The Youdan Cup

The Youdan Cup

The Youdan Football Cup, also known as the Youdan Cup, was an 1867 Sheffield rules football competition. Preceding the FA Cup by more than four years, it was among the first tournaments in any code of football.

The Cup was born from the mind of Sheffield theatre owner, Thomas Youdan, who realised that, in the social media of the day, every time the competition got a mention, so did he and his business. The forerunner of the sponsorship deal I suppose (think Carling Cup and Check a Trade). It was intended to raise money to rebuild the Surrey Music Hall. Youdan, the proprietor of the Surrey Theatre, West Bar, and stage company, outside the shell of the theatre, the morning after the fire. A gallery photo shows hims standing with the theatre company outside the shell of the building after the fire on the 25th March 1865. So a fire created the world’s oldest football trophy

The trophy was played for only once and then went missing for many years before turning up in a Scottish antique emporium where, thankfully, Hallam FC managed to get it back into their possession.

The trophy he ordered for the competition wasn’t the one he was given though. When he came to collect from the manufacturer (Martin, Hall and Co of Shrewsbury Works) ahead of the final, he was advised that it wouldn’t be ready on time and that he should instead take one “off the shelf” that could be engraved as a makeshift until the order was complete – a suggestion he followed.

On 28 January 1867, representatives of thirteen football clubs from the Sheffield area met at the Adelphi Hotel to form the “Youdan Prize Committee”. The committee drew up the following regulations to govern the tournament: Matches would be played under Sheffield Rules. Matches would start at three o’clock, with two umpires and one referee. There would be 12 players on each side. Games would last ninety minutes. If the scores were tied, up to one hour of extra time would be played, with the first team to score during this period being declared the winner. If scores were still tied after extra time, the match would be replayed.

After the first round, the committee added a new rule that “the referee shall have power to award a Free Kick to the opponents of any Club, which makes more than three fouls or kicks-out, when the ball is being thrown in, if he (the referee) considers those fouls or kicks-out to be intentional”.

The competition was organised as a straight knockout tournament, with two exceptions: Because twelve teams entered the tournament, there were three teams remaining after two rounds: one team, drawn at random, received a bye to the final, while the other two teams played a semi-final to determine the other finalist. After the final had been played, it was decided to hold a second-place playoff between the losing finalist and the losing semi-finalist.

The semi-final, final and second-place playoff were all held at Bramall Lane, which at the time was primarily a cricket ground. The Youdan Prize Committee invited members of the public to submit their proposed designs for the trophy. The creator of the entry judged the best would be rewarded by Thomas Youdan with a prize of one sovereign. This prize was initially awarded to a Mr Jarvis, of Roscoe Works.

His design was subsequently combined with that of another entrant: Mr. Topham, engraver, who was awarded a further prize of one pound. Before the semi-final, it was decided that the second-placed club would also be awarded a prize, to be funded by an admission fee of 3d at the semi-final and final. This prize ended up being valued at £2 10s.

The trophies were presented at a dinner held at the Adelphi Hotel on Monday 11 March. Because the winning design required “protracted time in its manufacture”, it had not been completed in time for the ceremony. In its place, a “richly-ornamented claret jug”, created by Martin, Hall, and Co., was awarded to Hallam. Thomas Youdan was absent through illness, so the trophy was presented by Mr J. Birley to J. C. Shaw, Hallam’s captain.

The second prize, a “double-handed goblet enriched with athletic figures”, was awarded to Norfolk. The inscription on the cup awarded to Hallam reads: FOOTBALL CHALLENGE CUP. this silver cup presented by Thos. Youdan, Esq to be contested for by the various football clubs in Sheffield & the neighbourhood was awarded to Hallam  FC Feb. 1867 (JC Shaw esq. captain)

On February 2023, Graham Budd Auctions attended Hallam FC’s ground for an event that would culminate in the valuation (for insurance purposes) of the world’s oldest football trophy: the Youdan Cup, the starting point for all football tournaments that have followed, from the FA Cup to the World Cup.

A friend of Hallam’s Chair who had never seen it in the flesh before also happened to be a silversmith of some repute and he explained just what work went into its decoration, how it would have been gently fashioned from the inside out by hand to give the wonderful relief design and how, the fact that you could not see a join from its two sections was a hallmark of the craftsman.

Their Head of Valuations examined the item and pointed out that it wasn’t a claret jug, but a Victorian coffee pot/hot water jug. The giveaway to the trained eye was the ivory sections on the ornate handle which allowed the user to handle the pot when it was hot. They placed a valuation of £350,000 on the priceless piece of history, and one that the Club has no intention of selling.

More information about Youdan here.

Do you have more information about this that we could add? Are any of the facts wrong? Please get in touch if so.

Source: Wikipedia / Hallam FC / Graham Budd Auctions / Totley History Group
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