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The first written Rules of Football, May 1858

  1. The distance between the goals and the goal posts shall be decided upon by the captains of the sides playing.
  2. The captains on each side shall toss for choice of goal; the side losing the toss has to kick-off from the centre point between the goals.
  3. A goal must be kicked fairly between the posts, without touching either of them, or a portion of the person of any player on either side.
  4. The game shall be played within a space of not more than 200 yards wide, the same to be measured equally on each side of a line drawn through the centres of the two goals; and the two posts to be called the 'kick-off' posts shall be erected at a distance of 30 yards on each side of the goal posts at both ends, and in a straight line with them.
  5. In case the ball is kicked behind goal, any one of the side behind whose goal it is kicked may bring it 20 yards in from of any portion of the space between the 'kick-off' posts, and shall kick it as nearly as possible in a line with the opposite goal.
  6. Any player catching the ball directly from the foot may call 'mark'. He then has a free kick; no player from the opposite side being allowed to come inside the spot marked.
  7. Tripping and pushing are both allowed (but no hacking) when any player is in rapid motion or in possession of the ball, except in the case provided for in Rule VI.
  8. The ball may be taken in hand only when caught from the foot, or on the hop. In no case shall it be lifted from the ground.
  9. When the ball goes out of bounds (the same being indicated by a row of posts) it shall be brought back to the point where it crossed the boundary line, and thrown in at right angles with that line.
  10. The ball, while in play, may under no circumstances be thrown.

(Copied from the hand written document in the possession of the Melbourne Cricket Club)

Download a copy of the first written Rules of Football in PDF format.

View an image of original handwritten document.