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Formal name is ‘ Association Football ‘, but often referred to as ‘ Soccer ‘ in some countries to distinguish it from other similar ball games. Football is without doubt the worlds most popular game. A recent survey conducted by FIFA concluded that more than 240 million people from over 200 countries regularly play football.

As with many other ball game sports, football started as a variation of many ball games played at Public Schools in England in the 1800’s. In 1863, a committee representing pupils from Harrow, Shrewsbury, Eton, Rugby, Marlborough and Westminster drew up a revised version of the Cambridge Rules. There were however a number of clubs not associated with schools or universities which had been formed during the 1850’s, and in 1863 the inaugural meeting of the Football Association was held in London with representatives from several clubs in the London area. After several meetings, the Football Association published the ‘ Laws of Football ‘, which were the first set of rules governing the game of Association Football. At the same time, other clubs throughout the English speaking world were playing to their own rules, in particular Sheffield Football Club which was formed in 1857 and formed the Sheffield Football Association in 1867. The Sheffield FA played to its own rules until 1870, with the Football Association gradually adopting some of these rules until there was very little difference, although they still included some elements no longer applicable to the modern game.

The Laws of association football are now governed by the International Football Association Board ( IFAB ), which was formed in 1886 after a meeting in Manchester between the English FA , Scottish FA, the FA of Wales and the Irish FA . These countries are still represented individually on the board and wield considerable power over the game of football as a result. It is the main reason why there is opposition to the formation of a Great Britain football team.

The oldest football cup competition in the world is the FA Cup, started by C.W. Alcock in 1872 and played by English teams to this day.

The first official international football game was played between Scotland and England in Glasgow in 1872, also organised by C.W. Alcock.

The world’s first football league was formed in Birmingham in 1888, and included twelve clubs from the Midlands and the North of England. Leagues have now been established in all football playing countries, with most countries also running one or more cup competitions.
The top European leagues are generally recognised to be the Premier League ( England ), La Liga ( Spain ), Serie A ( Italy ), the Bundesliga ( Germany ) and Ligue 1 ( France ).

The most important football club competition in Europe is the UEFA Champions League, followed by the Europa League as a second tier. Qualification for these two competitions is determined by performance in the respective national football leagues and cup competitions, and represents significant financial rewards for the competing teams, both through prize money and television rights.

The top international football competition is the FIFA World Cup, in which 32 teams qualify for the finals which are held every four years. More than 190 teams currently compete in qualifying tournaments throughout the world to gain entry to the finals. Below the World Cup in stature there are continental tournaments, including the European Championships.

Between 1882 and 1924, a single football team organised by the Belfast based Irish FA represented the whole of Ireland. In 1920 however Ireland partitioned into Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State ( later becoming known as Ireland or Eire after a new Constitution in 1937 ) The Dublin based FA of the Irish Free State ( FAIFS ) split from the IFA in 1921 and began to organise its own football leagues and a national team. The FAIFS was recognised by FIFA in 1923, and the Irish Free State competed in the 1924 Olympics. In 1934, the Irish Free State made their football World Cup debut in a qualifying game.

In 1936 the FAIFS reverted to the name Football Association of Ireland ( FAI ), At this time there were two Irish international teams, with both the Belfast based IFA and the Dublin based FAI claiming jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland. In fact there were at least 38 dual international players who were selected and played for both teams. However, in 1953 FIFA decided that neither team could be referred to as ‘ Ireland ‘ in any tournaments where both were eligible to play ie. The World Cup and what was then the European Nations Cup ( now the European Championships ). The FAI became officially the ‘ Republic of Ireland, and the IFA became ‘ Northern Ireland ‘.

NORTHERN IRELAND – The Irish Football League is the second oldest football league in the world, after the English Football League, and was formed one week before the Scottish Football League in 1890. At the time of course it represented the whole of Ireland, although all the founder member clubs were based in what became Northern Ireland, with seven of the eight football clubs from Belfast. From the 1995/96 season to the 2002/03 season, there were two divisions ie. The Premier and the 1st Division. Since 2003 there have been many changes in both the structure and the format of the football leagues, and we now have the Irish Premiership, comprising 12 clubs each playing the others three times during the season. The top 6 clubs then play each other a fourth time to determine the league champions ( and holders of the Gibson Cup ), and qualification for the European competitions. The bottom 6 clubs also play each other again to determine relegation.

The Irish League Cup is contested by all 12 Premiership teams, while the top 4 teams in the Premiership also qualify for the next seasons all Ireland Setanda Cup.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND – The Football League of Ireland was formed in 1921 with 8 clubs, but has now developed into a two tier league with 22 clubs in total, playing in the Premier League and the First Division. Again the structure and format of the football leagues has changed many times, but there are now 10 clubs in the Premiership, each playing each other four times, and 12 clubs in the 1st Division playing each other three times during the season. The season is unusual in that it is a summer league played between March and November, ideal for out of season football gambling.

Betting opportunities on football are huge, partly because there are so many matches being played at any one time all over the world, but also because of the range of bets available. You can obviously bet on the final result, but perhaps you prefer the final score, half time score, total goals, penalties, red cards, yellow cards, who scores first, what time. You can even bet during a game for example, who scores next, when and even how the next goal will be scored.