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The History of Football in the United Kingdom

Published: 9th April 2021 13:00


While football is the world’s most popular sport, the United Kingdom is the home to the much-loved game. According to Scottish Football Museum, the first international game took place on November 30th, 1872, between England and Scotland at the West of Scotland Cricket ground in Partick. Since then, the UK has retained its status as a leading footballing country, being the home to the globe’s most-watched domestic league, the English Premier League. But where did it all begin? Well, let’s take a trip down memory lane and delve into the history of football in the UK. 

Where Were the First Grounds Located and What Were the First Divisions? 

Although football pre-dates the 19th century, many believe that the game's modern version began during the late-1800s. During that period, the first purpose-made football stadiums came to fruition. In April 1855, Bramall Lane, the home to Sheffield United, was opened. However, as they were founded in 1889, it took a further 34 years before the Blades used the arena as their home ground. Prior to that, Sheffield FC and Sheffield Wednesday used Bramall Lane. According to Football Stadiums, the first match at the 32,000-seater venue took place in December 1862 and featured Sheffield FC and Hallam FC

However, although it opened first, Bramall Lane doesn’t hold the title of being the oldest continuously used football ground. When Preston North End’s stadium opened in 1878, the Lilywhites moved in straight away, and they continue to use the 23,400-seater arena. Moreover, Everton’s home ground, Goodison Park, which opened in August 1982, was the first purpose-built football stadium in the UK. 

Regarding the region’s oldest championship, the Football League began in 1888, with the first season being the 1888-89 campaign. The Football League First Division was the top tier of English football until 1992. After that, it became known as the Premier League. Liverpool won the most titles, clinching a record 18 championships, while Preston North End lifted the maiden First Division trophy, finishing 11 points ahead of Aston Villa. 

Leading Players of Old 

The Football League era produced some of the best players in the history of UK football. Of those, a couple of names stand out from the rest. First and foremost, few can argue that Peter Shilton wasn’t one of the leading players of the pre-Premier League period. According to WorldFootball.net, the former England goalkeeper holds the record for the most First Division appearances. In total, the Leicester-born shot-stopper featured in 848 matches. By comparison, John Hollins ranks second, and he made a combined 714 appearances for Arsenal, Chelsea, and Queens Park Rangers. Throughout his career, Shilton won one league title with Nottingham Forest in the 1977-78 campaign. 

At the other end of the field, Jimmy Greaves’ 20th-century contributions cemented his status as an all-time great of English football. It speaks volumes about the former Chelsea and Tottenham winger’s ability that he scored 357 top-flight goals during his professional career. The attacker still holds the record for the most career Football League/Premier League goals, with his nearest challenger, Dixie Dean, having 310 goals to his name, as per Free Elements. 

Since the era of Shilton and Greaves, the game has evolved drastically on the pitch. In the following years, England’s top tier provided a platform for Alan Shearer - the former England national team captain - and Wayne Rooney to hit goalscoring heights. Moreover, it also gave careers to well-known names, like David Beckham, Frank Lampard, and Steven Gerrard. 

The Game Has Come a Long Way 

Within modern-day society, football has evolved considerably since the late-19th century. Back when Bramall Lane and Deepdale opened, football fans could only view top-flight action by attending matches in person. That, of course, has since changed. Nowadays, spectators can keep up to date with the latest action from the comfort of their own homes because of various broadcasting deals and live streaming opportunities. The game's evolution has undoubtedly seen it become more consumer-friendly, which is a primary reason why football is the world’s most popular sport. 

Furthermore, the emergence of mobile live streaming has somewhat opened the door to increased betting opportunities. Many of the best UK bookies of 2021 offer live streams on selected events, as well as in-playing betting markets. The most popular sports betting providers of the 21st century seek to ensure sustained immersion, and real-time betting helps capture the high-stakes nature of professional football. At 888sport, for example, bettors can take advantage of the platform’s in-play offerings and their HD live streaming features. 

Football’s History Will Never Be Forgotten 

Although the much-loved sport has changed concerning athleticism and finances, the game’s core remains the same. Bramall Lane, Deepdale, and Goodison Park continue to be at the forefront of the United Kingdom's professional footballing scene, and players are striving to beat Greaves’ and Shilton’s records. The region has a rich footballing heritage, which doesn’t look likely to change in the near future.


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