The Youdan Cup Competition was not played under Sheffield rules but those of the London Football Association


Listening to a podcast by Tony Collins (Rugby Reloaded – Ebenezer Morley and the birth of the FA) as to whether Morley deserved the epithet of ‘Father of Modern Football’, Collins was at pains to point out that he ill-deserved the title due to his inefficiencies whilst in office as secretary to the FA and that Morley alone could not have shaped an otherwise complex set of circumstances leading to the modern game.  This reminded me of Graham Curry and Eric Dunning’s argument (Association Football) that the game’s development was ‘multi-faceted’ and accordingly ‘men-made’, as opposed to ‘man-made’.  However, a caveat at this point by Dunning, made clear that some men may have been more important than others!

Following on from my recent article on the life and times of John Charles Shaw and his impact on the early development of football in Sheffield [John Charles Shaw 1830-1918: The Origins Debate and His Untold Story – a four part series, published by Playing Pasts, please see links at the end of this article]  I felt that more depth was needed to explore the establishment of the Sheffield Football Association and the role played in its foundation by the Youdan Cup competition.  Why the tournament was held in the first place and what was its purpose, are just two obvious questions that spring to mind.  Throughout the course of my research, what became evident was that the competition was indeed created through a complex set of circumstances involving the footballing men of London and their Sheffield counterparts.

Sheffield and London – an imperfect couple

At the inaugural meeting of club captains that was to establish the Football Association (FA) in 1863, a number of interested parties described as ‘observers’ were present.  Their names were not recorded in the minutes.  Four gentlemen from the Sheffield Football Club had travelled down to witness the event, which included a Sheffield solicitor and club stalwart Harry Walker Chambers.  It seems that their four voices added weight on their return.  A month later, the Sheffield Club were paid-up members of the new Association.  This decision to join the London Association would have a strong impact regarding the game in Sheffield.  It also indicated a meek acquiescence to the apparent superior social group.  Curry and Dunning confirm this stance (The Power Game), ‘interaction between the two bodies often appeared to indicate Sheffield’s subordinate position in relation to the London association’.  The draft FA rules of November 1863 allowed for hacking an opponent (kicking his shins), which was anathema to the Sheffield game.  The club secretary, William Chesterman, wrote complaining of the vicious practice of hacking having nothing to do with football.  The rules were refined and did away with hacking, plus running with the ball; but the new rules of December 1863 contained significant elements that were still contrary to the game played in Sheffield.  Having signed up to join, however, meant that the Sheffield Club were now responsible for promoting the new laws of the London Association.  Is this why the club decided on playing fixtures out-of-town?  Martin Westby (A History of Sheffield Football 1857-1889) is probably right, therefore, when he suggests that the club went elsewhere in missionary fashion: not it appears to promote the Sheffield rules, but those of the London Association.  This would explain why some reports said that Sheffield were willing to play a rugby style of game against opponents.


The Sheffield Club would have known that they could not be seen playing two types of code so did not attempt to play Sheffield-based teams and left their rules alone.  This more than likely suited their elite status within the town. Tony Brown (The Football Association 1863-1883: A Source Book) quotes an article from the Sporting Gazette November 5th 1864:

‘The working of the rules during last season was found to have been upon the whole satisfactory, although several clubs expressed a lingering fondness for some favourite rule of their own, which they had had to abandon for the sake of promoting the grand object of the association – uniformity.’

Chambers’s link with London was most probably strengthened when he was selected to play in an exhibition game of the Association on 9th January 1864.  The game was used to promote the rules and Chambers was selected to play for the President’s side against the Secretary’s side of Ebenezer Cobb Morley.  It was the first game played under the rules with representatives of the clubs belonging to the Association.  Chambers dined afterwards with the teams at the Grosvenor Hotel, Pimlico.  He probably came away knowing that more had to be done in Sheffield to promote the cause.  The Sheffield Club played against the MacKenzie Club in October 1865 where, according to Brendan Murphy (From Sheffield With Love), both teams ‘dabbled’ with the London Association off-side rules.  They found that there was difficulty in scoring.  This could well have been a trial game so that they could report back their endeavours.  At the Annual General Meeting of the Football Association held in February of 1866, a letter from Chesterman was read out.  Brown explains the content:

‘The secretary (Mr EC Morley) then proceeded to read  the minutes of the previous meetings, after which Mr Morley read a letter from Mr Chesterman, the hon. sec of one of the Sheffield clubs, stating that they had received Mr Morley’s letter of the 5th inst, and they would not be able to send a delegate to the meeting, but as far as they were concerned, they had no objection to the proposed alterations, and particularly were glad to learn that the clause regarding a fair catch was to be expunged.  Their rules were nearly the same as those of the association, and like the latter they were decidedly against hacking, throttling, or wrestling.  The letter further went on to suggest the advisability of the clubs in Sheffield playing a picked team from London, composed of the clubs playing under the association rules.’

