Julian Fellowes showed us the upstairs-downstairs world of an English country house in Downton Abbey.For his latest television project, Fellowes is taking his fascination with the class divide in a more surprising direction: the invention of modern football.The English Game, set in the late 19th century, is billed as “part Etonians, part factory workers, coming together to create the world’s most popular sport”.The six-part Netflix drama will focus on the battle to professionalise the game.“It is not only going to be about football, but about the human drama. They were sitting on a powder keg in the last quarter of the 19th century. What was happening in football was also happening in society,” Fellowes said of the era’s class struggles.Many of the characters will be taken from real life – among them Lord Kinnaird, the Old Etonian who played in nine FA Cup finals and was president of the Football Association for 33 years until his death in 1923; and Fergie Suter, a Glasgwegian stonemason who joined Darwen FC in Lancashire, and became one of England’s first professional players.“We are telling a story about a real game and real people,” Fellowes said. Julian Fellowes at Highclere Castle, the setting for Downton AbbeyCredit:Andrew Crowley Eton College claims credit for the development of English football, noting that the rules of the modern game were based on those developed in public schools. Before the establishment of the Football Association in 1863, there were different rules – even different balls – depending on where games were played and who was taking part.Fellowes said: “As football turned from boys and girls kicking a ball around the street into a proper game, it went through these extraordinary convulsions.“You had the Etonians trying to control it and set the rules, and at the same time it was growing in popularity through the Midlands and the North in recently industrialised communities who were identifying with their local football teams. You had this power struggle.“When it came to paying players, on one hand you had the former public schoolboys thinking it would make the sport vulgar and open it up to bribery. And then you had the working class teams saying, ‘It’s all very well for them because they have all the time in the world to practise. But how can we get our standards up when we have to go out to work?’“It was rather mean-spirited [of Old Etonians] and for a time they exerted control of the game in an unfair way. But gradually the force of the sea became too strong and all that stuff was pushed aside.” Fergus ‘Fergie’ Suter, one of the first professional footballers to play in EnglandCredit:Archive PL/Alamy Fellowes described Lord Kinnaird as a “visionary” figure. “He started out thinking, ‘Eton has got it right and these are the rules and we are gentlemen’. But he came to understand its importance to communities all over Britain.”Fellowes said his interest in football was sparked when his son took him to watch Manchester United play “East Ham or West Ham”.“I am not a fan in the sense of always being on the terraces. But my son took me to see Man United and suddenly I was able to tell that this game was like a ballet,” Fellowes said.“It was so beautifully done, so measured, so skilful that I came away with a completely different feeling about the whole thing. I understood there is an artistry to this, as there is to anything.” A cartoon image of Arthur, Lord Kinnaird, who played in nine FA Cup finalsCredit:Antiqua Print Gallery Ltd/Alamy Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.