Initially, football was designed more for that. to become a form of free pastime, rather than a professional occupation. The young people who founded the English Football Association did not at all strive to professionalize the game and did not want such a fate for their offspring. But by the early 1880s. it became clear that the new sport had become something of a mania, especially for the population of the industrial cities of Central and Northern England, as well as Glasgow and Central Scotland. Thousands of people were willing to pay for the opportunity to watch the cup competitions of leading teams, and local businessmen were happy to spend money on maintaining the football clubs of their cities.
Throwing home and work, the Scots went to play in English clubs: for example, in 1884, 55 Scots performed for eleven Lancashire teams. Highly and moderately skilled workers and even many middle-class clerks had the opportunity to play football or just go to matches: they regularly received a fairly high salary, and Saturday evening, when the games were held, was a weekend. The Football Association attempted to prevent players from getting money by preventing players from participating in individual matches or even disqualifying them for a long time. The decisive moment came in the season of 1884/85.
At the beginning of 1884, Preston Nord End received Upton Park at home in the fourth round of the Football Association Cup. After the match ended in a draw, the guests, a team of amateur gentlemen from London, filed a protest, arguing that Preston Nord End was played by professionals. The association conducted an investigation, and although the fact of the participation of professionals was not confirmed, Preston Nord End was convicted of illegally detaining players from other clubs.
The team was removed from the drawing, but in response to this, several of the largest clubs in Lancashire held a meeting at which they discussed the possibility of their withdrawal from the Football Association, since its headquarters were located in London. Representatives of 40 clubs gathered in Manchester, threatening the creation of an alternative British Football Association. Behind this desire for a split was a certain social, regional and emotional overtones, since the opposition of the North and the South, as well as strong anti-London attitudes, played a significant role in the emerging opposition. However, for some of the leaders of the FA and, above all, for its secretary, Charles Alcock, it was obvious that if the association wants to maintain its position, it is necessary to find a compromise with the supporters of professional football. It was found, and in 1885 professionalism in football was legalized within the framework of the Football Association of England.
The next major step taken by the leading professional clubs of Central and Northern England was the organization of the regular championship, in which the teams met twice – at home and away. The club, who performed better in this competition, won the champion title. Thus was created the Football League, which held its first championship in 1888-1889. This form of competition created conditions for regular trainings and performances of leading players, encouraged rivalry, and this in turn increased the quality of the game and spurred interest in it. In Scotland, where professional football was legalized only in 1893, the Football League was already organized in 1890-1891. Soon, various football unions began to appear in both England and Scotland: from the professional Southern League in 1894 to hundreds of semi-professional youth and amateur leagues, including associations of parochial and working teams.
By 1904, numerous football championships literally flooded the British Isles.