Queen's Park FC

Queen’s Park FC 1867 9th July


There will always be an argument, as to the most important day in football history. For me, it is the day when Queen’s Park Football Club was founded, in Glasgow. They are not known as the oldest team. That honour goes to John Hope’s Foot-ball Club of Edinburgh, (founded 1824). They are not the oldest reference to playing in Glasgow. That honour goes to the maker of the City’s footballs.

You have only been told one million times that football started in 1863 with the founding of the English Football Association. As this did not start the modern passing and running game and came after the Sheffield clubs had been playing regular football, we can ignore their London Exceptionalism.

Queens Park played a type of football which would have been known to all Scots. They did not invent it because nothing comes from nothing, in sport. However, they developed it, in the social melting pot of Glasgow. They spread it through the first International and the rise of the footballing geniuses known as the Scotch Professors. They set in motion a series of events which created the modern world game. They are as much a result of the Scottish Footballing Enlightenment as they are creators of Scottish footballing genius.

So, on that extraordinary day in 1867, on the Victoria Road, on the South Side of Glasgow, a group of men would have no idea that they would be responsible for taking the idea that you can kick a ball up and down a field and turn it into the greatest social phenomenon of all time.

In any aspect of life where boundaries are being broken, there is a fear among those involved about venturing into the unknown, developing new ideas, hoping not to run themselves onto the rocks of failure. This scenario involves workers and backers of the project having great faith and belief in the concept. The unknown we are travelling into might be exciting, but the ever-present element of fear needs to be reduced by all means possible.

In this respect, Queen's Park are going to be of great benefit to the project. They stand head and shoulders above all other clubs. I should state at the outset, that my respect/bias towards Queen's Park is strictly professional. My tribal loyalties lie elsewhere, in the East End of the City. My loyalties do not blind me to the preeminent position the Spiders have in world football history.

I have no desire to insult or do down other clubs. Each team has its place in the grand scheme of things. It is the universal nature of football which is its greatest strength. Everybody has their niche. Many clubs are more famous and more successful. I do not look at Queen's Park with their modest statistical status in the 1990's, or their small gates. What interests me is what they achieved when football was created. That sentence reads just as well another way round. It is time to look at what modern Scottish football achieved, after Queen's Park created it.

With this in mind, it is useful to look at the museum idea, in relation to the Scottish Football Association Museum Trust, to the point where Hampden Park has been identified as the ultimate and proper site for the Museum. As the home of Queen's Park, one must therefore look at the club, in the widest sense, for facts which are helpful to the cause.

The Bare Bones of the Argument

Queen's Park FC was 128 years old, 9 July 1995. It is the oldest club in Scotland. Its ground is also the National Stadium for Scotland's home games. It is the oldest national stadium site in the world. It is one of the founder members of the Scottish Football Association and has been a member of the League since season 1900-1901. The Scottish Cup has been won on ten separate occasions. However, this is the bare bones of the story. It is sufficient for a statistician, but not a historian.

In the history of the organised game, Britain reigns supreme. Though people have kicked a ball round in every part of the globe, for two and a half thousand years, Association Football was codified out of the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution. Britain was the first country on earth to develop urban, industrial living. With the growth of iron and coal, railways and canals, people flooded into cities to take their places as workers in the great new factories.

The football people had played in their towns and villages, through streets and across fields, did not come with them. The hours they worked in the factories were excessive and there was no place to play. Every square inch of the new cities was taken up with dwellings and places of work.

The renaissance came with the general trend of social reformers for improving the lot of city dwellers. The desire for leisure time was answered by the various Factory Acts from 1850 onwards, which legislated to reduce maximum hours. The municipal parks movement also sought to improve people's surroundings, by giving them a slice of greenery in the cities, where they could spend some of their new leisure time. In 1857. Queen's Park was laid out, to a Joseph Paxton design. It provided a green lung for the ever expanding south side of Glasgow.

It was here, by the Deaf and Dumb Institute, that a group of workers from Speyside came to play their highland games. Driven from their original recreation area in Pollokshields by the march of housing, the new Queen`s Park was ideal. Noting the football played there by the lads from the YMCA, they looked, learnt and took to the game swiftly, founding the club which bears the name of the park where they started.

All this is straightforward stuff, however. The conditions engineered by the Industrial Revolution, existed all over Britain, for working men to come together for sport. In England, Sheffield FC claim the title as the world's oldest existing club (1857), Notts County as the world's oldest League club (1862). Even the Americans claim an older football tradition, with Harvard University being the first non-British club, founded in 1860.

Further statistics can be produced to show Rangers and Celtic as the most famous and successful teams in Scotland, due to their domination of the game in the twentieth century and their cup final successes in Europe. In playing terms, Queen's Park have been out of the top flight since 1958, but none of this is relevant to the matter in hand. The criteria by which we judge importance has more to it than number of fans or games won.


