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Some games in themselves, and others by reason of extraneous appendages which may be dispensed with without the sports to which they form addition being diminished in interest, are attended with such a degree of danger as to unfit them for indiscriminate commendation. A fatality attending a late match at football has led to a discussion on the merits of that game "as played on the occasion when the fatality occurred." In itself there is very much indeed to be said for the game, and very little against it; but when, under what are called "the Rugby rules," it becomes a mere combination of wrestling, kicking, hacking, tripping, and general free fighting, even the strongest combatant must be aware that the roughness he is prepared indulge in may be returned against him with interest and to his lasting detriment. We quoted the other day some remarks by the rector of Wasing, whose relationship to the young man who was the victim of the horseplay gave him the right to criticise with severity the game as played at the time of the melancholy mishap. A correspondent, who signed himself "A Football Player," entered the lists against the rector, asserting that football, as played when the fatality occurred, is the healthiest outdoor sport that English youths can indulge in, and that hunting, boating, and cricket are quite dangerous. It is certainly not true to say of cricket, as this correspondent does, that the deaths caused by cricket are "of frequent occurrence” and even though men may too often overstrain themselves in the ardour of boating, that is quite a different thing from the legalised " free fighting” of the Rugby style of football. If the rival boats were at liberty to foul one another to any extent, and the rowers were at the same time justified by the rules of the aquatic racecourse to use their oars as weapons wherewith to do each other bodily injury, there would be room for the alleged parallelism. There is no fear that football properly played will ever fall into desuetude in a country like this, which values wholesome out-of-door athletic sports; but it is every way to be desired that the vicious style of football to which Rugby has given its name will as speedily as possible be confined to Rugby players, and that when it is so confined the taste for it in that field will die out in favour of "football proper."
Western Daily Press
Saturday 27 March 1875

To the Editor of The Daily Western Times. Sir,— In reply to a paragraph copied from the Lancet, and which appears in your issue of Monday last, as an old player I should certainly have abstained from anything like a defence of so sterling a game were it not for the fact that it is at present in its infancy (so to speak) in the South-West, and a paragraph of the description of the case referred to may possibly injure its prospects with those who have never played football themselves, and who would, on seeing such a paragraph, be averse to their sons taking it up. With reference to the series of accidents referred to, although all taking place in so short a time (lt'a well known that misfortunes come not singly), these few comprise not only nearly all the serious casualties that have happened in the Football field for the laat four years in Devon and Cornwall, a by no means limited area, but are most of them to my own knowledge grossly exaggerated. I sure that most football authorities of far greater weight than myself will tell you that the game in its present varied forms and under the present rules, was never played so skillfully and so safely as it isnow, and that wrestling, the reliance "brute force," and "bearfighting," are essentially the signs of a novice in the game. I would hope that as a matter of fact Football is too deeply rooted as one of our British institutions to be seriously injured by the efforts of tho»e who either wilfully misrepresent facts, or who are totally ignorant of the main points of the game. Both in the Rugby Union and Association games the power of simple "brute force" is comparatively immaterial, and skill and agility are by far the most necessary qualifications of a good football player. Anyone who goes to witness a good match, and will note the salient points of the game, tbe obedience to the Captain's orders, the adherence to their various posts, the good temper which usually prevails, and tbe readiness with which individual pieces of good play are applauded by both sides, and the invariable feeling of good fellowship which prevails in the usual meetings after the games are over, must come to the conclusion that for Englishmen, hide and strong, the game stands second to none. No man of ordinary pluck, in a game where that commodity well as skill and agility are required, would think for a single moment of the possible remote chance personal damage, and it is well known that the percentage of serious accidents is not higher in the football arena than in that of any other of our justly celebrated field sports. There is another side to the question, which I think the Lancet, as a medical paper, should pay some regard to. It is this, that no man can hope to play the noble game well unless he is in good condition, moderate in his smoking and drinking, and regular in all his habits, all which things are of course conducive to good health. Once more, before I conclude, I would say that "brute force" and superior strength, unless combined with skill and activity, are unavailing, and I should always choose a light man for my team, who possessed skill and activity, in preference to a heavy man who was as strong as an elephant, but who lacked these requisites; and I unhesitatingly unhesitatingly say that in no game played amongst English gentlemen are there so many pleasing moral and physical features brought into play as in Football. Apologising for trespassing so much on your valuable space, and regretting that no one more capable than myself should have written on the subject, Believe me, yours truly,
Exeter 18th Dec., 1877. FAIR PLAY,
Western Times
Wednesday 19 December 1877

