In England, soccer matches did not have referees until 1881. Before that, they simply relied on good sportsmanship.
In football games in the first half of the 19th century were played without officials. The Football Association was established in October 1863. The aim of the FA was to establish a single unifying code for football. This included an attempt to deal with disputes about rules and infringements during games. On 8th December 1863, the FA published the Laws of Football.
It was now clear that officials were needed to enforce these new laws. It became fairly common for two umpires to be appointed to referee the game - one nominated by each side. These umpires only made decisions when appealed to by the players. Umpires were first mentioned in the laws of the game in 1874.
As the game became more competitive, the number of disputes about the interpretation of the rules became more common. Gradually, a more objective official, the referee, began to take control of games. He used a whistle to control the game.