Guernsey football

Guernsey FA - The History Part 5

A Period of Stability & Growth 1921 – 1938

The period between 1921 and the outbreak of World War 2, witnessed a remarkable period of stability for the Association, with Mr. H. H. Randell, Mr. W. S. Frecker and Mr. H. F. Sallin respectively occupying the positions of President, Secretary and Treasurer throughout this period, whilst it was also a period that saw Northerners dominate.

The 1920/21 season saw the return of Athletics to the GFA leagues, along with a new team, West Rovers FC, being accepted. It was a situation involving Athletics, which caused much consternation in local football during that season. Athletics had signed five players from the garrisoned Royal Irish Regiment, but these registrations were cancelled by the GFA Council in consideration of the Rules, which precluded military personnel playing for local teams. However, Athletics challenged the decision of the Council, with the matter being subject to a special general meeting at which former GFA Secretary, Mr. J. J. Eveson proposed that the decision be overturned. The matter was put to the vote and the challenge by Athletics was rejected. The club refused to accept the decision and chose to appeal to the FA, at which time the club was rewarded for its perseverance when the FA ruled against the GFA. The thoughts of the GFA on this decision are unknown because 6 pages from the GFA Minute book were removed by approval of the Council. At the 1921 annual general meeting, the GFA Secretary reflected on the situation with Athletics and the season when stating:

“I think there are few amongst the Executive and club delegates who were sorry when the curtain was rung down for we passed through some unpleasant times, our actions being very adversely if not justly criticised.”

The dispute with Athletics brought about a rule change which ensured all future grievances were settled by the GFA executive, whose decision was final and binding.

This 1921/22 season was notable for the introduction of the Junior Muratti after a trophy was donated by the London Channel Islands Society, and which was to come under the auspices of the Inter Insular Committee. That first staging of the Junior Muratti was won by Guernsey, which was one of a clean sweep of inter insular competitions as the Muratti, Upton Cup, Star Trophy, Jeremie Cup and the Jersey Charity Cup all resided in Guernsey at the end of the season. The Jersey Charity Cup was the first trophy to be lifted by Athletics.

The 1922/23 season saw the introduction of Sylvans to the GFA leagues, although the club had originally requested to affiliate under the name of West United FC, which was rejected by the Council. The season also included the introduction of two new competitions, the Frederik Martinez Cup and the Old Vic Cup and surely provides an example of the most delayed fine in history being issued when the Progressives were fined for playing an ineligible player back in 1906! The Martinez Cup was introduced as a match between the Priaulx winners and a rest of the league select team, with Athletics participating after winning the Priaulx league for the first time and only time. Interestingly, the rest of the league team included ten of the starting team from the Muratti that year.

The season also saw the Council adjudicate in what was referred to as the ‘Beach Inquiry’ when Northerners player, J. Beach was found guilty of using threats and foul play in the Stranger Charity Cup Final and being cautioned for his behaviour. It is for matters such as these that the Secretary reported to the annual general meeting in 1923 that the Executive had:

been called together on twenty seven occasions, and taking as an average of three hours a meeting, this means that your Executive and delegates have sacrificed eighty one hours or ten working days.”

1923/24 saw relations between the GFA and Jersey FA deteriorate, firstly over a dispute regarding the Upton Cup competition with the Minutes recording as follows:

the Secretary read a letter he had received from the Jersey FA complaining that a clause of the Upton Park Cup rules had been deleted without the Jersey FA being consulted. Reference to the minutes clearly proved that the cup had been presented to the GFA, and knowing that Jersey had found the clause irksome it had not been thought necessary to consult.”

Matters between the Associations were again raised regarding Muratti ticket prices with the GFA Council agreeing to send the following resolution to the Jersey FA:

“In view of the satisfactory balances handed each year to the island Associations from the Muratti competition, the GFA council expresses disapproval of the Jersey FA increasing the price for Pavillion tickets beyond half a crown.”

The next contentious situation arose in 1924/25 season when Belgrave Wanderers were awarded the Jeremie Cup by default, after the second semi-final between Northerners and Athletics was scratched when both clubs objected to the selection of the particular referee. Both clubs were subsequently fined and in the following season Northerners declined to enter the competition when the GFA Council would not agree to specific conditions being proposed by the club.

The mid 1920’s saw record crowds attending Muratti matches, with a crowd of 9541 recorded at the 1925 Final, which Guernsey won. However, the 1925/26 season saw Guernsey create some history, as this was the first occasion in which the team failed to reach the Muratti Final after being heavily beaten by Jersey in the semi-final. The Secretary lamented the performance and stated that; ‘perhaps this reverse will be a blessing in disguise and make our players realise that if they want to win the cup some self-sacrifice must be made.’

The 1926/27 season also created history as it was the first, and only, time in which two Jeremie Cup Finals were played in the same season. This came about because the Jersey Mechanics were unable to travel to Guernsey to play the 2nd Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry due to the General Strike, and thus the GFA Council agreed that the Final would be played at the beginning of the following season. The Duke of Cornwall’s eventually won the delayed Final, but only held the trophy for a short time, because Northerners won the competition in the 1926/27 season.

At the 1928 annual general meeting, the GFA received the some sad news with the Secretary reporting:

“I have now to touch upon a sad note in deploring the loss through death of one of our patrons and a good sportsman, Mr O. Priaulx, who contributed to the purchase of the cup for which we play annually bearing his name.”

