This is the story of the worlds oldest football trophy and the games first knockout tournament. Before the FA Cup, there was the Youdan Cup.
James: I'm James Parkinson and this is By Association, a show about football and the connection we all share with the beautiful game.
In 2008, a local curator in Sheffield, England presented an old silver jug on the BBC television programme, Antique’s Roadshow.
Audio grab: At first sight we’ve got what looks like a fairly standard mid-Victorian jug...
James: But its significance would soon be uncovered.
Audio grab: This is potentially an extremely important object. It’s a one-off special piece, there are no others like it. Quite a big inscription on the front here...
James: The unusual object was revealed to be football’s oldest trophy, representing the game’s very first Cup competition - no, not the FA Cup, but the Football Challenge Cup - also known as the Youdan Cup.
Audio grab: Football Challenge Cup. This silver cup, presented by Thomas Youdan, Esquire, to be contested for by the various football clubs in Sheffield and the neighbourhood. Was awarded to Hallam Football Club, February 1867, JC Shaw, Esquire - Captain.
James: The roots of football history are embedded in Sheffield. Even as the Laws of the Game as we know them today were introduced in 1863, Sheffield Rules remained the dominant version of the sport until the 1870’s. It introduced elements like the crossbar, corner kicks and throw-ins.
In 1867, the Football Challenge Cup was established. It was played under Sheffield Rules and contested by 12 local teams. And only one edition of the tournament was ever played.
Thomas Youdan, a local theatre owner and entrepreneur, helped develop the idea and sponsored the tournament. A competition was also run to design a trophy. But the chosen design was actually never finished in time, leading Youdan to purchase the silver jug, eventually awarded to winners, Hallam FC.
Dean: He had a passion for sport and for supporting local, working class people. And of course, at the time football was very much a working class game.
James: This is Dean Mohareb.
Dean: And when the idea of having a competition came about, then Thomas Youdan was fully behind it. And I think everybody who came to the first Final in 1867 were given a token to go to the theatre that Thomas Youdan owned and see one of his shows. So there was a method in the madness, I suppose, of sponsoring the first Cup competition.
James: By the way, J.C. Shaw or John Charles Shaw, in addition to being the founder and captain of Hallam FC, also become President of Sheffield Football Association and was involved in establishing the Laws of the Game.
James: The Youdan Cup commenced on February 16. The first two rounds were a knockout format before Semi Finals on March 2 and the Final on March 5, both held at Bramall Lane. The Final attracted 3,000 spectators, which, at the time, was a world record attendance for the sport.
And this was four years prior to the FA Cup in 1871. Despite the trophy itself being lost for many years, there’s no doubting the Youdan Cup’s significance in the history of football. Valued at around one hundred thousand pounds, the Cup now resides in the National Football Museum in Manchester.
James: When you consider the importance of Sheffield to football’s heritage, it’s no surprise that the city was the birthplace of the first knockout tournament.
It’s also home to Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest football club, founded in 1857. The world’s oldest football ground is Hallam’s Sandygate Road. And Bramall Lane hosted the very first floodlit match.
Today, that legacy is being commemorated through the Youdan Trophy, a new competition for youth academy teams, which began in 2015.
Dean: We were inspired by the story of the heritage of Sheffield and we’re absolutely delighted to be able to spread that story and bring it back to life.
James: That’s Dean again. He’s the Tournament Director of the Youdan Trophy.
Dean: Back in 2015 we had an 8-team tournament at Under 14’s level. And then in 2016, last year we ran a 32-team tournament and we introduced a U16 age category. And this year we’re running at 40-team tournament with both age groups, with plans in 2018 to take the Youdan Trophy on the road.
We’re also this year introducing a grassroots development tournament. So the Youdan Trophy, really, as well as the football on the field, is about celebrating the story of Sheffield.
James: In terms of the history of the tournament, how is that communicated to the kids and the teams and the staff and everyone involved, coming in to participate in these tournaments?
Dean: A massive piece of the Youdan Trophy is off-field education. So, during the week that the young boys and the coaches are with us, we do a number of workshops. Ex players, ex managers will talk to them about their careers or take questions and answers. And then during the week, we do a civic reception. The Lord Mayor of Sheffield welcomes all the head coaches. She talks to them about the history of the Youdan Trophy at the town hall.
And we also celebrate that story with the players and they get information packs when they arrive and we do some marketing and some clinics. Where, again, we sort of introduce them to the history of the competition and what it’s about. As well, during the week, teams have the opportunity to do some off-site excursions. And a lot of those involve visiting places in Sheffield, of interest where football first happened and going to places like Bramall Lane.
James: Before the Youdan Trophy existed, there were very few opportunities for youth academy teams to take part in competitive matches. But the tournament has quickly established itself as an important annual event.
