The Early Years ‘1894 – 1904’
It was perhaps fitting that the first Priaulx Cup competition was won by the Royal Fusilliers who had been instrumental in forming the Association and, with the Band Company claiming that particular honour. Indeed, the first six Priaulx competitions were claimed by military teams, with Northerners being the first local team to lift the trophy at the end of the 1899/1900 season.
A second division competition was added to the local football programme in the 1896-97 season, following the donation of a trophy by Mr. S. W. Jackson, after whom the trophy was named, with the Jackson trophy still competed for today. The first winners of the trophy were Guernsey Rangers.
Northerners, although thought to have been formed as a club in 1892, were only elected as members of the Association in October 1896, at what was the second attempt to conclude the Annual Meeting, after the first had been adjourned to allow clubs delegates to refer three questions to their respective club committees. The most important question for local football at that time, was whether the Priaulx competition should be competed for on a cup tie or league basis with the final decision being that it should be on a league basis with home and away fixtures. The same question was again raised in 1897, and after initially opposing the competition being played on a league basis, both Guernsey Rangers and Northerners supported a league based competition, which that season was won by the 2nd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment.
Another concern ahead of that 1897/98 season was the location of the Priaulx Cup itself, which was unknown after the President, Col. Waddy, had left the island. Once the trophy had been returned to the Association, the next question was which team would claim the honour of being the first ‘league’ winner, with the destination of the trophy only being decided via a play-off between the 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, and Guernsey Rangers at Cambridge Park after the teams had finished tied on points. The match was given such importance that the Association sought for a referee to travel from England to officiate and it was subsequently refereed by Mr Vaughan.
The concept of a play-off had not be considered ahead of the season starting and the GFA Minutes from 1898 record that a Council meeting was convened on March 23rd at Mrs Old’s Café for:
“the purpose of altering rule 2. It was proposed by Capt. Barnes, seconded by Mr Savage, that an extra match be played as the two leading clubs were equal in points in the league. On being put to the vote, this was carried unanimously, every club being in favour.”
At the end of the 1897/98 season, the Annual General meeting was held, and the Minute Book of that year records that this was the first occasion upon which, the GFA Secretary provided a report with Mr G Bowden, stating the following;
“This is, I believe, the first occasion on which a report has been made by any Secretary of the Assoc., so perhaps you will pardon any shortcomings.”
Mr Bowden proceeded to provide the AGM with updates on the Associations finances, a review of the league season and the biggest challenge faced, which was recorded as being;
“the greatest trouble was the question of ‘Referees’. Although outsiders may not think so, a great amount of time was spent over this matter, and while admitting that, unfortunately, the results were not always what might have been desired, still, I fail to see what under the circumstances we could have done otherwise”
The issue of referees would be a constant in the seasons ahead as the Associations sought to ensure there were enough referees and linesmen to officiate all matches and clubs sought to challenge the decisions of referees, which led to much angst and many lengthy Committee meetings.
The same 2nd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment retained the Priaulx trophy the following season, which is marked for matters other than the league winners, because it was at an Association Committee meeting on 17th January 1899 that the concept of an inter insular competition was raised with the meeting held specifically for; ‘the purpose of framing suggested Rules to govern Challenge Cup.’
The Minutes of the meeting read as follows:
- This cup shall be called the Guernsey Football Challenge Cup
- The cup may be competed for by representative teams from each of the Channel Islands, such teams to consist of natives or residents of not less than two months standing. Military to be excluded, with the exception of Militia Permanent staff.
- The cup to be played for at Guernsey until won by a visiting island team, the competition afterwards to take place in the island of the holder.
The matter was further discussed at another Committee meeting on February 21st 1899, and it was agreed that:
“the Hon. Secretary write to Jersey and Alderney re Annual Inter-Insular Comp with said letters to be sent to the Jersey Football Assoc., Alderney Rovers and St Anne’s United.”
Whilst Responses were received from Alderney Rovers and St Anne’s United, the Minutes indicate a lack of interest from the Jersey Football Association scuppered the plans.
The 1899/1900 season was marked by the entry of another local club into the Priaulx competition, with Belgrave Wanderers being admitted, and also the introduction of the first youth league. Whilst this new club did not fare well in the Priaulx competition, its youth team became the first winners of the new youth league and took possession of a beautiful shield, which remains one of the most prestigious trophies in Guernsey football.
This particular season is also notable for it being the time when Northerners became the first local team to lift the Priaulx trophy, for what would be the first of a record 32 occasions on which, the club would be recognised as champions.
The season also witnessed controversy following a protest made by Belgrave Wanderers against a decision made by the referee in a match against Athletics. At a Committee meeting, the then President, Mr. H. E. Mauger, drew attention to the; ‘hard of fact rules laid down by the Football Association in England in respect of the referees decision on all points of play.’ This led to the Belgrave Wanderers protest being dismissed, and also for the Association Secretary being requested to:
“write to the English Authorities to ascertain whether it is customary for referees and linesmen to be heard in cases of protests.”
Whilst Northerners were lauded for being the first non-military team to hold the Priaulx Cup, it was evident that not all local players retained goodwill towards the club. At a Committee meeting on 5th April 1900, it was reported that several league players had refused to play in a match against Northerners in the traditional match between the Priaulx winners and a league select team.
The 1899/1900 season concluded with what was a sombre Annual General Meeting, with the first minutes of that meeting being recorded as follows:
“The President, regretting the death of the Vice-President, Major Stubbs of the Worcester Regt., killed in action in S.Africa, and stating that the Secretary had written to his late regiment, offering the G. F. Assoc’s condolences.”
This was the first, but far from the last, recorded example of military action impacting on the Association’s officials and players.
The 1900/01 season is marked for the first example of a Special General Meeting being held, with the business of that meeting being to ‘consider the advisability of altering the certain rules of the G. F. Assoc previous to their publication.’
A situation had arisen in which two clubs, Grange CC and Suffolk Details, 1st Battalion, had applied for registration to the Priaulx competition after the date specified in the rules. The Committee desired to take into account the circumstances around the late application and after discussion, those in attendance at the Special General Meeting unanimously approved the two applications. Despite those additions to the competition, Northerners retained the trophy that season, but the 1901/02 season is highlighted as being the only occasion of Grange CC lifting the trophy. Northerners reclaimed the trophy in 1902/03 season, before the 2nd Battalion of the Leicesters, added the name of another military team to the trophy in the 1903/04 season. Northerners may have prevented 2nd Battalion of the Leicesters claiming the trophy, had they not chosen to withdraw from all Association competitions following a dispute.