33. The Not so All American Game: Soccer and rugby arrive in the United States
Not even the argument that American football evolved from Harvard and the Boston Game holds up too well in court. The reality is that it grew out of rugby, and had the British dominion of Canada to thank. It’s not something they like to make a song and dance about in the United States.
Rutgers and Princeton’s match in 1869 is said to be where it all started for American football, but how much was that really the case? That game, and the one standardised by the Intercollegiate Football Association in 1873, was basically soccer. But the Stateside penchant for off-the-ball physicality was already rearing its head.
It was Harvard’s disinterest in the IFA that paved the way for modern American
football, when instead they turned to a rugby-playing university from Canada for opposition.
The other Ivy Colleges soon came round to Harvard’s way of thinking, but it would be wrong to say that the rules they drafted in 1876 were ‘rugby-inspired’. It was British rugby as codified by the RFU, pure and simple. But the Americans wouldn’t be sticking to the British rules for long…