Sculpture commemorates 150th year since Cambridge students drew up one of football’s first rulebooks

Sophie Laura Weymes-McElderry 12 May 2018

A commemorative sculpture was today unveiled on Parker’s Piece to mark the 150 years of the governing rules of football, drawn up by Cambridge students in 1848.

The monument, designed by South African artist Neville Gabie and British sculptor Alan Ward, features the eleven rules of football in a variety of languages, including English, Portuguese and Mandarin, to show the diversity and internationality of the “beautiful game”.

Made of Brazilian granite, the sculpture is truly international, as the engraving of the rules took place in Halifax. Divided into nine parts, only four will remain permanently on Parker’s Piece, with the five others being sent to countries as diverse as Brazil, Egypt, India and Kenya, in association with local charity Street Child United, in an effort to “twin” Cambridge with centres of the football world.

The project was conceived in 2013, at the time of the 150th anniversary of the Football Association (FA) rules, in order to represent the important role that Cambridge, specifically, Parker’s Piece, had played in the birth of football.

In the 1800s, Cambridge students coming from a variety of public schools had very different ideas about the rules of football. In order to help fellow students find the team whose rules they were already familiar with, each team pinned a comprehensive list of their “right” rules to four elms on Parker’s Piece. Years later, in 1863, the rules were taken to London, and later became part of the FA rules.

The unveiling of the sculpture was attended by Cambridge City mayor, George Pippas, who highlighted how privileged he felt to be “standing in the place where history was made,” before thanking those who had attended the midday unveiling.

“I was impressed by the number of languages on the monument behind me. This is not an accident. Cambridge, over the years, has contributed in any ways around the world, and today is one more example.”

In an exclusive with TCS, Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner praised the initiative. “I think it’s a really positive day to celebrate that Cambridge is an international city and its influence spreads across the world.”

“I was vaguely aware that we had played a part in the beginning of this, but hearing the full story reminds one of just how central cambridge is to international life,” he continued.

As well as the sculpture, football fans can go to, where the project’s artists have created a compendium of stories of the importance of football to the masses. There is also to be a book containing a history of the project as well as of football.