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For this answer, I accept a version if there is a defined league that over 1 million people follow.

This gives us 6 types of football. Ranked by number of fans worldwide.


American Gridiron

Rugby Union

Rugby League

Aussie Rules

Gaelic Football

1) Originally football had the 'no hands rule'. The version that still holds to this rule is known as soccer due to it being called 'association football' in the beginning.

2) Rugby school in England decided that they liked picking up the ball and running with it.

3) About the same time 1860-1880 the Irish were mixing soccer with their traditional games called caid (some people refer to modern day Gaelic Football as Caid).

4) Also in the mid 1900s the Australians were developing a sport. Since the majority of the immigrants at that time were English and Irish, Aussie Rules became a mixture of rugby and gaelic football. (IMHO it resembles Gaelic more though).

5) American Football has its origins in rugby but quickly introduced the concept of limited 'downs' and a set number of yards would earn a team another set of 'downs'. The forward pass came much later.

6) Rugby League came around in England due mainly to reasons of class. The north (poorer working class) wanted players to be able to accept payment for playing. This caused a split and shortly thereafter 'rugby league' was formed and the first big change was to do away with rucks and just play the ball. Leading to a faster pace game but with less variety.

Oddly enough a similar split along class lines happened in Australia around the same sort of time.

So there are now 6 different versions. I do not count Canadian Football as different from American Gridiron. And Rugby 7s is counted as a sub-version of rugby union.


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