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Canadian History for Kids: Ontario Rugby Football Union

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive, looks at the founding of Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU), the forerunner of the CFL, on January 4, 1883.

The Ontario Rugby Football Union was formed on January 4, 1883. 10 days later the Quebec Rugby Football Union was formed.

Three divisions were formed in the ORFU. Referees were used for all games. A point-scoring system was put into place with six points for a Goal from the Field (field goal); four points for a Try (touchdown).

The Toronto Argonauts defeated the Ottawa FC 9-7 in the first Championship on November 10, 1883.

In 1903, the Ontario Rugby Football Union became the first major competition to adopt the Burnside Rules, from which the modern Canadian football code would grow.

The Burnside rules were a set of rules that changed Canadian football from a rugby-style game to the gridiron-style football game. It has remained this way ever since.

The rules were named after Thrift Burnside, captain of the University of Toronto football team , and first adopted by the Ontario Rugby Football Union in 1903, the rules introduced changes to the way football was played. The rules included:

a reduction from 15 to 12 players per side

a reduction from 8 to 6 men allowed on the line of scrimmage when the ball was put into play

the “snap-back” system in which the ball was heeled backward from the line of scrimmage by the centre

a requirement for a team to make ten yards in three successive downs or lose possession of the ball

Canadian History for Kids has learned that all of these rules were copied from American football rules already in place at the time, which had been developed by Walter Camp in the 1880s. Although these rules are standard today, at the time they were considered drastic. From these changes, came the CFL.

Other teams outside the Ontario Rugby Football Union refused to adopt them until 1905.

And that’s this week’s Canadian History for Kids, exclusive!

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