The Industrial Revolution and the Development of Football

Richa Jindal, Class 12, Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Mumbai

The different sectors of an economy can be grouped into the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. The primary sector refers to agriculture and handicraft work, the secondary sector refers to machine-based production and manufacturing and the tertiary sector refers to skill-based services such as education, healthcare and finance.

Arising in Britain, industrialisation or the Industrial Revolution was the transition of economies from the primary sector to the secondary sector. This shift from an agrarian-based economy to a machine-based economy caused the labour force to shift from the countryside to towns and cities, which changed the way they spent their free time as towns and cities did not have traditional modes of entertainment.

Following the 1850s, the working classes were given half Saturdays off in order to help them live healthier lives and temporarily escape harsh working conditions, which would increase their productivity at work. This structured free time was considered to be a reward for the workers’ hard work.

Now, working-class people lost their traditional sources of entertainment and resorted to dancing halls and bars, which the clergymen disapproved of and hence introduced sports as an alternative pastime. Football gained popularity because the working class was desperate for new entertainment and because football brought about a sense of individual and collective accomplishment and cradled a sense of comradeship in a big city.

Interestingly, due to the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the Feminist Movement, since women began to start working and take up responsibilities that were allotted to men, men sought comfort in football to express their emotions due to their shifting role and identity in society.

However, football soon became more than just a mere mode of entertainment and expression when industrialists realised the importance of the sport. Initial fanbases were formed from individual industries that supported a team or were a founding stock of a club. For example, the West Ham United FC originated from a workers’ strike. As a result of the growing importance of football and the increasing number of competitive working-class clubs, the payment of money to workers to compensate for time off work was introduced, thereby introducing professionalism into the sport. 

Furthermore, to compensate for the time that went into football, which yielded no financial rewards, and the success of the FA Cup where numerous people were willing to pay to watch games, leading clubs began to charge an entry fee to spectators who wished to watch a game. As football developed through these years, the rules became uniform and the sport soon earned a place in educational curriculums.

The incorporation of football in the national curriculum and the emphasis given to it in school and church resulted in the establishment and standardisation of its rules. Due to the development of transportation technologies such as the railway and its infrastructure, the new rules of football spread easily and made it easier for teams to compete outside their respective cities.

Considering the social importance of football and the growing economic and industrial importance of the game, the Victorian period initiated the construction of gardens and playing fields, which catalysed the popularity of the sport as now there were designated spaces to play instead of playing on the streets. Thus, as the economic, political, and social significance of football began to grow, more facilities, rules and customs began to take birth to promote and support the growth and sustenance of the game.

REFLECTION: Football Fever

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