In 1314, Nicholas de Farndone, the Mayor of London (Lord Mayors came later), acting on behalf of King Edward II, banned football in London.
“And whereas there is great uproar in the City, through certain tumults arising from the striking of great footballs in the fields of the public, from which many evils perchance may arise, which may God forbid, we do command and do forbid, on the King’s behalf, on pain of imprisonment, that such game be practices from henceforth within the city…”
Unsurprisingly, the City has a copy of the proclamation in its archives, and it has gone on display in the Heritage Gallery in the basement of the City of London Guildhall.
The original is written, as was normal for the time in Norman French, and is recorded in the Liber Memorandorum, or Book of Things to be Remembered.
At the time, football was unregulated and the rules barely existent. The games were most often played on holidays — those being the only day that most people got off work — but the city authorities saw such large crowds as a threat.
The ban didn’t last, or work, as there is a record in 1409 showing that football was still being played in the City of London.
Another vice associated with the game was gambling, and the City ordered that “no person shall levy money, or cause to be levied, for the games called ‘foteballe’.
The documents are on display in the temporary display cases in the Heritage Gallery, which is to be found just before the cloakroom and toilets in the basement of the Guildhall Art Gallery.
Also on display at the moment is the City’s own copy of the Magna Carta, the only one to mention London in the text.