Why football owes Sheffield for penalties and Panini stickers

Football fans may have Sheffield to thank, or blame, for penalties and Panini stickers.

Thursday, 6th December 2018, 12:23 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th December 2018, 12:30 pm
Football author Martin Westby in the kit some of the game's earliest players would have worn

That's according to a new book about Sheffield's role in the modern game's evolution, which strengthens the city's claim to be the true home of the sport as we know it.

The football historian Martin Westby has released a new, updated edition of his book A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889, containing fresh revelations about just how influential the city was in shaping the beautiful game.

Football author Martin Westby in the kit some of the game's earliest players would have worn

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It details how Sheffield showed the way for the Panini sticker albums, which would become a rite of passage for fans the world over.

Nearly 90 years before the famous Italian firm began selling football stickers, The Sheffield Portrait Gallery published the world's first photo of a football team to appear in a newspaper, in April 1876.

Mr Westby has unearthed evidence that this image of a representative Sheffield team was actually attached to the publication, with details of how to remove it and mount it in an album or scrap book.

Is this photo, of a Sheffield representative team, the first example of a football sticker? (pic: Martin Westby)

'We could say that this is the first ever example of a publication giving away a football picture gift '“ an inspired idea that has echoed down the years, from Topical Time giving away panel portraits of players in the 1930s, up to the modern-day Panini cards,' the book explains.

Penalties, too, were first conceived in Sheffield, the book reveals.

The Sheffield FA's solution was not to award a penalty kick but a penalty goal for players fouled within two yards of the opposition goal.

The April 1876 edition of The Sheffield Portrait Gallery in which the photo appeared (pic: Martin Westby)

This was discussed at a meeting in 1879 '“ 12 years before the penalty kick was first introduced in 1891 '“ only to be rescinded later that year as it was considered too generous.

Mr Westby's new edition also contains never-before-published extracts from the Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA's minute books.

These shed new light on the first ever floodlit match at Bramall Lane in 1878 and Sheffield's opposition to professionalism, which the author argues resulted in the city losing ground to rival associations.

The teams which competed in the first football match to be played under electric floodlights, which took place at Bramall Lane in 1878, as listed in the Sheffield FA minute books

Researching the new edition, Mr Westby says, strengthened his view that Sheffield can rightly call itself the home of association football.

That's why he added a new chapter explaining why the city, which is home to the world's two oldest surviving football clubs and where the hugely influential 1858 Sheffield Rules were written, deserves the epithet.

'Sheffield was undoubtedly the crucible of association football,' he said.

'It wrote its rules five years before the FA got round to it and if it wasn't for the Sheffield FA's intervention football could, as William Chesterman, the honorary secretary of Sheffield FC, famously said, be a game more resembling wrestling.'

He believes Sheffield needs to make more of its football history, building on the momentum created by the Football Treasures exhibition in October, where a copy of the 1858 Sheffield rules went on public display for the first time, along with the FA Cup trophy.

As he concludes in the book: 'Sheffield football needs to build on the deserved pride in its illustrious history and create a future worthy of its past as '˜The Home of Association Football'.

A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889, priced £15.95, is available at www.englandsoldestfootballclubs.com or from Waterstones at the Orchard Square shopping complex in Sheffield city centre.