David Beckham, an English retired professional footballer with a net worth of US$300 million
David Beckham, an English retired professional footballer with a net worth of US$300 million

Association football is the world's most popular sport and is worth US$600 billion worldwide.[1] By the end of the 20th century it was played by over 250 million players in over 200 countries.[2][3][4][5][6] Around the world, the sport is played at a professional level by professional footballers, and millions of people regularly go to football stadiums to follow their favourite football teams,[1] while billions more watch the sport on television or on the internet.[7] Football has the highest global television audience in sport.[8] The sport had amateur origins and evolved into the modern professional competition.


Association football was first codified in 1863, with the formation of the Football Association (FA) in England. At this time the sport was played mainly by public schools, or teams with public school roots, and amateurism was the norm. This remained the case until the 1880s, when working-class teams began to vie for supremacy. Blackburn Olympic, a team composed mainly of factory workers, won the 1883 FA Cup Final.[9] They were the first working-class team to win the competition since its inception in 1870.[10] Though professionalism was not permitted, Olympic arranged jobs for their players, and supplemented their income with additional payments, a common occurrence among Lancashire clubs.[11]

In 1880, a dispute began between the FA and Bolton Wanderers (founded in 1874), who had unofficially offered professional terms to Scottish players. Scottish players who played in England professionally were known as the Scotch Professors. The subject remained a heated one through the 1880s, directly or indirectly involving many other clubs besides Bolton. Their neighbours, Blackburn Rovers (founded in 1875) and Darwen (founded in 1870) had also signed Scottish players on a 'shamateur' basis using side jobs, either real or fabricated, to facilitate payment. The FA espoused the ideal of amateurism promoted by the likes of Corinthian F.C. from whom the phrase “Corinthian Spirit” came into being.[12]

The differences between the amateur idealists from southern England and the increasingly professionalised teams from northern industrial towns came to a head in 1884. After Preston North End won an FA Cup match against Upton Park, the Londoners protested, seeking the result to be overturned due to the presence of paid players in the Preston ranks. This sparked a series of events which threatened to split the FA. Preston withdrew from the competition, and fellow Lancashire clubs Burnley and Great Lever followed suit. The protest gathered momentum to the point where more than 30 clubs, predominantly from the north, announced that they would set up a rival British Football Association if the FA did not permit professionalism.[13] 18 months later the FA relented, and in July 1885 professionalism was formally legalised in England.[14][15]

Though English clubs employed professionals, the Scottish Football Association continued to forbid the practice, withdrawing their clubs from the FA Cup in protest against the development, temporarily in 1885 then permanently in 1887.[16] Consequently, many Scottish players migrated southward (although it also meant they were forbidden from playing for the Scotland national team). At first the FA put residential restrictions in place to prevent this trend, but these were abandoned by 1889.[17] In the inaugural season of the Football League (1888–89), champions Preston North End fielded ten Scottish professionals.[18]

One of the teams to benefit from the move of Scottish players to England was Sunderland, located close to the border. The club went professional in 1885, and the club recruited a number of Scotsmen the same year, their first internationally capped players.[19] Founder James Allan left Sunderland in 1888 because of his dislike for the "professionalism" that had been creeping into the club, and subsequently formed Sunderland Albion.[20] The wealthy mine owner Samuel Tyzack funded the professional advancement of the club, often pretending to be a priest while scouting for players in Scotland, as Sunderland's recruitment policy enraged many Scottish fans who supported the amateur ethos. In fact, the entire Sunderland lineup in the 1895 World Championship was made up of Scottish players.[21][22] On 5 April 1890, the Football League's founder, William McGregor, labelled Sunderland as "the team of all talents" stating that they had "a talented man in every position".[23]

Preston North End, the first English team to win the Championship and Cup "double" in 1889, did so with a majority of their team being made up of Scottish players. In the first season, they went undefeated both in the league and the FA Cup, which led to them being known as "the Invincibles."[24][25]

The Scottish Football League launched on an amateur basis in 1890 but the nation's most famous club and founders of both the passing and international game, Queen's Park, initially refused to participate as they predicted that professionalism would follow. This suspicion proved correct, with bans issued to clubs for making payments or playing against others who had, and clear indicators that the likes of newly-formed Celtic's accumulation of some of the best talent in the country involved unofficial financial incentives. Faced with this, the Scottish FA lifted its ban on professionalism in 1893, whereupon 560 players were registered as professionals;[26] however, despite the distinction of status between the home players and the England-based players having been removed, it was another three years before the SFA allowed 'Anglos' to play for the national team, prompted by poor results in the British Home Championship. Queen's Park remained outside the league until 1900, and remained committed to the amateur principles even after entering into competition with professional clubs.[27][28] They never claimed another major trophy, but remained an amateur club until January 2020.[29]

In the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc, athletes were presented as amateurs, even if they were de facto professional. Football clubs were no exception, and they were mostly linked to trade unions or government offices, with players being written down as workers of those particular industries. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, clubs and players officially gained professional status.[30][31]

Timeline by country

This table details the year in which professionalism was introduced, country by country.

