Laws of Football as played at Rugby School (1845)

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The Laws of Football as played at Rugby School (1845)
Rugby School

Laws of football as played at Rugby School, drawn up by William Delafield Arnold, W. W. Shirley and Frederick Hutchins, and aproved by the "Levee of the Sixth" on August 28th, 1845.[1] This is the first written set of rules of any style of football known to have been published.[2]

2368502The Laws of Football as played at Rugby School1845Rugby School






On the 28th of August, 1845,

As the



At Rugby School.




That only in cases of extreme emergency, and only by the permission of the heads of the sides, shall any one be permitted to leave the Close, after calling over, till the game be finished, and consequently, that all dressing take place before that time.

That the punishment for absenting oneself from a match, without any real and well-grounded reason, be left to the discretion of any Præpostor.

That whenever a match is going to be played, the School shall be informed of it by the Head of the School in such manner as he shall think fit, some time before dinner on the day in question.

That no unnecessary delay take place in the commencement of the matches, but as soon as calling over be finished, the game be commenced.

That the old custom, that no more than two matches take place in the same week be strictly adhered to, of which, one must always take place on Saturday, without some strong cause to the contrary.

That all fellows not following up be strictly prohibited from playing any game in goal, or otherwise conducting themselves in any way which shall be deemed prejudicial to the interests of their side.

That in consequence of the great abuse in the system of giving notes to excuse fagging, &c. and otherwise exempt fellows from attendance at the matches, no notes shall be received which are not signed by one of the Medical Officers of the School, and countersigned by the Head of the House, or by a Master when the case specified is not illness.

That all fellows at Tutor during calling over, or otherwise absent, shall be obliged to attend as soon after as possible.

That the Head of the School take care that these resolutions be generally known among the School, and as far as the case may be they shall apply equally to the big sides.

That Old Rugbæans shall be allowed to play at the matches of Football, not without the consent, however, of the two heads of the sides.



Fair Catch, is a catch direct from the foot.


Off side. A player is off his side if the ball has touched one of his own side behind him, until the other side touch it.


First of his side, is the player nearest the ball on his side.


A knock on, as distinguished from a throw on, consists in striking the ball on with the arm or hand.


Try at goal. A ball touched between the goal-posts may be brought up to either of them, but not between. The ball when punted must be within, when caught without the line of goal: the ball must be place-kicked and not dropped, even though it touch two hands, and it must go over the bar and between the posts without having touched the dress or person of any player. No goal may be kicked from touch.


Kick off from middle, must be a place.


Kick out must not be from more than ten yards of goal if a place-kick, not more than twenty-five yards, if a punt, drop, or knock on.


Running in is allowed to any player on his side, provided he does not take the ball off the ground, or take it through touch.


Charging is fair, in case of a place-kick, as soon as a ball has touched the ground; in case of a kick from a catch, as soon as the player's foot has left the ground, and not before.


Off side. No player being off his side shall kick the ball in any case whatever.


No player being off his side shall hack, charge, run in, touch the ball in goal, or interrupt a catch.


A player when off his side having a fair catch is entitled to a fair knock on, and in no other case.


A player being off his side shall not touch the ball on the ground, except in touch.


A player being off his side cannot put on his side himself, or any other player, by knocking or throwing on the ball.


Touch. A player may not in any case run with the ball in or through touch.


A player standing up to another may hold one arm only, but may hack him or knock the ball out of his hand if he attempt to kick it, or go beyond the line of touch.


No agreement between two players to send the ball straight out shall be allowed on big side.


A player having touched the ball straight for a tree, and touched the tree with it, may drop from either side if he can, but the opposite side may oblige him to go to his own side of the tree.


A player touching the ball off his side must throw it straight out.


All matches are drawn after five days, but after three if no goal has been kicked.


Two big-side balls must always be in the Close during a match or big-side.


The discretion of sending into goal rests with the heads of sides or houses.[3]


No football shall be played between the goals till the Sixth match.


Heads of sides, or two deputies appointed by them, are the sole arbiters of all disputes.


No strangers, in any match, may have a place kick at goal.


No hacking with the heel, or above the knee, is fair.


No player but the first on his side, may be hacked, except in a scrummage.


No player may wear projecting nails or iron plates on the heels or soles of his shoes or boots.


No player may take the ball out of the Close.


No player may stop the ball with anything but his own person.


Nobody may wear cap or jersey without leave from the head of his house.


At a big-side, the two players highest in the School shall toss up.


The Island is all in goal.


At little sides the goals shall be four paces wide, and in kicking a goal the ball must pass out of the reach of any player present.


Three Præpostors constitute a big-side.


If a player take a punt when he is not entitled to it, the opposite side may take a punt or drop, without running if the ball has not touched two hands.


No player may be held, unless he is himself holding the ball.

As these Rules have now become the Laws of the game, it is hoped that all who take an interest in Football will contribute all in their power to enforce their observance.


  1. Macrory, Jenny (1991). Running with the Ball: The Birth of Rugby Football. London: HarperCollins. p. 93. ISBN 0002184028.  (Wikisource contributor note)
  2. Curry, Graham (2001). Football: A Study in Diffusion. Leicester: University of Leicester. p. 28.  (Wikisource contributor note)
  3. Deputies may be allowed to act by the head of the School-side, at the Sixth match.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1929.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1924, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 99 years or less. This work may 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.

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