Sixteen descendants of association football’s eight Founding Fathers will attend a ceremony at Wembley Stadium on Monday to pay tribute to their ancestors’ achievements.
Exactly 150 years ago this coming Saturday, 26 October, Ebenezer Cobb Morley, Arthur Pember, Charles William Alcock, Francis Maule Campbell, John Forster Alcock, Herbert Thomas Steward, George Twizell Wawn and James Turner gathered in the Freemasons’ Tavern to draft the original 13 Laws of the world’s favourite game.
And after a worldwide search, The FA has discovered Founding Fathers’ relatives as far afield as Washington DC, Chicago and Auckland, as well as in this country.
On Monday, a blue plaque will be unveiled to pay tribute to the historical significance of their work in creating a game that is now enjoyed by billions of people around the world.
The event is the start of a week of celebrations for The FA’s 150th birthday, which will culminate in a gala dinner on the anniversary date itself this Saturday evening.
Surprisingly little was known about the men who set the ball rolling for a game which, supported by The FA, is played by seven million people in this country alone.
But following a four-month search led by cultural historian Dr Jane Clayton from the International Football Institute, University of Central Lancashire, and with the help of the general public, living descendants for six of the founding fathers have been identified.
Jane Sleight, the great-great-granddaughter of Arthur Pember, and Tom Steward, a relation of Herbert Thomas Steward, are the two relatives living furthest from where The FA was formed in 1863, hailing from Washington DC, and Auckland, New Zealand, respectively.
In the UK, it was discovered that the family tree of Arthur Pember also crossed with that of another figure of huge historical and cultural significance, Charles Darwin.
In 1925, Pember’s great-niece married Charles Galton Darwin, the grandson of Charles Darwin and thus the current Darwin dynasty is also related to one of football’s Founding Fathers.
A number of George Twizell Wawn’s family have been located in Oxford and the Lancashire town of Rossendale, whilst John Forster Alcock and Francis Maule Campbell have descendants living in London, Cambridge, Oxford and Peterborough.
Following the research it has been discovered that the family tree of Ebenezer Cobb Morley ended upon his death in 1924 as neither he, nor his siblings, had any children. The search for information on James Turner and further descendants for the other six Founding Fathers continues with The FA and Dr Clayton investigating leads across the UK as well as in Japan, Denmark and Canada.
Dr Clayton said: “For the search to have been so successful is incredibly pleasing as, from a historical perspective, we now know a lot more about a number of the men that created the most popular sport in the world 150 years ago.
“The research carried out to date has been extensive but the work continues in the hope of discovering more descendants across the world.”
Alex Horne, general secretary of The FA, believes the achievements of the Founding Fathers can now be properly celebrated.
He said: “In terms of historical significance, the eight Founding Fathers of football should be placed alongside other great pioneers of this nation.
"The game has become a focal point of the lives of nearly every household in England since it was formed, so to now understand more about the history of these men is incredibly important.
“The FA is delighted that in its 150th year we have been able to identify living descendants and honour their forefathers at what is now the home of English football, Wembley.”
To find out more about the search for living descendants of the Founding Fathers, please visit www.thefa.com/foundingfathers and if you have any information that can assist, please email email@example.com
The Founding Fathers of football are:
Ebenezer Cobb Morley (1831-1924)
Arthur Pember (1835-1886)
Charles William Alcock (1842-1907)
Francis Maule Campbell (1843-1920)
John Forster Alcock (1841-1910)
Herbert Thomas Steward (1839-1915)
George Twizell Wawn (1840-1914)
James Turner (dates unknown)