Football History: Top 7 Changes that Shaped the Game


If you were ever annoyed by the fact that VAR technology was responsible for disallowing your favorite club’s goal in the final minute of a decisive match, don’t get overexcited. The change that video review brought into the game of football is just the most recent piece of the puzzle in a game that has been changing for nearly a century and a half now.

At one point the crossbar did not even exist so you can imagine how much the game has changed since the original rules of football were set down on paper in 1863 in England. In fact, here is a list of the top 7 changes that that shaped the game of football leading to the format that we are familiar with today.


Below are the top 7 football history changes


The whistle

Did you know that referees back in the day used to shout at players instead of simply blowing the whistle? Well, this was the case, as oral commands and ruling were common until 1878.

After that year, it became easier to refs to sound their calls, quite literally. Remember this fact the next time some joker in the stands brings a whistle and tries to spam the referee.

The penalty kick…

Some four decades had to pass before the penalty rule was finally introduced in 1891. We have to thank an Irishman called William McCrum for this innovation. It was unsportsmanlike conduct that defensive players could commit a foul right in front of the goal.

That is why the penalty kick was introduced but it was ominous at first. It earned the nickname “the death penalty.” Needless to say, the pun did not pick up. Today players think twice before making a tackle in front of their own goal.

… and the penalty spot

At first, the penalty kick could have been taken from any angle at the 12-yard line. The first penalty spot was, therefore, fluent, as it was up to the player taking it to place the ball to a spot of his liking.

It wasn’t until 1902 that the spot was fixed at the center of the field, right in front of the goal. All the shenanigans we see from today’s penalty takes were nothing compared to what players were free to do at the turn of the 20th century.

A revolution in lighting

The first match played under floodlights, albeit an exhibition one was played in Sheffield in 1898. After that, more and more matches were played at nighttime as the fans, predominantly the working class, were free then.

However, the quality of the light did not change much for nearly a century before LED lights appeared. Nowadays quality soccer field lighting uses up to 40% less energy and is far easier to properly upkeep to the delight of groundsmen worldwide.

Changing the offside rule

By the 1990s, the number of goals scored in an average football match had dropped significantly and the fans were starting to lose interest in the game. As a response, FIFA decided to allow the striker to be in line with the second-in-defence player. This sped up the game.

The rule that a red card was given if a foul was committed by the last defensive player before the goalie, helped the number of goals increase. This also accentuated the value of a good defenseman who could now count on the same salary as a star forward.

Friendly fire

One of the final major changes to the gameplay was made in 1992. Goalkeeper grabs the ball with his hands if his own teammate returned the ball using his foot. If the ball was returned using a player’s head, that it was OK. This rule led to goalkeepers training how to dribble, as often they had to play as defenders.

More referees

A far as the refereeing is concerned, there is global push today to make the game fairer. Also, the human error factor is decreased to a minimum. That is most major leagues no longer have four but six referees, two of which have one duty: to determine whether the ball crossed the line or not.

Furthermore, the goal line technology also helps refs determine whether the goal should be disallowed.  Cameras use bird’s eye perspective to determine did the ball cross the line.

All the changes listed here should be perceived as part of a long timeline that is by no means over. Debates about the rules of the world’s most popular ballgame are still hot.

The introduction of VAR has led to many controversies and criticism from the players themselves. It remains to be seen what the future of football holds.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.