their goals consist of the entire breadth of the ground, and have done so for twelve years now,[2] the goal-sticks having been abandoned about that time. There is thus a clear goal of about twenty-five yards beyond which the ball has to pass, under the conditions stated in our last chaper.[3] This novel arrangement does away with all the questions of touch in goal, rouges, and kicks off after the ball has been driven behind goal, that occur in other games. A knowledge of this feature will explain their rule disallowing kicking the ball above the height of the shoulder, unless it be kicked while in the air, and will also explain the law which provides that the goal shall not count if a player near the goal-line can touch the ball as it passes, and then, leaping up, or having leapt up to touch it, can alight beyond the line.


  1. This refers to the first section, "The Winchester Rules", which was published one week earlier than the second section, "The Winchester Goals". (Wikisource contributor note)
  2. This article was published in November 1863, so the time referred to was twelve years earlier than this (approximately 1851). (Wikisource contributor note)
  3. "our last chapter" refers to the preceding section: "The Winchester Rules". (Wikisource contributor note)

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1926.

The author died in 1924, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.