Oldest Ever Football Rulebook Goes For $1,420,310 in Auction

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Written By Chris Azzopardi

It turns out rules weren’t actually meant to be broken. They were meant to be sold. For a very large sum of money.

Sheffield FC, not Sheffield United, had their first ever rulebook from 1859 put up for sale this week at a Southeby’s auction in London. The result: some anonymous dude (or dudette) won the insanely awesome antique of what is thought to be football’s first ever rulebook.

Sheffield FC, a northern England team founded in 1857, was selling the only known surviving copy of its 1859 printed “Rules, Regulations, & Laws of the Sheffield Foot-Ball Club,” as well as the original handwritten draft, dating from the previous year. These items fetched 881,250 pounds.

Estimated by Sotheby’s at 800,000 pounds to 1.2 million pounds, the soccer works sold to a bidder in the room, said the New York-based auction house. There were two bidders.

The soccer works sold to a bidder in the room? SHOCKING! We even have a source, “the New York-based auction house”. So it must be true. And there were even two of these bidder guys, maybe more, but who can really say?

The amateur side, which plays seven divisions below England’s Premier League, has been recognized by world governing body FIFA as the oldest club. Its rules were formulated at a meeting at a local hotel.

The Sheffield rules describe a game played with the feet, and refer to current elements of the game such as free kicks, throw-ins, goalkicks and the crossbar. They also list restrictions on handling the ball and “hacking or tripping” opponents.

Sheffield FC, which runs 27 teams, plans to use money to improve its facilities and secure its future.

The rulebook was barely beaten out for top spot in the auction by a Jane Austin manuscript of the unfinished novel “The Watsons”, which brought in $1.6 million with fees.

For me, I’m all like “Wow, that is embarrassing for football because I’d rather read nutrition facts than a Jane Austin novel”. But for my high school English teachers, they’d be all like “Wow, soccer is worth almost worth as much as a Jane Austin novel, that’s impressive!”.

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