Football is undoubtedly in itself a fine and vigorous sport. It should call forth the qualities of skill, pluck, and endurance. But what sane, unbiassed person can say that the “game” as it is now played in almost every town throughout the kingdom, possesses one single attribute entitling it to popularity ? What can honestly be said of a “sport” in which mere brute force bears the palm from pluck and skill ? It is a common boast of those to whose perverted genius the revival of Rugby football is due that they rescued it from extinction by converting it from a rough-and-tumble scramble into a science. Truly, a science they have made it, but it is one of maiming and manslaughter. It is no longer demanded that the ball shall be skilfully manipulated past all opposition, or guided to a spot where overwhelming concentration will carry the day. These splendid innovators have given a death-blow to the tactical skill of the game, which was its chief beauty. The Rugby football player par excellence of to-day is a man who is prepared to go upon the field with his life in his hand; and the pet of the team is he who can inflict most injuries and incite the greatest terror by his ferocity. The football arena is no longer a space for good-natured, if arduous, contention for supremacy; that has been supplanted (improved upon, they would have us believe) by a fierce hand-to-hand struggle of weaponless savages. The forward players, with the ball in their midst, engage in a melee of which promiscuous kicking not infrequently forms an important part, and which bears close resemblance to the contention of a box of infuriated spiders over a solitary fly. But it is on a back player getting the ball, and attempting to run with it, that the coarse brutality of the “game” fully manifests itself. From the moment of picking the ball from the ground the player who holds it becomes a being for whom the delicate attentions - customarily paid by Red Indians to one of their number who is “ running the gauntlet” would be considered too humane and considerate. He is beset in every possible way, fair or foul. He will not relinquish his hold, but struggles for freedom; he is subjected to semi-strangulation. But he is still unconquered, and, by dint of leaving a moiety of his shirt in the hands of the enemy, he once more breaks away. The foe is upon him again, however, and just as he nears the goal line, and success seems certain, he is seized suddenly by the legs and dashed to earth with a violence that deprives him for some minutes of his senses. On rising it is more than likely that his collar-bone is broken or his knee-cap smashed, in which case he will be a cripple for the remainder of his days. Or, if he escape permanent injury, it does not by any means follow that the player by whom he was tackled” will be so fortunate. Every time a player resorts to the expedient of “collaring low” which means dashing blindly at the legs of a man running at full speed, he runs a frightful risk of injury. Not one, two, or three, but hundreds of instances occur during every season, with unfailing certainty, in which players are borne from the field with broken ribs, legs, or arms. The thing has become so common that the fact of being a crack” player at Rugby football is synonymous with the possession of a frame that has experienced every conceivable description of fracture. Ask a dozen old players why they discontinued playing. It is notorious that many city firms and companies decline to retain the services of football-player, so much loss have they sustained by the absence of their clerks on account of serious injuries. Let those who doubt inquire of the accident insurance companies how much is paid every year for football accidents. One of the largest has paid more for football than for gun and fire casualties put together. Why should young men be thus permitted to risk life and limb with impunity? Let a couple of boxers, to whom hard knocks are but as pats from a cat’s paw, engage in a bloodless combat, and everybody will fly out against the magistracy for non-interference. When a female acrobat, who knows perfectly well what she is about, and whose life is far too valuable to be heedlessly risked, adds a few feet to a sensation dive, the outcry is yet greater. Yet football, with its absolute certainty of permanent bodily injury to many, and inevitable proportion of fatal disaster, is not only permitted to flourish, but is actually applauded as a beneficial institution. We distinctly say that a so-called “game,’ ’the prominent feature of which is coarse brutality, and which fosters an utter disregard for human life and limb, can only have tendency towards moral degradation; and we warn parents to consider well before committing their sons to the tender mercies of Rugby football. —Tatler
Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser
Wednesday 02 January 1878

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