Forget the FA Cup, how Sheffield is home to the oldest football competition in the world

Library FILER dated 14/05/66 of Everton captain Brian Labone lifting the FA Cup following their win over Sheffield Wednesday. PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Issue date: Tuesday April 25, 2006. Former Everton and England defender Brian Labone has died aged 66, the club have confirmed. Labone, one of the greatest players in Everton's history, was capped 26 times for his country and played in the 1970 World Cup. See PA story SOCCER Labone. Photo credit should read: PA.
Library FILER dated 14/05/66 of Everton captain Brian Labone lifting the FA Cup following their win over Sheffield Wednesday. PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Issue date: Tuesday April 25, 2006. Former Everton and England defender Brian Labone has died aged 66, the club have confirmed. Labone, one of the greatest players in Everton's history, was capped 26 times for his country and played in the 1970 World Cup. See PA story SOCCER Labone. Photo credit should read: PA.
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In the trophy cabinet of Hallam FC sits a engraved claret jug. It’s called the Youdan Cup and until anyone can prove otheriwse, those associated with the club will tell you that it is the oldest football trophy in the world.

In the trophy cabinet of Hallam FC sits a engraved claret jug. It’s called the Youdan Cup and until anyone can prove otheriwse, those associated with the club will tell you that it is the oldest football trophy in the world.

It was presented to Hallam FC in front of a 3,000-strong crowd back in 1867 and with the competition, which pre-dated the FA Cup by four years, staged just once, the trophy remained the club’s to keep. As the decades ticked by, football moved on. New competitions came and went, but as the professional game attracted increasing amounts of attention - and money - Hallam FC were content to retain their amateur status.

However, the part they played in that historic football match will be remembered this summer when the Youdan Cup is staged for the first time in almost 150 years. The winners won’t receive the same trophy - a new one has been designed by Yorkshire sculptor Graham Ibbeson - but it is hoped that the tournament will summon a little of the spirit of the game before it was ruled by multi-million pound contracts.

Sheffield-based You-Are-The-Ref. com, an organisation set up to support match officials, is relaunching the Youdan Cup as a youth tournament, which will see sides from across the UK competing in Steel City.

The event will also be a tribute to the trophy’s original sponsor - the Victorian entrepreneur and philanthropist Thomas Youdan. Born in relative poverty in Doncaster, Youdan moved to Sheffield where he became the architect of his own fortunes.

Beginning his working life as a labourer, he moved into the pub trade and by the time he launched his own football trophy he had become a successful musical hall proprietor and founder of the city’s Alexandra Theatre, his aim to offer affordable entertainment to the workingclasses.

Football, he reckoned, was much the same as music hall and with the first official rules for the game having been drawn up in Sheffield, Youdan also knew its importance to his adopted city.

“I’m hoping the launch of the Youdan Trophy will remind people that football started in Sheffield and eventually that it will become a tournament that will evolve into an event of global significance on the international football calendar,” says Dr Glyn Youdan, Thomas’ only surviving relative. “There have been times over the years when stories about my famous uncle have left me speechless. He came from nothing to achieve so much.

“We’re a very small family now and almost extinct. Youdan is a very unusual name, so to see it living on through a new international tournament based here in Sheffield is absolutely wonderful.”

Last year, some wondered whether Sheffield Hallam might be looking to sell the Youdan Trophy when the club had it valued by an expert from the BBC’s Antique Roadshow. The engraved claret jug was estimated to be worth £100,000, a tidy sum for a non-league club.

However, while Hallam’s chairman Chris Taylor said the club would be reviewing its insurance policy, it insisted it would not be making an appointment with any auction house.

“The cup is actually pricesless to us and it is definitely not for sale,” said Taylor. “It represents not only our heritage, but that of the national game and that of Sheffield as the true home of football.”

When the Youdan Cup final is played again this summer, back at Bramall Lane where that very first final was held, it will provide another chapter in that long history.

The Youdan Cup will begin on July 27 with the final taking place at Bramall Lane on July 31. For tickets and more details go to www.youdantrophy.com