David: Sometimes I don’t think we’re realistically preparing our players for the cut-throat end of first team football, which is results driven.
James: That’s David Bailey. At the time I spoke to him, David was the Academy Head of Recruitment and Talent Identification at Accrington Stanley Football Club.
David: And I think these competitive tournaments plug that gap, to give an opportunity to change the mentality and attitude of players. You set different targets and challenges, which you don’t normally get that. It’s a given in our game, that the __ model of the FA. These players are technically and tactically aware. But then we need to be working on the social and the psych. So we need to work on the psychology of the player to change his attitude to have a winning mentality. Rather than just accept these development games which are non-consequential.
James: What really impresses me about the Youdan Trophy is the integrity behind the competition. A not-for-profit organisation that genuinely cares about providing opportunities for young players, and does so with a respect for the past.
Dean: We are all about development and all about celebrating the history of the past, but also educating the future. So as well as the players, we have referees who are joining us from 12 different countries this year. We work with YouAreTheRef.com to provide them with coaching on every game. Every game is filmed, so the referees have video analysis in the evenings.
And as I said earlier, Mark Clattenburg will be joining us this year, who will referee the U16 Final and he’ll also do some workshops with the referees during the week. So, we try and provide quality education for players and referees on and off the field.
James: With participating teams from around the world, the tournament is also a chance to socialise with people from different backgrounds and cultures.
Dean: One of the big attractions of the tournament is that all of the players and staff are accommodated at a single venue. So we use the University of Sheffield, we use their accommodation. We have 900 people this year staying on-site. So, there’s the opportunity to train together, to eat together, to make new friends, experience different cultures.
What the Youdan Trophy does, is it keep everybody together. And I think that’s one of the biggest attractions that we find. From the teams, their feedback is, you know for the likes of the smaller clubs, to be able to sit down with top coaches and just pick their brains for ten minutes over a cup of tea.
David: One of the best ways to learn the game is to travel, is to study and test your ability against other nations and cultures. So at the Youdan Trophy, we really push our players to mix and mingle. We struck up very good friendships with teams from Rotterdam, we struck up a good friendship with Royal Antwerp. So yeah, I think it’s great because I think that’s a fantastic thing that players have to understand that they will mix with different nationalities and cultures as they progress through the professional ranks. And give the boys a more grounded experience of those nations and cultures and have them mix and understand different languages. Because it’s a big part in the game now and it is a world game and we have to understand that at every level.
James: The Youdan Trophy is providing an experience that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Even for historic clubs like Accrington Stanley, making new connections is extremely valuable.
David: To give you give you an example, we played Royal Antwerp in the first game of the Youdan Trophy last season, and we beat Royal Antwerp 2-1. And the great thing was, the Royal Antwerp coach, after the game, came to me and said “I apologies, but I actually had to Google who you were after the game, because we had no idea who Accrington Stanley was. Well, it put us on the map, because after that we really struck up a friendship with Royal Antwerp. And the lads swapped shirts, we had a sing-song on the bus.
Certainly, you know having Accrington Stanley on the map against the likes of Royal Antwerp, made us many friends in the Youdan Trophy, and the way the boys carried themselves. So, you know there are many highlights you can have in there, but certainly the competitive side, the mixing of the cultures and nationalities. And then the embracing of tournament football, for me are the highlights of that competition.
James: Thomas Youdan was passionate about community and was perhaps one of the first to realise the potential for football to unify it. Today, that spirit most certainly lives on through the Youdan Trophy and ensures a crucial part of the game's history will too.
Dean: I think it’s a really practical way of engaging the youth and explaining the history of something so important. You know I mean, football has a lot of history, but actually celebrating those stories and telling them in an interactive way can be difficult. So actually doing this through a football tournament, we thought was the best way to do it.
David: Sometimes things like history can be forgotten. If we didn’t have that type of history we wouldn’t have things like the Premier League today and football we’ve got all over the world. So we need to understand and express our history that we’ve had. And I think, obviously for somewhere like Sheffield - it’s a vibrant city and I think it’s good Sheffield has it and it’s not in major cities like your London’s, your Manchester’s, your Liverpool’s, which everybody knows.
Because Sheffield has been very good for football, in terms of Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday. So having The Youdan Trophy there, the home of it, I think is fantastic. I’m a great believer in keeping some tradition alive in our English game, because I think people all over the world want to know about the tradition and the history of football and The Youdan Trophy is a massive part of that.
James: By Association is produced by me, James Parkinson. Many thanks to Dean Mohareb and David Bailey, and also thanks to Jason Pettigrove for pitching this story.
Music featured in this episode comes from Podington Bear under creative commons.
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