Professionalism in association football

Association football Timeline of association football Geography of association football

David Beckham, an English retired professional footballer with a net worth of US$300 million

Association football is the world's most popular sport, and is worth US$600 billion worldwide.[1] By the end of the 20th century it was played by over 250 million players in over 200 countries.[2][3][4][5][6] Around the world, the sport is played at a professional level by professional footballers, and millions of people regularly go to football stadiums to follow their favourite football teams,[1] while billions more watch the sport on television or on the internet.[7] Football has the highest global television audience in sport.[8] The sport had amateur origins and evolved into the modern professional competition.


Association football was first codified in 1863, with the formation of the Football Association (FA) in England. At this time the sport was played mainly by public schools, or teams with public school roots, and amateurism was the norm. This remained the case until the 1880s, when working-class teams began to vie for supremacy. Blackburn Olympic, a team composed mainly of factory workers, won the 1883 FA Cup Final.[9] They were the first working-class team to win the competition since its inception in 1870.[10] Though professionalism was not permitted, Olympic arranged jobs for their players, and supplemented their income with additional payments, a common occurrence among Lancashire clubs.[11]

The differences between the amateur idealists from southern England and the increasingly professionalised teams from northern industrial towns came to a head in 1884. After Preston North End won an FA Cup match against Upton Park, the Londoners protested, seeking the result to be overturned due to the presence of paid players in the Preston ranks. This sparked a series of events which threatened to split the FA. Preston withdrew from the competition, and fellow Lancashire clubs Burnley and Great Lever followed suit. The protest gathered momentum, to the point where more than 30 clubs, predominantly from the north, announced that they would set up a rival British Football Association if the FA did not permit professionalism.[12] 18 months later the FA relented, and in July 1885 professionalism was formally legalised in England.[13][14]

Though English clubs employed professionals, the Scottish Football Association continued to forbid the practice. Consequently, many Scottish players migrated southward. At first the FA put residential restrictions in place to prevent this, but these were abandoned by 1889.[15] In the inaugural season of the Football League (1888–89), champions Preston North End fielded ten Scottish professionals.[16] The Scottish FA lifted its ban on professionalism in 1893, whereupon 560 players were registered as professionals.[17]

Timeline by country

This table details the year in which professionalism was introduced, country by country.

Country Year Notes
England 1885[13] Football League, first professional league, formed 1888
Scotland 1893[17]
United States 1894[18][19] The American League of Professional Football was created by team owners from the National League to compete during professional baseball's off-season. It lasted only one season.
Austria 1924[20] First fully professional league in continental Europe
Hungary 1924[20]
Italy 1926[21] it:Carta di Viareggio
Spain 1926[22]
Mexico 1927[23] Year when the national team turned professional. Mexico's first professional league was formed in 1943.
Argentina 1931[24]
Chile 1931[25]
France 1932[22]
Uruguay 1932[26]
Brazil 1933[27] São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro state leagues.
Turkey 1952[28]
Netherlands 1954[29]
West Germany 1963[30]
Sweden 1967[31]
Denmark 1978[32]
Norway 1992[33]
Saudi Arabia 2007[34]

