Eton Wall Game

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Coat of arms of the wall game

The Eton Wall Game is a ball sport that was developed at Eton College in the UK and is only played there. It is played on a 110 meter long and 5 meter wide playing field along a brick wall built in 1717 .

Traditionally the most important game of the year is the match between the colleges , the selection of the King's Scholars, and the oppidans , which takes place every year on St. Andrew's Day , and the selection from all other students in the school.


The Eton Wall Games were first mentioned in 1766; however, it is likely that the game was created earlier. The game was created during an early development phase of modern football and is one of the few ball games of this phase that are still played today; The Eton Field Game , which was created around the same time and is similar to the Wall Game, is one of these ball games.

Henry VI. founded Eton College 1440–1441 as a boarding school for 25 children from poor families and increased the number of students in 1443 to 70. In the 18th century, the public schools became increasingly popular with the (rural) nobility and members of the liberal professions, so only 70 fellows, called the colleges , could visit Eton. By 1780, public schools in England had become upper class institutions. The number of colleges has remained the same to this day; the remaining students of the approximately 1,300 strong student body who pay school fees are called oppidans . These names also prevailed for the two teams of the Eton Wall Game.

The change in the composition of the student body took place through all seven of the seven public schools : Charterhouse , Eton, Harrow , Rugby , Shrewsbury , Westminster and Winchester . The change in the composition of the student body led to problems with the teaching staff: the boys, as members of the upper class, refused to accept the authority of the teachers from the lower classes and took over the running of the schools; the public schools thus became institutions of self-regulation and self-regulation. The principle of the exercise of power by the older / stronger over the younger or weaker ruled. Due to the boarding school, this system was not only lived in but also outside of the classrooms.

The sports sociologist Eric Dunning sees a close connection between the introduction and further development of the respective football games at the seven public schools with the social structures that prevailed at the schools as well as outside. These football games are considered the forerunners of modern football. Football was at the bottom of the hierarchy of sports in England and was assigned to the working class. In the middle of the 18th century, the seven public schools therefore developed their own football games out of the rather wild and irregular ball sports that had existed for decades. Since there were no sporting competitions or other exchanges between the schools at the time, each of these schools developed its own team game, taking into account local characteristics (such as the wall in Eton) and social structures. Some of these games have survived to this day. These include the Wall Game and the Field Game from Eton and modern rugby developed from the original football game of the Rugby School .

Macnaghten sees the reason for the development of a wall game in the restriction of the actual soccer game by a wall that delimits the playing field on one side. Because in a game in which the ball is shot with the feet, this ball is inevitably regularly shot against the wall and bounces off again, a large part of the game also takes place on this wall / wall. Macnaghten sees the limitation of the playing field to five meters as a logical result.

In the 18th century, the Eton Wall Game was still largely played without detailed rules, it was considered a rough and brutal game. There were no rules for playing time or team strength. Teachers rejected the soccer game and would have liked to forbid it, but were unable to do so due to their lack of authority. The stronger decided when and how to play. Only after the situation had reached politics and reforms of the public schools had been demanded, further regulations of the football games came about. Reform was initiated at the beginning of the 19th century, although the forms of self-regulation and the possibility of exercising power for the fittest were not completely abolished, as they were seen as necessary instruments for training the elite. So that the teaching staff could improve their relationship with the students, the soccer games were integrated into official school life. Team sports were seen as a way of communicating with students and a means of character building. This was accompanied by a regulation that included, among other things, the requirement of the school principals to the students for a written deposit of revised rules. Between 1845 and 1862, all seven public schools put their rules in writing; The rules of the Eton Wall Game have existed in writing since 1849 and are now in their 16th edition, which was created in 2001. In addition, a season for the soccer game was set for the first time, which at schools mainly falls into the autumn to spring terms. In Eton, the wall game is only played in the so-called Michaelmas (September to December) and Lent (January to Easter) trimesters. The highlight is a year since 1844 the game of Collegers against Oppidans on St Andrews Day , which is well attended by spectators from outside. This game was originally on November 30, the Andrew's Day (engl. St. Andrews Day) played. Meanwhile, St Andrews Day is the official day for parents, on which various activities take place. Since its inception, the Wall Game has been played on this day, which takes place annually on a Saturday in late November. During the Lent term, younger students have the opportunity to play the wall game.

