The Birth of the Muratti; 1905 – 1914
The 1904/05 season was arguably the most significant in the history of inter-insular football, as it was at this time that the annual Muratti competition was first introduced. In January 1905, the Guernsey Press first reported that the introduction of a Channel Islands competition was being considered if teams could be formed from each of the islands. Moving into February the outcome was looking even more positive, with the GFA Secretary reporting that Mr Lander, the Channel Islands representative of a well know tobacco firm, Messrs Muratti & Co. Ltd. Was offering a Challenge Vase as a perpetual trophy to be competed for by the island teams of Guernsey, Alderney and Jersey. In March, the matter of the competition being introduced had been concluded with a letter from Mr Lander to the GFA Secretary, confirming that:
“Messrs Muratti & Co. Ltd are open to give you a Challenge Vase. The only conditions are:
- The teams to represent Jersey, Guernsey & Alderney
- The players to be residents of not less than three months standing
- In order to give Jersey a start, the first match to be played on their ground
A point has yet to be decided whether the competition should be limited to civilians only or whether military players should be admitted into the island teams.”
It was eventually decided that the competition be confined to bona-fide civilian residents of not less than six months residence. The competition had still to be sanctioned by the FA, and it was only five days before Guernsey were due to play Alderney in the first ever ‘Muratti’ fixture, that a telegram was received from the FA confirming the provisional sanction for the competition.
That first match between Guernsey and Alderney was played at the Track Cycling Grounds on April 17th, with Guernsey wearing light blue shirts. Guernsey prevailed in that first match, with G. Heaume claiming the honour of scoring the first goal in the competition in what was a 6-0 victory. Guernsey subsequently travelled to Jersey on 27th April, and in a close game at the Royal Agricultural Ground, Springfield, it was the visitors that claimed a 1-0 victory through a goal by F. Stranger, to become the first holders of the Muratti trophy. Indeed, Guernsey dominated the early years of the competition, winning it in each of the first three years and seven of the first ten editions until 1914 when the competition was suspended due to World War 1.
Whilst inter-insular football took on a new level of importance, local football remained a key aspect of life in Guernsey and, after being re-admitted to the GFA ahead of the 1904/05 season once the dispute had been resolved, Northerners brought with them a large silver trophy, which had been donated by Mr W. Stranger. The same Mr. W. Stranger became President of the Association at the 1905 Annual General Meeting and the following 1905/06 season witnessed the introduction of the ‘Stranger Cup’ competition, which is still played today. That first staging of the competition saw Northerners and Belgrave Wanderers share the trophy, the first of four occasions when there were joint holders.
The Stranger Cup became recognised as a charity cup, with gate proceeds being distributed to local charities and good causes. In February 1907, the Association Secretary first raised the idea of introducing what would in time become named the ‘Stranger Fund’ when proposing that:
“That a certain percentage of the net profits, to be decided by the Council, be annually ear-marked and set aside to assist any players who might be injured in matches under the jurisdiction of the Association if in need; or to be otherwise applied to relieve urgent cases of temporary distress.”
Following on from the introduction of the Muratti Vase competition and the Stranger Cup, the 1906/07 brought about the introduction of what would become another prestigious inter-insular competition, when Upton Park FC, wishing to commemorate the club’s tenth visit to Guernsey, presented the Association with a silver cup, which would become recognised as the Upton Trophy.
The Minutes record a meeting on September 25th 1906 between the Guernsey FA representatives, which were President, Mr. W. Stranger and Secretary, Mr H. Bowden, and Upton Park FC representative, Mr. Jones. The future format of the Upton Trophy was consistent with a proposal put forward by Mr. H. Bowden at that meeting, with the Minutes reading as follows:
“that the cup should be competed for by the top civilian club in the senior leagues of Guernsey and Jersey annually. This, the thought, would be a strong incentive to the local clubs gaining as many points as possible in the league tables, even when they found it impossible to beat the military teams.”
As well as being memorable for the introduction of the Upton Trophy, the 1906/07 season appears to have also been subject to complaints and controversy, much of which revolved around refereeing.
On October 23rd, the Council debated a letter of complaint from Northerners AC, regarding a disallowed goal, with the complaint being dismissed as those in attendance confirmed that the referee’s decision was final. The following months witnessed great discord within the refereeing fraternity following a communication from the Association, which recommended that referees do not point at players when issuing a caution. Two referees, Mr. H. Le Messurier and Mr. J. Duffey took exception to the recommendation and refused to officiate again and after discussion, the Minutes record the following:
“it was decided to report the action of Messrs. Le Messurier and Duffey to the FA, the Secretary being instructed to send a copy of the whole of the correspondence to Headquarters.”
The Secretary of the Football Association responded in support of the GFA on 10th December, stating that:
“those gentlemen should be informed that unless they are prepared to accept appointments from your Association, and are also registered with you, their names may be removed from our Register of Referees, in which case they would be prevented from acting in any competitions under our jurisdiction.”
The support of the FA led to both Mr. H. Le Messurier and Mr. J. Duffey returning to active duty.
The 1906/07 season, which had started on a positive note with the introduction of the Upton Trophy and also the affiliation of 5 new clubs (Progressives FC, Old Intermedians FC, Artisans FC, East Utd FC and West Utd FC), concluded with the Association shrouded in doubt as to its future. This was a consequence of an attempt to establish a new governing body on the mainland, the Amateur Federation, which had severed ties with the FA. When first reported at the Council meeting in July 1907, the incumbent Council raised concerns about the future of local football should the GFA remain loyal to the FA and the Army FA secede as this would significantly impact on the quantity and quality of local fixtures. The Council agreed to defer any decision until the position of the Army FA was known and to place the question of whether to remain loyal to the FA to the club delegates at the first Council meeting after the 1907 annual general meeting.