The Club

Let us look at the club itself. Founded in 1867, Queen's Park were instrumental in forming the Scottish Football Association, to bring order to the game north of the border. Archibald Rae, the club secretary, wrote to other clubs and brought eight of them together [Queen's Park, Third Lanark, Vale of Leven, Clydesdale, Eastern, Dumbreck, Granville and Rovers] to form the association, for the purpose of running a cup competition. The first SFA committee was stiffened with the sinews of three Queen's Park men: William Ker (Honorary Treasurer), Archibald Rae (Honorary Secretary) and Robert Gardner (Committee Member).

Even before this, they had taken on responsibility for efficiently arranging a Scotland v England match. Queen`s Park committees were created to regulate every aspect of the preparations, including the post-match banquet. In 1872, the world's first official football international was played at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Partick. Queen's Park's captain, Robert Gardner, picked ten other Queen's men to represent Scotland, the international Spiders gaining a 0-0 draw.

It should be noted here that, four unofficial internationals were held in 1870, '71 and '72. The team comprised Scotsmen working in the English capital, some of whose links were tenuous, to say the least. However, the major thing to note is that the London Scottish teams, were chosen by Robert Smith. He was one of three brothers, founder members of Queen's Park, who had moved to London.

In those days, you did not give up membership of a club in the way that we understand it now, with transfers and the like. Queen's Park nominated their man Robert to deal with the English. He effectively became the Scottish Football Ambassador in the London for those first games.

Which brings us to the decision to commence official and proper international football. The English had a Football Association, Scotland had Queen's Park. Scotland [Queen's Park] played a 2-2-6 formation, whilst the English, with positions such as fly-kick and three-quarter back, were much closer to a Rugby mentality and used an eight man forward line. This is where Queen's Park earn their first claim to immortality, for the tactics used in this match has passed to us as the football we know now.

The English played a dribbling game, probably due to the fact that, at the time, anyone in front of the ball was regarded as offside. This condemned players to only being able to pass backwards. The Scots, with a far weaker Rugby influence, had developed a passing game, called the combination game. This allowed teams to split defences in a move, instead of funnelling back and waiting to tackle the one man with the ball.

The fact that Queen's Park had taught many other teams to play, must have had a great deal to do with these novel tactics. It must have been an unusual sight, observing two incredibly different teams battling for victory. With this advantage, it is no surprise to note that Scotland achieved dominance over England in the 1870's and 80's, winning nine of the first thirteen matches, with scorelines such as: 7-2 (1878) and 6-1 (1881). The team game and tactics had arrived with a vengeance.

This point must be hammered home, for it is of supreme significance. In England, there were many clubs, spread far and wide, playing to slightly different rules. In Scotland, Queen's Park were number one from the start, so there was great uniformity to the game, even then, when captains could still agree on certain interpretations of the laws before a game started. Therefore, the Scottish game was the Queen's Park game, which must have helped the international side considerably.

Laws of the Game

When you look at England, you see football starting in a much wider area, so that one club was not able to dominate to the same extent as the Spiders. The Industrial Revolution had spawned significant urban areas in South Lancashire/North Cheshire, Merseyside, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Tyneside. Each of these was not strong enough individually to monopolise the development of football in England.

The English FA, founded in 1863, was really the London FA and the rules in England were still not completely agreed by the whole country for years after that. Outside the English capital, clubs bore little or no allegiance to the EFA, playing to an amalgam of Sheffield, Rugby and London rules, with maybe a few of their own thrown in for good measure. In fact right through the 1870s many matches would be played rugby rules one half, football the second half, or home games rugby, away games football.

With the Clyde as the industrial powerhouse of Scotland and Queen's Park as the premier club, the game was much more ordered. There were no other major areas which could compete with Glasgow, arguably the second city of the Empire. It is historical facts such as these, external to the existence of Queen's Park, which lend credence to the argument for their importance.

When Queen's Park were founded, they immediately wrote off for a set of Football Rules, to Lilywhite's sporting goods shop in London. They were probably the Cambridge rules, originating from the university. These they amended, to suit their game. All other clubs were brought into line through Queen's Park refusing to play anyone who wouldn't play to their modified rules. There being relatively few other clubs in Scotland at the time, Queen's Park also studied the game by arranging matches against one another: Presidents XI v Captain's XI, Smokers v Non-Smokers, Married Men v Bachelors.

One must not think that Queen's Park were in any way dogmatic, Immediately they became aware of the English FA, which had been founded in 1863, they joined and ditched their revised rules in favour of the FA's. From November 1870 to 1887, they were to play an international role in the game, through their membership of two associations.

It is this level of foresight that sets Queen's Park apart. They realised from the start that the rules had to be universal; if the game was to catch on, in organised form. They had gone even further, for Lilywhite's had provided a copy of the Rugby rules as Queen's Park sought to reach a compromise with Glasgow Academicals, which would allow them to play a competitive match against them. In opposition to the modern prejudice regarding amateurism, Queen's set out to include everyone.