At the same time, football found widespread use in general society in the mid to late 19th century. Organizations were set up and rules drafted to be applied nationally.

For a long time, the Eton Wall Game was a purely male domain. The first women's wall game was played on July 15, 2005.


In the foreground the wall after which the game is named. At the back you can see the garden wall, which is considered an extension of the playing field during the Eton Wall Game with the (right) door, which represents one of the two goals.

The Eton Wall Game is played on a 5 meter wide playing field (“The Furrow”) that extends 110 meters along a brick wall (“The Wall”). The wall was built in 1717 and separates the area that used to be the sports grounds of Eton College from the parallel Slough Road . The two goals are located at both ends of the playing field; a garden door in an adjacent wall on one side (the door leads into a teacher's garden) and a marked point on the other side. At the point of this point there was originally an elm that had served as a gate for decades. In front of the two gates is the zone called Calx . The zone in the wall area of ​​the garden door is called Good Calx , the one on the other side is called Bad Calx . The name Calx comes from the Latin name for chalk with which the markings for this playing field area were originally drawn. Goals can only be scored from within the Calx .

There are spectator seats behind a cordon that is stretched parallel to the wall. Some of the Eton students sit on the wall during the game.

Game flow

The aim of the game, similar to rugby union , is to get the ball to the opposing end of the field of play. The goals are located at both ends of the wall: a garden gate at one end and a tree at the other end of the field. In front of these gates is the end zone called "Calx". In this zone, a player of the attacking team can achieve a "Shy" by lifting the ball off the floor with the help of his feet and legs on the wall and then a teammate touching it with his hand , also within the calx , and "got it " calls. A Shy is awarded one point. If the referee gives the point, the attacking team has the opportunity to score a goal by throwing the ball against one of the two specified targets: there are nine points for this performance. A player can also score a goal with his foot from the game if he hits one of the two goals; there are five points for this.

The game goes over two halves of 25 minutes each with a half-time break of 5 minutes. The halves are extended if the ball is in the calx after this time .

Many games end with 0-0. Goals are very rare, they occur about once a decade; the last time a goal was scored was at St. Andrew's in 1909 . Shys, on the other hand, are scored more often.

The game itself develops only very slowly ("inch-by-inch"), because it takes place for long stretches in a group, the so-called bully , in which a player buries the ball and his teammates as well as the opponents try to release the ball from the bully and bring it in the direction of the respective goal area.

Prominent former players of the wall game were the current Prime Minister Boris Johnson , the former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and the writer George Orwell . Even Prince Harry took in 2001 in a match of the wall part game, which met with extensive media coverage.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Eton, in: Encyclopædia Britannica , 1911, Volume 9, page 853.
  2. Eric Dunning: Chapter 8. The Development of Modern Football . In: Sport. Readings from a Sociological Perspective. University of Toronto Press, Toronto 2017, ISBN 978-1-4426-5404-4 , p. 135 (accessed online from de Gruyter ).
  3. ^ A b R. C. Macnaghten: The Champagne of Football: The Eton Wall Game. In: The Coffin Corner, magazine of the Professional Football Researchers Association , issue 10 for 1988. ( online , PDF).
    Note: The article is a reprint from The Eton Wall Game. Cape. 3 from Football: its History for Five Centuries , edited by Sir Montague Shearman, published by Longmans, Green (London) in 1887.
  4. Eric Dunning: Chapter 8. The Development of Modern Football . In: Sport. Readings from a Sociological Perspective. University of Toronto Press, Toronto 2017, ISBN 978-1-4426-5404-4 , p. 142 (accessed online from de Gruyter ).
  5. ^ The Wall Game on the Eton College website.
  6. a b Rules on the Eton College website, (PDF)
  7. ^ Andrei Markovits, Lars Rensmann: Chapter 2: The Emergence of Global Arenas: Mapping the Globalization of Sports Cultures between Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism, and Localism. In: Gaming the World: How Sports Are Reshaping Global Politics and Culture. Princeton University Press, Princeton 2010, doi: 10.23943 / 9781400834662-003 , p. 64 (accessed online from de Gruyter ).
  8. Caroline Davies: Harry wants to join Eton's 'brutal and violent' Wall Game. On: of November 23, 2001