See also Professional sports#Association football


  1. ^ a b Ingle, Sean; Glendenning, Barry (9 October 2003). "Baseball or Football: which sport gets the higher attendance?". The Guardian. UK.
  2. ^ "FIFA Survey: approximately 250 million footballers worldwide" (PDF). FIFA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 September 2006.
  3. ^ "Overview of Soccer". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 12 June 2008.
  4. ^ Guttman, Allen (1993). "The Diffusion of Sports and the Problem of Cultural Imperialism". In Eric Dunning; Joseph A. Maguire; Robert E. Pearton (eds.). The Sports Process: A Comparative and Developmental Approach. Champaign: Human Kinetics. p. 129. ISBN 0-88011-624-2. the game is complex enough not to be invented independently by many preliterate cultures and yet simple enough to become the world's most popular team sport
  5. ^ Dunning, Eric (1999). "The development of soccer as a world game". Sport Matters: Sociological Studies of Sport, Violence and Civilisation. London: Routledge. p. 103. ISBN 0-415-06413-9. During the twentieth century, soccer emerged as the world's most popular team sport
  6. ^ Mueller, Frederick; Cantu, Robert; Van Camp, Steven (1996). "Team Sports". Catastrophic Injuries in High School and College Sports. Champaign: Human Kinetics. p. 57. ISBN 0-87322-674-7. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and is an industry worth over US$400 billion world wide. 80% of this is generated in Europe, though its popularity is growing in the United States. It has been estimated that there were 22 million soccer players in the world in the early 1980s, and that number is increasing. In the United States soccer is now a major sport at both the high school and college levels
  7. ^ "TV Data". FIFA. Archived from the original on 22 September 2007.
  8. ^ "2006 FIFA World Cup broadcast wider, longer and farther than ever before". FIFA. 6 February 2007.
  9. ^ Goldblatt, David (2007). The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football. London: Penguin. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-14-101582-8.
  10. ^ Lloyd, Guy; Holt, Nick (2005). The F.A. Cup – The Complete Story. Aurum Press. p. 24. ISBN 1-84513-054-5.
  11. ^ Davies, Hunter (2003). Boots, Balls and Haircuts: An Illustrated History of Football from Then to Now. Cassell Illustrated. p. 36. ISBN 1-84403-261-2.
  12. ^ Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, pp. 46–7.
  13. ^ a b Lloyd and Holt, The F.A. Cup – The Complete Story, p. 22.
  14. ^ "History of Football – The Global Growth". FIFA Official Website. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  15. ^ Inglis, Simon (1988). League Football and the Men Who Made It. Willow Books. p. 18. ISBN 0-00-218242-4.
  16. ^ Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, p. 57.
  17. ^ a b Guttmann, Allen (2007). Sports: The First Five Millennia. University of Massachusetts Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-55849-610-1.
  18. ^ Marc S. Maltby, The Origins and Development of Professional Football, 1890–1920 (New York: Routledge, 1997).
  19. ^ John M. Carroll, “Football, Professional,” in Sports in America: From Colonial Times to the Twenty-First Century (Armonk, NY: York: M.E. Sharpe, 2011), 361–362.
  20. ^ a b Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, p. 225.
  21. ^ Carta di Viareggio (August 2, 1926), Annuario Italiano Giuoco del Calcio - Pubblicazione ufficiale della F.I.G.C. - Vol. II (1929), pp. 60-67
  22. ^ a b Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, p. 209.
  23. ^ http://www.e-how.com/facts_5347990_history-mexican-soccer.html%7CHistory of Mexican Soccer
  24. ^ Goldblatt, The Ball is Round, p. 205.
  25. ^ "Soccer Facts: History and Timeline of Soccer". SportsAspire.
  26. ^ Antognazza, Diego; Tabeira, Martín (2004). "Uruguay 1932 Championship". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation.
  27. ^ Bellos, Alex (2002). Futebol: the Brazilian way of life. London: Bloomsbury. p. 33. ISBN 0-7475-6179-6.
  28. ^ "Merhaba Dünya Kupası" (in Turkish). Turkish Football Federation. Archived from the original on 30 August 2020. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  29. ^ Stokkermans, Karel (2015). "Netherlands – Regional Analysis". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation.
  30. ^ BUNDESLIGA 50 – The birth of Germany's Professional Game. Christoph Wagner | FootballRepublik.com .
  31. ^ "Amatör eller professionist?" (PDF) (in Swedish). GIH. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 October 2014.
  32. ^ "DBU's historie 1961–1980" (in Danish). Dansk Boldspil-Union. 2002.
  33. ^ Sæther, Esten O. (7 August 2009). "Alle heiet underveis". Dagbladet (in Norwegian). Retrieved 8 August 2009.
  34. ^ "Morocco's Abderrazak Hamdallah breaks scoring record in Saudi Arabia". BBC. 19 April 2019.