Trial of Two Centuries
Opening Statements
Public Executions
Human v. Human Sport
Animal v. Animal Sport Human v. Animal Sport Closing Statements Witness List End Notes & Bibliography

Human v. Human Sport : Football

Right:  Wymer's Sport in England notes the picture as Street Football from the "Picture Post" Library.
[The Prosecutor calls Michael Hobert to the stand.]

Prosecution: Is football violent?

Hobert: Yes, it is.

Prosecution: Could you please indulge the court to explain its violent tendencies?

Hobert: In some matches, people kick at each other shins. … Though some play the civil style of the game, in most games, people can hit, wrestle, or kick the shins of the competitor.1

Prosecution: Where does this style originate from?

Hobert: Historically the sport seems to have begun as guise, in which border warfare was fought under its pretense. Games were raids on a village with both defense and offense. Both attempt to score and win the territorial prize.2

Prosecution: When are games usually played?

Hobert: Any time, but especially on Shrove Tuesday.

Prosecution: Could you please enlighten those that don't know what Shrove Tuesday is?

Hobert: Shrove Tuesday is a Major winter holiday; a day for apprentices, but celebrated by most with all the stores closed.3


[The Defense calls historian Laurence Birmingham to the stand.]

Defense: Is football and its rough style of play important for society?

Defense: What does the sport do for the individual?

Birmingham: It gets a person’s aggression without him having to commit a crime by attacking or killing another individual.

Prosecution: Could you explain?

Birmingham: Football, with large numbers of people gathering can play an important role for society. It can be used as a meeting area for townspeople to speak to each other. At times, it can hide the meeting of men discussing making protest over what they do not find people fair in their society.4

Birmingham: Football games on disputed lands in one town served as a demonstration of communal defiance in 1768. ... Earlier, in 1740 in the midst of the food riots, the game was used as a guise for about five hundred hungry men from Northamptonshire to take down a mill from those they felt were the oppressors.5


[The Prosecution Cross-examines Birmingham.]

Prosecution: Are there not better ways for people to get out their aggression and anger than by violent means?


Prosecution: You describe these protests as being positive for society, but (Malco 40) is it true that a football game played at West Haddon did not have a positive effect on society.

Birmingham: Yes, but that was an isolated occurence.

Judge: Mr. Birmingham, just answer the questions.

Prosecution: Mr. Birmingham, could you please describe for us, what happened at West-Haddon?

Birmingham: It was reported by the Northampton Mercury that the football players "pulled up and burnt the fences designed for enclose of that field, and did other considerable damage."6

Prosecution: Then, is it possible that football games designed simply for dissident townsmen can to lead to unnecessary violence?

Birmingham: Yes. 

 Wymer's Sport in England notes the image as Football Match at Rugby School

Commentary Note: The styles of play at the time vary so much that each source could only provide scant knowledge of any regulated play. From rugby style to soccer, to football, it was all game, or some was game, depending on the game.

Copyright © 1999 Lara Zador and Jason Winokur. All rights reserved.
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