Sheffield Rules v London Rules

The rules were amended at this meeting: ‘touch downs’ were introduced, which could be obtained either side of the goal post at any point along the goal line.  The Sheffield rules allowed for ‘rouges’ to be obtained by grounding the ball  between rouge flags four yards apart either side of the goalposts.  Both ‘touch downs’ and ‘rouges’ were, according to Curry and Dunning, ‘differential scoring methods’. There was a more rigid London ‘off-side’ rule stating that three opponents had to be between the side in possession and the goal.  This basically restricted the attacking side to keep behind the ball and severely limited the forward pass.  The original Sheffield rule had no offside.   To make matters worse for a dribbling game was the rule about throwing the ball in when it had gone out of play.  Westby is incorrect when he states that the London rules allowed throwing the ball in from any direction.  The first player to touch the ball when it had gone out of play was awarded possession.  The throw had to be taken at right angles to the touch line and had to touch the ground before another player could play the ball.  The Sheffield rule regarding this was almost the same.  It could be argued that the 1858 Sheffield rule had been taken literally from the text of Tom Brown’s Schooldays.  It is known that Creswick and Prest, the founders of the club, had written to the leading public schools requesting copies of their rules prior to the publication of the 1858 club rules.  From the outset of the formation of the club, it seems that those in charge may have been keen to be emulating their social superiors, and this is probably why the rouge was adopted from the Eton Field Game.  Its most likely intention was to assist in reducing outcomes of the many drawn games.  The printed 1845-47 rules of the game played at Rugby School were, to neutral observers, unintelligible gobbledegook.  A section of the novel which had undoubtedly been read by members of the Sheffield Club contained the following:

‘Why that is out of play’ answered East. ‘You see this gravel walk running down all along this side of the playing-ground and the line of elms opposite on the other? Well, they’re the bounds. As soon as the ball gets past them, it’s in touch, and out of play. And then whoever first touches it, has to knock it straight out amongst the players-up, who make two lines with a space between them, every fellow going on his own side. Ain’t there just fine scrummages then!’

This was easier to understand than the wording in the rule book and again, if they wanted to copy their social superiors to give the Sheffield game credibility, they adopted this into the rules.

Rule 11 October 1858 – A ball in touch is dead, consequently the side that touches it down, must bring it to the edge of the touch, and throw it straight out at least six yards from touch.


What they did prior to the rules being formulated, especially in the informal kick-abouts before the club was founded is, of course, unknown but this rule fundamentally altered the game.  Straight-out could be misinterpreted.  A throw in any direction would be straight.  Jennifer Macrory (Running with the Ball, The Birth of Rugby Football) confirms that straight out in the Rugby School game did mean at right angles.  Fine scrummages as a result, and as Collins points out in another podcast (A Short History of the Scrum), the scrum was a vital part of the game played at public school.   The Sheffield Club had, over time, introduced a caveat regarding the ensuing struggle for possession with opposing forwards by stating the ball had to be thrown at least six yards.  The London rule contained no such clause.

Chambers and Chesterman were probably pinning their hopes on a return game with London in Sheffield, where they could demonstrate the Sheffield style of play and coax the Londoners into their way of thinking.  The proposed game at London was eagerly accepted.

March 31st 1866

The game was played at Battersea Park and was the first representative game of its kind.  Geoffrey Green (The History of the Football Association) says:

‘Thus was set in motion the arrangements for the first representative match ever played by the Football Association, and in consideration of what it has since led to in the larger field of international relationships and rivalry it deserves a place of honour.’