Country Year Notes
England 1885[14] Football League, the very first professional league, formed in 1888.
Scotland 1893[26]
United States 1894[32][33] The American League of Professional Football was created by team owners from baseball's National League to compete during professional baseball's off-season. It lasted only one season.
Austria 1924[34] First fully professional league in continental Europe.
Hungary 1924[34]
Italy 1926[35] it:Carta di Viareggio
Spain 1926[36]
Mexico 1927[37] Year when the national team turned professional. Mexico's first professional league was formed in 1943.
Argentina 1931[38]
Chile 1931[39]
France 1932[36]
Uruguay 1932[40]
Brazil 1933[41] São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro state leagues.
Turkey 1952[42]
Netherlands 1954[43]
West Germany 1963[44]
Sweden 1967[45]
Belgium 1974[46] Start of the "Liga Beroepsvoetbal" (self-uniting organisation of Belgian teams proceeding with full-time professional football).
Denmark 1978 (men)[47]
1997 (women)[48][49][50]
Egypt 1990[51]
Norway 1992[52]
India 1996 [53] National Football League, the first professional league, formed in 1996.
Saudi Arabia 2007[54]
Philippines 2017[55] The Philippines Football League is the first professional league in the country.

See also Professional sports#Association football

See also


  1. ^ a b Ingle, Sean; Glendenning, Barry (9 October 2003). "Baseball or Football: which sport gets the higher attendance?". The Guardian. UK.
  2. ^ "FIFA Survey: approximately 250 million footballers worldwide" (PDF). FIFA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 September 2006.
  3. ^ "Overview of Soccer". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 12 June 2008.
  4. ^ Guttman, Allen (1993). "The Diffusion of Sports and the Problem of Cultural Imperialism". In Eric Dunning; Joseph A. Maguire; Robert E. Pearton (eds.). The Sports Process: A Comparative and Developmental Approach. Champaign: Human Kinetics. p. 129. ISBN 0-88011-624-2. the game is complex enough not to be invented independently by many preliterate cultures and yet simple enough to become the world's most popular team sport
  5. ^ Dunning, Eric (1999). "The development of soccer as a world game". Sport Matters: Sociological Studies of Sport, Violence and Civilisation. London: Routledge. p. 103. ISBN 0-415-06413-9. During the twentieth century, soccer emerged as the world's most popular team sport
  6. ^ Mueller, Frederick; Cantu, Robert; Van Camp, Steven (1996). "Team Sports". Catastrophic Injuries in High School and College Sports. Champaign: Human Kinetics. p. 57. ISBN 0-87322-674-7. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and is an industry worth over US$400 billion world wide. 80% of this is generated in Europe, though its popularity is growing in the United States. It has been estimated that there were 22 million soccer players in the world in the early 1980s, and that number is increasing. In the United States soccer is now a major sport at both the high school and college levels
  7. ^ "TV Data". FIFA. Archived from the original on 22 September 2007.
  8. ^ "2006 FIFA World Cup broadcast wider, longer and farther than ever before". FIFA. 6 February 2007. Archived from the original on 11 January 2012.
  9. ^ Goldblatt, David (2007). The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football. London: Penguin. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-14-101582-8.
  10. ^ Lloyd, Guy; Holt, Nick (2005). The F.A. Cup – The Complete Story. Aurum Press. p. 24. ISBN 1-84513-054-5.
  11. ^ Davies, Hunter (2003). Boots, Balls and Haircuts: An Illustrated History of Football from Then to Now. Cassell Illustrated. p. 36. ISBN 1-84403-261-2.
  12. ^ "A Potted History of Association Football in England". BK … This and That. 10 January 2018. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  13. ^ Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, pp. 46–7.
  14. ^ a b Lloyd and Holt, The F.A. Cup – The Complete Story, p. 22.
  15. ^ "History of Football – The Global Growth". FIFA Official Website. Archived from the original on 28 March 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  16. ^ The Cross, Iain Whittle, Scots Football Worldwide
