Association football was invented in the back room of a London pub in 1863 by several well-to-do gentlemen sporting sizeable moustaches and mutton-chop sideburns, and the original association football fans were just as gentlemanly and hairy. Early club matches became social events that allowed spectators the opportunity to show off their finest clothing – frock jackets, waistcoats and colourful neckerchiefs, with shiny top hats or billycock bowlers. Newspapers noted that the early matches were also attended by “many of the fair sex, who added to the attractions of the sport”.
These fledgling meetings between the London-based Football Association sides attracted only a few hundred supporters. Bigger and livelier crowds could be found elsewhere in emerging football hotbeds such as Glasgow and Sheffield.
One newspaper article described the gentlemen from Sheffield as “extremely liberal with their plaudits... and equally unsparing in their sarcasm and country ‘chaff’”. Dictionary definitions of ‘chaff’ include ‘light-hearted joking’ as well as the word ‘banter’, which means banter has been associated with football fans for the best part of 150 years.