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Which Rules Today?
Which Rules Today? 

Having decided, in 1873, that they would like to play football during the winter months, the next decision for a group of young Havelock Cricket Club members was ‘which code of football should we play?’ 

There is no evidence that any of them had attended one of the major football playing public schools or indeed that any of them had even played football before and so they had no previous experience of the various types of football. In fact the decision was not as difficult as it first appears because at that time there was only one club in what later became the city of Birmingham playing association football. It therefore seemed only natural that the young footballers should take up the Rugby code. 

The next problem was arranging sufficient fixtures with other clubs in the area and finding somewhere to play. A ground was found in St. Paul’s Road, Balsall Heath but there seems to have been some difficulty in obtaining games with other clubs as only a few matches were played during that first season of 1873/74. 

During the next season, the first using the name Moseley Football Club, 21 fixtures were arranged mainly with other local clubs, the farthest away games being at Wednesbury and at Bromsgrove. It appears that matches with more distant teams were available but Moseley were unable to take them up probably due to the fact that many of the players were engaged in business on Saturday mornings thus reducing the distance that could be travelled for an afternoon game. 

By 1875/76 Moseley did manage to travel further afield, playing games at Derby and at Coventry, however, there were still Saturdays when the club did not have a fixture. The club therefore came up with a novel solution to the problem-if there were not enough rugby fixtures available locally then why not play clubs that used different football rules? 

Thus on 11th December 1875 Moseley played an away fixture with King Edward's School according to the school’s rules. These rules seemed to be a variant of rugby and although Moseley may have had some difficulty adapting they won the match. The Birmingham Daily Gazette reported that ‘nothing of any importance took place till after half-time.’ However, after the break Moseley got into their stride and scored two tries. 

On the following Saturday another away game was played under different rules, this time against Wednesbury Old Athletic. An agreement had been reached with the Wednesbury club that home and away fixtures would be played that season and that the games would be played according to the rules used by the home side. 

Moseley therefore travelled to the Crankhall Grounds to play a game under the rules of the Sheffield Association, a variant of soccer but with some features in common with rugby. Moseley found Wednesbury more difficult opponents than the King Edward's School boys and ‘after a well-contested and even game’ the match ended with neither side having scored. This was a very creditable result for the visitors as during the next few years Wednesbury Old Athletic rivalled Aston Villa as the premier association club in the west Midlands.