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World’s Oldest Football Rule Book From 1858 Sells for 58 lakhs

The Sheffield Football Club was established in 1857 and is considered the world’s oldest football club by FIFA, the international federation of football. ( Credits: SOTHEBY'S/AFP)

The Sheffield Football Club was established in 1857 and is considered the world’s oldest football club by FIFA, the international federation of football. ( Credits: SOTHEBY'S/AFP)

The recently auctioned book was found in a Victorian scrapbook compiled by Rev Greville John Chester, a clergyman. The pamphlet is pencil-signed by William Baker.

Sotheby’s, an American collector of rare artifacts, has auctioned one of the oldest manuscripts containing the rules of football for a whopping £57,000, which in Indian currency equal to almost Rs58 lakhs. The auction that was carried out on Sotheby’s website culminated when one of the auctioneers locked the final price. The bid was made valuing the book’s historical significance and its contribution to the development of the game.

The recently auctioned book was found in a Victorian scrapbook compiled by Rev Greville John Chester, a clergyman. The pamphlet is pencil-signed by William Baker. He was acommittee member who signed off the rules of the club on October 21, 1858. Printed in 1859, the rule book is hand-annotated following a series of meetings held by Sheffield Football Club.

The Sheffield Football Club was established in 1857 and is considered the world’s oldest football club by FIFA, the international federation of football. The club was a vital factor in the game’s development and was the first inventor of set-pieces like the corner kick and indirect free-kick. In addition, the club innovated the crossbars on goals.

The Sheffield Club owned the only other copy of the rule book as part of its historical archive and sold that rule book for £881,000 or around Rs9 crores. The book was auctioned in 2011 and was a much bigger collection of memorabilia. Now, the only existing copy of the book is auctioned 10 years later.

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In an interview with The Star, Sotheby’s books and manuscript specialist, Gabriel Heaton, said, “This exceptional piece takes us back to the origins of this beautiful game, to almost 160 years ago. It gives unique insights into the development of the rules through hand-written annotations, probably by the first owner of the book, as they continued to be developed and altered in the early years.” He further said, “This is the earliest expression of the modern footballing culture we know so well today.”

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first published:July 27, 2021, 11:31 IST