ANYONE who has a degree of objectivity and knowledge of the history of football knows that England has only a slight claim to be the "home" of football.


No, that was probably the ancient Chinese, and there are records of football-type games being played in many countries around the globe for centuries before the English claimed to be the inventors of association football or soccer as the sport is also known.

Yes, England had various forms of football from the Middle Ages onwards and Ireland developed its own version called caid, but the problem was that nobody had written down rules that could be observed by all players.

Scotland’s own versions of football were written into history, with the Scottish Parliament banning it in 1457 – "And [th]at ye futebawe and ye golf be uterly cryt done and not usyt" said the Act, brought in because King James II feared the Scots were not practising archery enough.

The oldest football in the world dates from the 16th century and was found in Stirling Castle.

Intriguingly, in 1636 a Latin primer, Vocabula, was published by teacher David Wedderburn in Aberdeen. Translated, one passage reads: “Start the game by kicking the ball. Strike it here. You guard the goal. If you can, seize the ball from him. Come on, block him. Retrieve the ball. Kick it back.” Scholars still argue about that passage and what it described.

There’s no doubt that the original rules of Association Football were conceived and written in England, with the rules drawn up at Cambridge University being influential before the Football Association was founded in 1863, largely to formulate 13 rules or laws for the sport.

The rival Sheffield association had its own rules and gradually the laws were agreed upon but it took the involvement of the other associations in these islands to finalise them. Which is why to this day the laws of football are decided by the International Football Association Board which consists of representatives from the four Home Associations and four from world governing body FIFA. 

Scotland’s footballers adopted the laws but were already developing their own way of playing football which emphasised passing rather than the dribbling game preferred by the English.     


Yes. Football as we know it is a passing game, and Ged O’Brien, former curator of the Scottish Football Museum, has proven categorically that the passing game was developed here in Scotland and exported to England and elsewhere.

Glasgow and what is now West Dunbartonshire – Dumbarton, Renton, Alexandria Athletic and Vale of Leven were all top clubs – were the cradles of the sort of football which is now played worldwide. Scotland saw football as a team game and practised it, England viewed training as cheating, and of course professionalism was not allowed at first.

England’s FA Cup was the first national tournament of any kind, but the Scottish Cup remains the oldest football trophy in the world.


Scotland, no question. The first international fixture was a 0-0 draw between Scotland and England in Glasgow in 1872. For the next 14 years, Scotland lost only twice to England. Wales were regularly hammered, and in 1881, Scotland beat England 6-1 at the Oval – still England’s heaviest defeat on home turf.  The Scots for that match were captained by Andrew Watson (below), the world’s first black international player and administrator, and the result was no fluke – Scotland beat England 5-1 the following year in Glasgow. 

The National:

In 1884, Scotland won the first Home International Championship beating the other three countries by a total of ten goals to one. Scotland won three of the first four championships outright and shared the other with England.        


Hibs and Renton. The latter side were first to be formally declared the world club champions as they were the Scottish Cup holders who beat the English cup winners West Bromwich Albion 4-1 at Hampden Park – the stadium which at one time held all the world attendance records and still holds most European attendance records – on May 19, 1888.

That was the year that Celtic signed Renton’s captain James Kelly and with the advent of professionalism the Parkhead club became the world’s most successful team in the 1890s in terms of revenue earned.    


Once professionalism was allowed from 1885 onwards, Scots flooded south to play for English clubs and it was a Scottish draper, William McGregor, who in 1888 largely founded the Football League, the first such league anywhere. The Scottish immigrants with their superior skills and passing play were known as the Scotch Professors and hugely influenced the development of football.

Scottish teams such as Celtic were in great demand for visits south in the 1890s, and Scottish footballers were seen as simply the best.

The National:

In his book Being a Scot, written with Murray Grigor, no less a person than the late Sir Sean Connery (above) told how three Scots, Charles Miller, Archie McLean and Jock Hamilton introduced the Scottish game to Brazil in the early 20th century. John Harley, a Glasgow engineer, did the same for Uruguay, the first World Cup winners, and Glasgow teacher Alexander Watson is still revered as the Father of Argentinian Soccer.

John Madden of Celtic was the  first coach of teams in Czechoslovakia and the German Bundesliga is derived from a league founded by George Smith MacGregor.  Yes, England sent out many missionaries to spread the football gospel, but Scots played an inordinate role in the development of football globally.

At the very least the claim should be made that the UK as a whole is the home of football, but you won’t hear many English people saying that, not even the most devout Unionists among them.