Milford House Museum

 

The Penalty Kick

Milford Football Team 1889

Back row (left to right): Jimmitt, J. Mc Cauley, T. Sturgon, H. Mc Auley
Centre (left to right): J. Cunningham, W. Mc Crum, W. Martin, H. Hyde
Front row (left to right): T. Mc Parland, W.D. Harris, J. Sleith

William Mc Crum 1888 as High Sheriff of Armagh

Wording of the penalty kick rule which William Mc Crum invented

"If any player shall deliberately trip or hold an opposing player or deliberately handle the ball within twelve yards of his own goal line, the referee shall, on appeal award the opposing side a penalty kick, to be taken any twelve yards from the goal-line under the following conditions:

All players, with the exception of the player taking the penalty and the opposing goalkeeper (who shall not advance more than six yards from the goal-line) shall stand at least six yards behind the ball. The Ball shall be in play when the penalty kick is taken and a goal may be scored from a penalty kick"

Today Milford village in County Armagh is no longer famous for producing some of the world's finest linen, but it is world famous as the home of the penalty kick. William Mc Crum (1865-1932) invented the penalty kick in William Street (which was the then football pitch) in 1890. Think of all the million pound strikers who miss an important penalty- particularly when its a shoot out - and he sinks his head in disgust. He can blame William Mc Crum and a tiny little model village in Northern Ireland for it.

It is well known that in life William took little interest in his father's business. His passion was sport as member of the Irish FA Council, Armagh Rugby Club, Milford and Armagh Cricket clubs and Chairman of Milford Football club. Ironic that the man who invented the penalty kick rule in football should be a goalkeeper. William Mc Crum was very interested in amateur dramatics and goalkeepers do not do much in the game and there is a theory that he may have had the idea that for a split few seconds he would be the most important person in the game. He was goalkeeper with Milford Football team when they competed in the inaugural Irish League Championship in 1890-91, finishing bottom of the table without a point and conceding sixty two goals. He never hit the headlines, won any caps or featured in football record books. Not much of a CV for a man who made such a decisive impact on the world of football.

In the context of when the penalty kick was invented in 1890, there were few rules in football and games were rather uncivilized. There was a mad scramble to create them and so inevitably when William Mc Crum suggested it, it was not taken seriously. It was as an IFA meeting delegate that he suggested the penalty kick be added to the Laws of the Game, much to the annoyance of many who considered it too revolutionary, a mad scheme. Jack Reid the Cliftonville Centre forward, capped six times by Ireland took up the Mc Crum cudgel as the Irish FA Secretary, for he could see merit in the proposed alternation. Like Mc Crum, Reid possessed imagination and foresight which he displayed at meetings of the International Board, footballs founding rule body (established in 1886) which still exists today with FIFA.

William Mc Crum pondered for weeks on the composition of his motion which he asked the Irish FA to put to the International Board in 1890, but as that meeting took so long, the IFA also realizing there would be opposition withdrew the motion emphesising it would be on next years agenda. Andrea Herron, one of FIFA's leading media experts reckons it was at an incident during Notts county- Stoke FA Cup quarter final that persuaded legislators there was some something in what they nicknamed According to Herron:

"Nott's had been leading 1-0 until the final minute when Hendry, a defender, stopped a shot in his hand. Stoke were awarded a free kick a few centimetres in front of the goal-line. It is easy to imagine the uproar that ensued when the Nott's goalkeeper deliberately stood directly in front of the ball and blocked it without flinching"

Mc Crum and Reidi persued on determined to see it through. For twelve months they lobbied other delegates seeking support until Tuesday, June 2nd 1891, at the International Board meeting in the Alexandra Hotel, Bath Street Glasgow, Reid as IFA Representative seconded by England, now much in favour after a long debate, it was passed unanimously. Though few at the time understood the enormity of the decision or how it would revolutionize football forever. At the time it was considered another rule.

In those days the penalty demation line extended the breadth of the pitch twelve yards from the goal line and according to Harren, referees given full authority in 1891 by the lawmakers did not react according to their descretion but on appeal by teams, a privilege soon divested from players because of their perpetual and orchestrated protests. The penalty could be taken from any point along the twelve yard line: the goalkeeper was permitted to move up to six yards away from his goal to defend a penalty while all other players had to wait at least six yards behind the ball. Current field markings were introduced in 1901, and the arc in front of the penalty kick boxes in 1937 at the insistence of smoe European associations. Originally goalkeepers could be moved from post to post but in 1929 came the edict they must stand without moving their feet.

In 1999 two famous English footballers Gary Lineker and Chris Waddle (both have missed vital spot kicks for their country) presented 'On the Spot- The Twelve Yard Club' on BBC2. It featured a number of famous soccer stars who at some time in their career had been entrusted with a crucial penalty kick. Gary Lineker stood over the Mc Crum family grave in Saint Mark's Parish Church in Armagh City where William Mc Crum is buried and joked, "This man has a lot to answer for!!!!".