Friday, 19 Apr 2024

“The English Game” on Netflix: Revealing the Real Story Behind the Julian Fellowes Football Drama

Video soccer movies based on true stories

soccer movies based on true stories

As a follow-up to his hit TV series “Downton Abbey,” renowned writer Julian Fellowes brings us another captivating television show, this time on Netflix. “The English Game” is not only a historical drama but also sheds light on the birth of modern soccer, moving it from a sport played by the upper classes to the national game of the United Kingdom.

Unveiling Real Events Behind the Drama

“The English Game” revolves around two key figures who played integral roles in the development of soccer during the late 1800s. Edward Holcroft, known for his roles in “Kingsman” and “London Spy,” portrays Arthur Kinnaird, the skilled player who studied at the prestigious Eton College. Meanwhile, Kevin Guthrie, widely recognized for his part in “Fantastic Beasts,” brings to life Fergus Suter, a talented soccer player from a humble background in Scotland.

In the first episode, Kinnaird, representing the Old Etonians, faces off against Suter, who plays for Darwen, during an FA Cup quarter-final match. This event took place at Eton in 1879 when Darwen became the first working-class team to make the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Their victory marked a significant milestone for working-class teams in the competition.

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The Controversy That Changed the Game

“The English Game” also delves into a controversy that forever altered the history of soccer. When Suter left Darwen to join the Blackburn Rovers, the former accused the latter of illegal payment for his services. At the time, such transactions were not allowed and remained prohibited until 1885. Nevertheless, Suter ultimately became one of the game’s first professional players.

Andy Mitchell, a football historian and consultant on the show, sheds light on this pivotal moment: “Suter was one of the first professionals. Although there were some individuals at Sheffield who may or may not have been professionals, Suter was the first to openly admit it.”

This revelation revolutionized English clubs’ approach to the game. Suter, a moderately ranked Scottish player, had an immense impact on team performance. Consequently, clubs started seeking out other talented footballers, leading to an influx of professional players.

The Rise of Soccer as the National Game

“The English Game” asserts that soccer truly became the national game when working-class individuals could earn a living playing it. This breakthrough allowed people from all walks of life to participate. Unlike the upper classes, who had the luxury of devoting their time to training, the working class faced intense manual labor jobs. Soccer provided them with a means of escape and a new source of excitement in their lives.

Julian Fellowes eloquently describes this transformative effect on working-class leisure time: “Workers toiled six days a week, barely earning enough to survive. Apart from their daily routines, they had very little to look forward to. Suddenly, they found themselves engrossed in this weekly spectacle of following the game, cheering for their favorite teams, and traveling to witness matches. Soccer injected a fresh energy into their lives, offering an entirely new dynamic.”

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Where to Watch “The English Game”

If you’re eager to experience the enthralling tale behind the birth of modern soccer, you can stream “The English Game” on Netflix.


1. Is “The English Game” based on a true story?
Yes, “The English Game” is based on real historical events that led to the evolution of soccer as we know it today.

2. Who are the main characters in “The English Game”?
The show features Edward Holcroft as Arthur Kinnaird, a player from the upper class, and Kevin Guthrie as Fergus Suter, a skilled player from a working-class background.

3. What impact did Fergus Suter have on the game of soccer?
Fergus Suter’s move from Darwen to Blackburn Rovers marked the beginning of professional soccer in England. His involvement as one of the first openly acknowledged professional players paved the way for other talented footballers to join the sport.


“The English Game” offers viewers a captivating glimpse into the history of soccer and how it transitioned from a sport for the elite to the beloved national game of the United Kingdom. By focusing on real-life events and characters, the show provides an engaging and informative experience for football enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness the birth of modern soccer on Netflix.


“The English Game” on Netflix: Revealing the Real Story Behind the Julian Fellowes Football Drama