The 1928/29 season saw the introduction of what would become an annual event when a ‘Service for Footballers’ was held at the St Samposn’s branch of the Church of England. The collection at the Service was sent to the GFA with the thought of the Church being to add it to the GFA Benevolent and Accident Fund but the GFA proposed using the donation elsewhere with Minutes stating:

“in view of the prevalent distress in the island, the Council thought the money would be better spent in dividing the amount between the St Peter Port and St Sampson Soup Kitchens.”

The season remains a highlight in the Association’s history as it was in the 2019 Muratti semi-final that Guernsey recorded the biggest victory over Jersey, by a score-line of 7-1 in the semi-final, before proceeding to beat Alderney 5-0 in the Final, with a team that was regarded as one of Guernsey’s strongest.

It was during the 1928/29 season  that the GFA reported the passing of former Secretary, and the first Inter Insular Committee Secretary, Mr. H. G. Bowden, whilst the following 1929/30 season saw the passing of another football stalwart, Mr. W. Stranger who had occupied the Presidency for six years as Guernsey lost two people who greatly influenced the local and inter insular game in quick succession. The 1929/30 season did conclude on a positive note, with Guernsey retaining the Muratti trophy at Springfield, the first time they had won at this ground.

However, the 1930/31 season, which also saw Sylvans first enter the Priaulx league, was less positive in relation to the Muratti. After scoring a late winner against Alderney in the semi-final, Guernsey proceeded to lose the Final to a visiting Jersey team in front of a record home crowd of 11,708, with the Secretary commenting as follows in his report at the annual general meeting:

“it was a very good game but our opponents lasted better and deservedly won. Was it superior training that did this? The response this year of our players was very poor and if it is no better next season it only seems a waste of money to continue it.”

In response to that defeat, and possibly the remarks of the Secretary, the GFA recruited the services of a ‘trainer’ for the first time, which appeared to have the desired effect as Guernsey claimed revenge over Jersey in the Muratti semi-final, before beating Alderney in the Final. Indeed the Secretary reflected on the decision in his report at the annual general meeting when stating:

“I attribute the success as much to the Selection Committee and trainer, Mr Attwell, as to the players. It was the insistence of training laid down by the Committee that brought about success”

Aside from the first use of a ‘trainer’ the 1931/32 season was also remarkable for the visit of Tottenham Hotspurs, then of Division 2, which was arranged by Mr. H. E. Zabiela. The visiting ‘Spurs only claimed a narrow 2-1 victory.

In the 1932/33 season, concern was raised by the States Insurance Authority due to an increase in the number of players being injured on the pitch. The GFA Council investigated the matter and concluded that the majority of incidents related to matches in the Sarnian League and referred the matter to the relevant League officials. The season also saw the Mr. H. H. Randell awarded a long-service medal after twenty years as the President whilst Tottenham Hotspurs again visited, and became the first Division 1 team to travel to Guernsey, having been promoted the previous season. In addition to playing against Guernsey, ‘Spurs also played against a combined Channel Islands team, which was the first occasion on which players from both Guernsey and Jersey played together for one team.

The 1933/34 season saw the Association receive a strange request when Mr. J. Robin sent a letter from Bermuda. That letter requested that the results of the Muratti and Upton Cup matches be broadcasted so that they could be received the next day in Bermuda, rather than waiting 6 weeks for a newspaper to arrive!

This particular season concluded with controversy when the Priaulx League was decided by an extra-match between Northerners and Rangers, which was won by the latter. Northerners however, believed the referee had made several errors during the match, and sought to have the match re-played by protesting to the GFA Council. That protest was rejected, which led to Northerners then protesting to the Appeal Board, only for this protest to also be dismissed. This controversy arguably highlighted the rivalry between Northerners and Rangers, with the two teams monopolising the Priaulx League trophy between 1924 – 1939. As the champions of Guernsey, Rangers represented the island in the Upton Cup match and duly won the famous trophy for the first time.                       

In the 1934/35 season, the Association once again participated in a match against the Docks and Marine Sports Club from Southampton in the Guernsey Cot match. This was the third occasion that the match had been played in order to raise much needed funds to support the Guernsey Cot in the Southern railway Servants Orphanage. The match, which was played at The Dell, home of Southampton FC, was attended by over 600 people from Guernsey and proved to be a great financial success for the Cot Fund.

In another series of firsts, the Muratti Final in 1937 went to a replay in front of a record crowd of 11,708, and also was the first and only time in which the trophy has been shared after the replay finished 3-3 at the end of extra-time.

The 1937/38 season produced a dispute relating to the future of the Muratti competition following a suggestion from the Jersey FA that ‘this competition be confined to Jersey and Guernsey’ but the GFA Council believed that competition’s fundamental principles could be altered without Alderneys’ consent. History illustrates that this proposal never became reality, and arguably because the Guernsey FA Council did not support the proposal being presented by the Jersey FA. This season also saw the withdrawal of Sylvans from GFA competitions, along with the Sherwood Foresters who departed the island, leaving the GFA Council questioning the future of the game due to a depleted Priaulx League.

The 1938/39 season, which would prove to be the last before World War 2 and the Occupation, saw a match played against a Football Association XI, with the funds raised being used to ‘make improvements to the grounds’ at the Track and St Martins. A proposed match against a French Navy team had been cancelled ‘owing to the international situation’, which was a foreboding of the future impact that World War 2 would have on island football.