Most expensive sports memorabilia in the world? First football rules may bring $4.8m

Sotheby's is holding a rare books auction this week in London, which has already marked itself out as being something special - with possible World Record prices expected.

Apart from strong lots such as James Joyce's wartime family passport (which recorded his travels around the time he was Ulysses), there is the only major piece of writing by Jane Austen remaining in private hands.

This is the greater part of her unfinished novel The Watsons which is expected to sell for £200,000-300,000 (up to $485,000). But it isn't expected to be the top lot.

That honour is likely to go to a very different handwritten booklet, which lists the rules of football from its time, and is being put up by Sheffield FC.

Sheffield, though not in the top divisions these days, was the first known football club, and the set of rules date all the way back to 1859. That makes them the first known written rules of the game.

Sheffields first rulebook of football
Sheffield's first rulebook of football

Also appearing in the auction will be the earliest known printed rules of the game, from 1869. These detail the first known football kit.

But it is the handwritten set which is causing the most excitement. The little book carries an estimate of £800,000-1,200,000 (up to $1.9m), but even this may prove to be an underestimate.

Qatar has expressed significant interest in purchasing the book as part of its preparations for holding the World Cup in 2022. The country has little footballing history, and no doubt buying some in seems highly attractive.

The Qatari Royal family has viewed the book and is believed to be preparing a bid which may top £3m ($4.8m) if necessary. That would make it the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia in history, easily outstripping its basketball equivalent that was bought for €3m (£2.65m or $4.2m) in December 2010.

Watch this space for the results of this exciting sale.


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