At that annual general meeting, the Association Secretary conveyed great concern when stating that:
“the great topic in football circles at present is the unfortunate split, which has arisen on the other side of the water……………..Certainly we in Guernsey have no cause for complaint…………….There is however, one fly in the ointment. Should the Army decide to join the new Federation, it practically forces the whole of the Channel islands to go with it.”
After receiving re-assurance that the Army FA would not be joining the Amateur Federation, a special general meeting was called in September 1907 at which a resolution was unanimously passed recording the GFA’s ‘loyalty and confidence with the Parent Association’.
The 1907/08 season saw the introduction of another famous local trophy, which today is known as the H. E. Mauger Memorial Cup. When first introduced, following a donation by former Association President, H. E. Mauger, it was referred to as the Sheriff’s Charity Cup and was open to teams in the second division. The trophy was claimed by Northerners in each of the first four seasons, before Progressives FC claimed it for the first, and only, time.
The 1907/08 season saw St Martins affiliate to the GFA, whilst it was notable for being the first time in which a local club had claimed all available local trophies when Northerners won the Priaulx, Jackson, Stranger, Sheriff’s, Jeremie and Junior competitions. To mark the occasion, the GFA presented the club with a large framed photograph of the club committee displaying all of the trophies. This was also the season that Guernsey first lost possession of the Muratti trophy after a 4-0 defeat, although the GFA Secretary sought to take the positives from the loss when stating:
“Whilst most of us are sorry we lost possession of the most coveted trophy, we are bound to admit that the fact of it changing hands must do good for the competition itself, and certainly do more good to Jersey football than harm to here.”
This sentiment reflected the position of football in the two islands at that time, with football in Guernsey being in a stronger position than in Jersey.
1908/09, the Track Cycling Grounds was a focal point for controversy, with betting controversies and player suspensions being reported. In December 1908, the Council minutes passed a ‘vote of thanks in favour of Mr. W. S. Frecker, Police-Sergeant Burley and P.C Marley in connection with stopping betting transactions near the Cycling Grounds.
That 1909/10 season had started with anticipation of a new inter-league match being introduced by the GFA and Jersey FA, but a dispute between the Association’s over the rules of the proposed competition led to the Guernsey clubs unanimously deciding to abandon all idea of the match.
The 1910/11 season once again brought refereeing to the forefront, along with the issue of betting on matches. In response to objections raised by Mr Torode against appointment decisions made by the Referees Committee, the response of that Committee is recorded as:
“During this season, the Committee has used its discretion in all appointments, and has, in its own judgement, done as in previous seasons. The Committee has consistently picked the best available men in all matches, and intends in future, as long as the present members are in office, to adopt the same policy.”
The position of the Referees Committee was unanimously supported by the Association.
In February 1911 the ‘Progressive case’ brought undue scrutiny on local football and is the first recorded example of players attempting to manipulate the score of a match for financial gain. Over the course of two Council meetings, and following evidence submitted by the match officials and spectators, it became apparent that once the score-line reached 4-1 the match became a farce. The second Council meeting Minutes record that the whole Progressives team attended the meeting and that:
“they gave their evidence in a perfectly open manner. Some admitted they knew that during the progress of the game that one of the players had a sweepstake ticket on the match. James Tostevin admitted holding a 4-1 ticket and stated he did not attempt to score after this result had been arrived at. His brother John also admitted he knew of this.”
The Council subsequently suspended both players for a period of four weeks.
The 1910/11 season concluded with the GFA holding a Special Meeting to discuss protests relating to the Upton Cup, and specifically the fielding of ineligible players by both Northerners and Jersey Wanderers. After much discussion, it was proposed by future long-serving Treasurer, Mr. H. F. Sallin, that:
“according to the rules, the GFA considers that not one of the three players, H Stranger and F Cleale (Northerners) and Mellanby (Wanderers) was eligible under Rule 4 Clause (a).”
The proposal was unanimously supported and the Council decided that for the 1910/11 season, the Upton Cup competition be declared null and void.
The 1912/13 season was notable for it being the last in which Mr. W. H Stranger resided as President, being replaced at the 1913 annual general meeting by Mr. H. H. Randell and also for the introduction of a ‘third’ league, which in time would become known as the Railway League after a trophy was donated by the Guernsey Railway Co. Ltd. The season was also first in which dialogue with the Sarnian League was recorded, but after making every effort to accommodate the Sarnian League, an agreement could not be reached for the Sarnian League to affiliate, which frustrated the then GFA Secretary, Mr. J. J. Eveson who stated at the annual general meeting that:
“your Council have done their utmost to carry out the primary object for which they are constituted, viz, the fostering of football in the island.”
The 1913/14 season saw the introduction of a tradition, which has stood the test of time, when it was proposed and approved that the Secretary of the GFA, also assume the role of the Inter Insular Committee Secretary. The annual general meeting of that season is recorded as being one of the longest in the Association’s history at that time, due to the extensive number of rule alternations to be discussed, and also another debate relating to the Sarnian League. Before the debate began, Mr. J. J. Eveson stated that:
“you will later on be asked to alter the wording of the Association rules to permit of the inclusion of Leagues and combination of clubs. I trust this will be done and the GFA will have the great satisfaction of knowing that it did all it could to have football under one heading working harmoniously throughout.”
As a consequence of the debate and decisions taken at that meeting, the Sarnian League finally requested affiliation at a Council meeting on 1st September 1914.