Buy our exclusive European football stadium poster

The True Story Behind the English Game - and Why It Matters

The True Story Behind the English Game - and Why It Matters

Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, has made a new show in collaboration with Netflix. Unlike the wildly popular story of the Crawley family, The English Game focuses on the beginnings of football in England and the role of class differences during the progression of the game. As the sport became more popular within the country's working class, the upper-class inventors of the beautiful game began to feel threatened.

The show's ideas extend to the modern day, as one of the central themes of the series revolves around whether footballers should be paid for playing the game. In today's world where the increasingly ridiculous wages of our favorite players often find their place in the latest football news, this issue seems appropriate to explore.

In the broadest, most vague sense, the show deals with historical events, albeit in a somewhat fictionalized manner, with events re-arranged to push the narrative forward. There are some light spoilers ahead, so if you've not seen the show, or don't know much about the beginnings of the game in England, specifically Blackburn Olympic Football Club, this is your chance. Watching the series might inspire you to bet on some real football games, in which case be sure to visit sites such as Mobilebet for example.

Blackburn's Unlikely Global Influence

The footballing history of Blackburn is not quite as celebrated as that of bigger and more famous English cities like London, Manchester, Liverpool, or Birmingham. However, the small industrial town had a huge role in the early development of the game, as well as its export to the continent.

The most successful club in the former Soviet Union, as well as modern-day Ukraine, Dynamo Kyiv, was famously founded by a Blackburn Rovers supporter. This is the reason for the club's blue and white colours. The most successful Swiss club, Grasshopper Zürich, still play in their version of a Rovers kit for similar reasons.

Don't be fooled into thinking that only clubs from the Eastern Bloc and relatively minor footballing countries began their journey in Blackburn Rovers' kits. In Spain, one of the powerhouses of the modern game, giants Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao replaced their blue and white halves with red and white stripes when Bilbao student Juan Elorduy mistakenly brought back Southampton shirts. Atletico still uses blue shorts in honor of their original kit, while Bilbao switched them to black.

The Story of the 1883 FA Cup Final and Its Importance

Fashion isn't the only reason why Blackburn is significant for the history of football. The FA Cup final of 1883 is more important because the local team managed to become the first working-class club to win the competition by beating the Old Etonians. Perhaps, most importantly, they used what was at the time a revolutionary new tactic based on a rarely used technique - passing the ball.

It might sound silly from today's perspective, but back in the day teams used to gather around a single ball carrier when attacking and try to essentially push through the defending team. Blackburn Olympic changed the game by spreading the team up on offence and using direct passes to get behind the opposition backline.

Even though Olympic was not the first team in England to use passing, they were the first to experience some real success by building their entire offensive tactic around the concept. Their players would knock the ball around the pitch to teammates who had more space, with the aim of tiring the opposition. The Old Etonians found themselves deeply unprepared for this approach, and Olympic eventually won by a goal in extra time, after a sweeping pass from the right wing found Jimmy Costley on the left with lots of space.

Today, not many people know about the huge role that Olympic played in the shaping of the modern game. Unfortunately, the side is not remembered as much as it should be, even in its own town. A sixth form now stands on the site of their old stadium.

Thousands of teenagers play football on its huge pitch without realizing its significance. Although the pitch is not technically the place where the pass was born, it is the birthplace of the foundations of the modern game. It is hard to say why the eradication of working-class achievements from our everyday knowledge is so common. However, although Blackburn Olympic's story is absent from our common consciousness, it still remains part of the history books.

More articles from Football Ground Map...

Surviving football boredom - a football fans' guide

23 interesting things to do to pass the time until the football season restarts

The World's Barmiest Football Fan?

Tony Incenzo has been to over 2,000 football grounds - is he the world's barmiest football fan? Read about his love for Non-League football and groundhopping obsession, including watching a match in prison!

The biggest football attendances ever recorded

An in-depth look at the biggest football attendances ever recorded, from the 1950 World Cup to pre-season friendlies in the States and the Scottish ground with dozens of 100,000+ attendances

The 91 Biggest Football Stadiums in Europe

The 91 biggest football stadiums in Europe. From Manchester to Munich, Villa Park to Valencia - each one with a capacity over 40,000

Get the double-sided 92 Club & National League map poster