  17. ^ Inglis, Simon (1988). League Football and the Men Who Made It. Willow Books. p. 18. ISBN 0-00-218242-4.
  18. ^ Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, p. 57.
  19. ^ Days, p. 13.
  20. ^ Days, p. 18.
  21. ^ Wilson, Jonathan (25 April 2020). "Sunderland's Victorian all-stars blazed trail for money's rule of football" – via www.theguardian.com.
  22. ^ "When Sunderland met Hearts in the first ever 'Champions League' match". Nutmeg Magazine. 2 September 2019.
  23. ^ Days, p21.
  24. ^ Aitken, Mike (22 March 2008). "Scots passing pioneers shaped football". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 6 March 2011. Retrieved 9 February 2009.
  25. ^ "The Scottish Professors and their role in football's first Invincibles". Nutmeg Magazine. 19 February 2019.
  26. ^ a b Guttmann, Allen (2007). Sports: The First Five Millennia. University of Massachusetts Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-55849-610-1.
  27. ^ Springer, Will (9 June 2006). "Scotland's amazing role in football's success". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 9 February 2009.
  28. ^ "The Professional Game". Scottish Football Association. Archived from the original on 9 March 2009. Retrieved 10 February 2009.
  29. ^ "Queen's Park squad offered contracts". BBC Sport.
  30. ^ Szlifman, Javier (21 June 2018). "Football in Russia: From Soviet amateurism to World Cup riches". Green Left.
  31. ^ Washburn, J. N. (21 July 1974). "Soviet Amateur Athlete: A Real Pro". The New York Times.
  32. ^ Marc S. Maltby, The Origins and Development of Professional Football, 1890–1920 (New York: Routledge, 1997).
  33. ^ John M. Carroll, “Football, Professional,” in Sports in America: From Colonial Times to the Twenty-First Century (Armonk, NY: York: M.E. Sharpe, 2011), 361–362.
  34. ^ a b Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, p. 225.
  35. ^ "bookreader". dlib.coninet.it.
  36. ^ a b Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, p. 209.
  37. ^ http://www.e-how.com/facts_5347990_history-mexican-soccer.html%7CHistory of Mexican Soccer
  38. ^ Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, p. 205.
  39. ^ "Soccer Facts: History and Timeline of Soccer". SportsAspire. 4 June 2008.
  40. ^ Antognazza, Diego; Tabeira, Martín (2004). "Uruguay 1932 Championship". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation.
  41. ^ Bellos, Alex (2002). Futebol: the Brazilian way of life. London: Bloomsbury. p. 33. ISBN 0-7475-6179-6.
  42. ^ "Merhaba Dünya Kupası" (in Turkish). Turkish Football Federation. Archived from the original on 17 August 2020. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  43. ^ Stokkermans, Karel (2015). "Netherlands – Regional Analysis". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation.
  44. ^ BUNDESLIGA 50 – The birth of Germany's Professional Game. Christoph Wagner | FootballRepublik.com .
  45. ^ "Amatör eller professionist?" (PDF) (in Swedish). GIH. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 October 2014.
  47. ^ "DBU's historie 1961–1980" (in Danish). Dansk Boldspil-Union. 2002.
  48. ^ "Kontraktfodboldudvalget; Stillinger Dame DM; Danmarksserien for damer 1997". DBU Årsberetning 1997 (in Danish). Dansk Boldspil-Union. January 1998. pp. 37, 76–77.
  49. ^ Monty, Michael (20 December 1996). "DBU vil holde på damerne" (in Danish). Det fri Aktuelt. p. 15.
  50. ^ Hansen, Mette Marie (29 June 1997). "Selvfølgelig kan vi vinde" (in Danish). Sektion 1: Ekstra Bladet. p. 31.((cite news)): CS1 maint: location (link)
  51. ^ Ian Hawkey (2010). Feet of the Chameleon: The Story of African Football. Portico. p. 285.
  52. ^ Sæther, Esten O. (7 August 2009). "Alle heiet underveis". Dagbladet (in Norwegian). Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  53. ^ Bose, Saibal (17 December 1996). "National League all set for kick-off". The Indian Express. Archived from the original on 22 April 1997. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  54. ^ "Morocco's Abderrazak Hamdallah breaks scoring record in Saudi Arabia". BBC. 19 April 2019.
  55. ^ "PFL formalizes its full professional status with GAB sanction". www.dugout.ph. 2 May 2017. Retrieved 13 November 2020.

Works cited