Football in London: A Guide For Visitors and Tourists

The holiday season still has a week to go, and if you’re thinking of visiting London and taking in a game, here are some tips. It’s a big place and a big subject, and I haven’t had time to put my own guide together, so what follows is from Dickens’ Dictionary of London, 1888. Prospective visitors might wish to check the press for any last-minute changes:

Football is by far the most popular out-door game of the winter months, and there are few open spaces in or near London where matches may not be seen in progress on any open Saturday afternoon, between the beginning of October and the end of March. The most important scenes of action are Kennington Oval – where the international matches are played in February and March – Battersea-pk, Blackheath, Richmond, Wimbledon, Wormwood Scrubs, and Woolwich. Both the Rugby Football Union and the Football Association have their head-quarters in London. The Union is the stronger body, and under its laws, which permit the ball being carried, quite five times as many matches are played as under the Association laws, which do not allow of the ball being run with. (To the lay mind it is probable that the Association game would be more likely to answer the idea conveyed by the word foot-ball. The Rugby game is excellent in its way, but the hand has as much to do with the business as the foot.) The president of the Union is Leonard Stokes; and the honorary secretary, Rowland Hill. Of the Association, Major Marindin, R.E., is president; and C.W. Alcock, 28, Paternoster-row, honorary secretary, of whom all particulars of the two societies can be obtained. The principal matches played under the auspices of the two societies are – Union: North v South, played in alternate years in London and Manchester; England v Scotland, for the Calcutta Challenge Cup, in London and Edinburgh; and England v Ireland, in London and Dublin. Association: England v Scotland, played alternately in Glasgow and England; London v Sheffield; and the matches for the Association Challenge Cup, competed for by Association clubs. The Association matches have 11 players, the Union 15 players on each side. The leading Union clubs in London and the suburbs are Blackheath, head-quarters, Richardsons-field, Blackheath; Richmond, Richmond Old Deer-pk; Royal Military Academy, Woolwich; Royal Naval College, Greenwich-pk; Wimbledon, Wimbledon-com; Clapham Rovers, Wandsworth; West Kent, Chislehurst; Queen’s House, and Clevedon, Blackheath; Flamingoes, Battersea-pk; Gipsies, Peckham; Guy’s Hospital, Blackheath; Kings College, Battersea-pk; Lausanne, Dulwich; Old Cheltonians, Mitcham; Old Marlburians, Blackheath; Walthamstow, Walthamstow; Wasps, Putney. The leading Association clubs are the Wanderers, Old Etonians and Old Harrovians, the majority of whose matches are played at Kennington Oval, five minutes’ walk from the Vauxhall-station on the London and South Western line; Barnes, Barnes; Civil Service, Battersea-pk; Clapham Rovers, Wandsworth; South Norwood, Norwood; Upton Park, Upton; Westminster School, Vincent-sq. The subscriptions to these clubs vary from 2s 6d. to 10s per annum, and the number of members from 30 to 200. The dash and pluck necessary to earn distinction at both games render football matches very popular with Londoners, and as many as 7,000 spectators have been seen at the Oval on the occasion of an international match.

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