Knur & Spell was an ancient game long played in northern England that’s like a cross between a golf long drive contest and T-Ball. In Yorkshire a machine tosses the ball in the air for the player to smack. In Lancashire, the ball was merely suspended from a loop of string. In both cases, the player hits it as far as he can, and the longest bash wins. It was big in the 1930s and somewhat revived in the 1970s, but has now faded almost out of existence.
My guess is that before railroads came along in the 19th Century, there were hundreds of somewhat different sports played across Europe by local rules, much as there were many more languages and/or dialects before the printing press. There wasn’t much need to standardize sports because travel was so difficult that most athletes just competed against their neighbors under locally agreed upon rules.
For example, at the beginning of the American Civil War, Boston and New York City had quite different forms of baseball. But the War nationalized baseball. Union soldiers played a lot of baseball in Army camps during the war, and the players from other states came to prefer the New York rules over the Boston rules. (The South didn’t experience the same process, so the South wasn’t as baseball-oriented until the 20th Century. Ty Cobb, the Georgia Peach, who played from 1905-1928 might have been the first really famous baseball player from a Deep South state.)
Today’s biggest sports are the survivors of a process that began when railways could allow athletes to conveniently go to road games. If Rugby was going to play Charterhouse and Eton, they needed to agree on the rules for the game: could you, for example, pick up the ball and run with it? Senior athletes spent a lot of time around 1870 attending conventions at railway station hotels hashing out consensus to govern their sport, or failing to as seen in the historic split between Rugby and the Association that meant that rugby and soccer are now separate separate.
Anglosphere sports dominate the world today. I don’t know if that is solely because countries like Britain and the U.S. were the first to have big train networks. Or did the English-speaking countries have some other cultural advantage, such as a greater interest in sport, less of a reliance on central government for direction, more initiative, or more sense of fair play? In the late 19th Century, there were often Anglophiles and Anglophobes in countries like France (e.g., Jules Verne and Baron de Coubertin were French Anglophiles) and Argentina. All agreed that sport was central to Englishness.