Through their membership of the English FA and their participation in the English Cup, the English clubs must have come to an awareness of the nuances of the original Scottish rules. Despite the fact that Queen's Park had formed their laws on the basis of those printed by Lilywhites, differences still occurred.

Apart from offside, there was a major problem, as regarded the throw-in. England allowed one-handed throws, which permitted such greats as William Gunn, the Notts County footballer and cricketer, to hurl the ball from one end of the pitch to the other. Scotland preferred two handed, with the ball thrown straight onto the pitch, similar to a rugby line-out. If football was to prosper beyond the bounds of nations, one set of rules had to be agreed.

Essentially, a trade-off between the English and Scottish FAs happened in the 1880's. The English three-man offside rule was accepted, along with the Scottish two-handed throw-in, but in any direction. The battle was won through the International Football Federation in 1925, when Scotland again proposed the two man offside law to cope with the perfection of stultifying defensive tactics, which had made it almost impossible to score. The law, which had denied Queen's Park an English Cup win in 1884, had finally become the one they had always championed.

Queen's Park's credentials in the field of legislation is beyond reproach. From 1871 (with Mr Klinger and Mr R Smith) they sent delegates to the FA AGM.s They took a keen interest in rule changes, working out their responses and mandating their delegates. For example, in 1875, the Queen's Park secretary instructed the delegates to suggest (a) a goal bar instead of a tape; (b) a fixed half-time, irrespective of how many goals were scored and (c) the rules on free-kicks to be made more explicit.

Whilst many of these ideas were taken from other associations (e.g. the Sheffield FA, founded in the same year as Queen's Park, had been using goal bars), it was the Spiders who led the way in proposing coherent changes which would benefit everyone. One can deduce that Queen's Park were familiar with the Cambridge Rules, formed in 1863, because it was from there that the fixed half-time came, when many preferred to change ends after every goal.

The throw-in compromise is a good example of Queen's Park's emollient effects. They had originally opposed a throw in, in any direction, when it had been suggested by Alexandra AC at the 1878 SFA AGM, but they took it on board in 1882, to finish the disagreements between Scotland's two-handed throw-in, the English (London) FA's one handed throw-in and Sheffield's kick-in. In 1882 C Campbell added the words 'over the head' to the SFA AGM rules amendments, which gives us the rule as we know it today.

In 1882, the home countries got together in Manchester, to agree internationally accepted rules. The SFA sent two delegates, one of whom was T Lawrie of Queen's Park. In 1886 the International Football Association Board was founded to regulate the Laws of the game internationally. Two delegates were sent from Scotland, one of whom was Richard Brown from Queen's Park.

Missionary Work

After bringing football to Scotland, Queen's Park did not stop there. They went to Bootle, to help football get a foothold on Merseyside, to the Birch Club and the Wanderers in Manchester, to Ireland, Denmark, Holland and Belgium. The Orgryte Club in Sweden was started by an ex-Queen's Park resident in Gothenburg.

In 1880 James Allen of Caledonian FC and Charles Campbell of Queen's Park took teams to Belfast, to give exhibitions of football, out of which sprang the Irish FA. It was the first association game ever played in Ireland, which the Queen's Park select won 3-1.

One can finish off this missionary zeal with a short list of the organisations that Queen's Park joined as founder members. I would love to know of another club who can come close to this roll of honour:


Organisations and Competitions Co-Founded by Queen's Park FC

The Scottish FA
The Scottish Cup
The Glasgow FA
The Scottish Second Eleven Association
The Glasgow (later inter-city) League
The Glasgow Reserve League
The Scottish Combination (later Union)
The Schools' Association
The Schools' League
The Former Pupils' League
The Scottish Amateur League
The Scottish Amateur FA
The English FA Cup


Without Queen's Park, Scottish, British and World football would have been immeasurably different to the game which we see now. As with all areas of history, great changes came about as a result of social, economic, technological and political change.

One could say that Queen's Park benefited from being in the right place at the right time. This would be disingenuous in the extreme, not to say downright unfair. Glasgow was full of sports enthusiasts in the nineteenth century, but it took the men of Queen's Park to stamp their indelible mark on history.

In 1867, with Mungo Ritchie at their head, Queen's Park set out to bring football to its present preeminence. Who knows what those first thirteen committee members thought? The ten men who sat at the first meeting on 9th July, 1867 at 3 Eglinton Terrace, must have had little or no idea that they were marching towards the light of immortality.

It is the rare human being, let alone those thirteen sturdy souls, who can be considered to have affected the lives of two thousand million human beings 128 years later, without having declared war, enslaved continents, or murdered millions. There is not a club, fan, committee member, director, teaboy or tifosi on this planet, whose dedication to football has not been influenced by the work of the Queen's Park Football Club.