The game was, according to Keith Booth (The Father of Modern Sport), to test out the new Association rules.  Murphy claims that the Sheffield team were unhappy, believing that they had been misled over which rules would apply.  He probably got this from Fred Walters (The History of Sheffield Football Club), who claimed London had ‘pulled a fast one’.  There may well have been some confusion on the part of London as to who Chambers and Chesterman actually represented, believing that they spoke for all football in Sheffield.  After all, they owned the rules!  The initial invite clearly stated playing Sheffield clubs.  The London team was drawn from four FA clubs and included the President of the Association, Arthur Pember, the Secretary, Ebenezer Cobb Morley and future internationals Charles William Alcock and Arthur Kinnaird.  The Sheffield team was the Sheffield Club.  It could be argued that the Sheffield players turned out for other clubs; certainly according to John Steele (The Countrymen, The History of Hallam Football Club) John Charles Shaw was still the captain of the Hallam Club at the time.  It appears that this confusion was not well received by London.  Green talks of a return match to be played in Sheffield shortly after this one.  It never happened.  Sheffield had scored an own goal.  The game was well recorded for its physical and robust style of play and resulted in a convincing win for London.  Sheffield failed to score.  It is an irony, that Alcock was ruled offside after scoring a goal.  The Sheffield back three must have been well drilled!  Whilst the match is noted for its place in history, what happened afterwards is probably of more interest.  The players of both teams travelled to Covent Garden to dine together at the Albion Hotel on Russell Street.  The layout of the room was probably formal.  Chesterman and Chambers would have been sitting at the top table with Pember and Morley and possibly others such as Kinnaird, a future President.  The rest of the players would be sitting at the long tables coming off each end of the top table.  It is highly likely that seating arrangements were mixed to allow for interaction and spirited conversation.  Who was sitting next to who is of course unknown; did Alcock sit with Shaw? Both had much in common and had established their own clubs.  Both were to achieve positions of authority within their own Associations.  Alcock was yet to take his brother’s place on the committee.  The speeches delivered and the toasts drunk would have centred on football with the unification of clubs playing to the same set of rules.  The ensuing conversations would have reflected this.  It is most likely that the situation with the Sheffield players all belonging to the same club emerged at this time.  It could have been that Chambers and Chesterman were slightly chastised by the London officials for misrepresentation of their status regarding football in Sheffield.  It could have been pointed out to them that until they were masters in their own house they could hardly come and represent Sheffield football when the other teams in Sheffield had not experienced playing under London rules and did not have a voice.  It is not known if the Sheffield team stayed the night in London and returned the next day or caught a late train back.  It is, however, highly probable that the idea of forming their own association and bringing the Sheffield clubs together – playing in a knock-out challenge format under the London Association rules with a prize for the wining team – was hatched on the train back to Sheffield.  Murphy talks of a return match at Sheffield being agreed for March 1867.  This is endorsed by Adrian Harvey (Football: The First Hundred Years).  A local Sheffield newspaper, The Sheffield and Rotherham Advertiser (March 11th 1867), also substantiated this.  Sheffield had a year to put their house in order.

The Youdan Competition

The stinging rebuke by the London Association regarding the return game probably galvanised Chambers and Chesterman to do something radical.  At this stage, Sheffield being the premier club in the town, considered itself an elitist group whose authority did not need to be questioned.  They had forged the Sheffield rules and were the guardians.  They clearly had to draw all the existing Sheffield clubs into a recognisable form accepted by London – an Association.  This helps explain why the Youdan competition happened at the precise time it did, preferably before the next London Association meeting.  Whose idea it was will never be known.  Murphy is unequivocal in his assertion that it was all Thomas Youdan’s concept.  Westby backs this up by saying that it was Youdan’s marketing idea.  It is more than likely that during the ensuing months between the Battersea Park game and the following season, Chambers and Chesterman had organised a committee to ensure an agreement and framework through which the competition would be conducted.  It would necessitate co-operation from the clubs who were most likely represented on the committee.  Notes from the Hallam Club history say that John Charles Shaw was a member of this committee.  The only other name linked is that of Frederick Corbett who acted as honorary secretary.  At the time of writing I have been unable to discover who he was exactly.  His name appears in the block adverts regarding the progress of the tournament in the local press.  It is almost certain that the Sheffield Club representatives would be at the helm.  The Sheffield Club would not participate as it had already experienced playing under the London rules; as guardians of the Sheffield rules it was their job to oversee changes. They almost certainly would not want to be defeated by another Sheffield side.  It is no surprise that Alcock started his arrangements for the Football Association Challenge Cup in July prior to the 1871/72 season.  Advisable, probably, from the Sheffield experience.

What is most notable about the competition is the compliance of all the Sheffield clubs, and even more remarkable is the fact that the games seemingly were to be played under the existing rules of the London Association.  Evidence for this stems from the fact that the games were not free scoring.  This suggests the possibility of the London offside rule, and the right angled throw with no distance regulation from touch applied.  After the first round of games was completed, the organising committee had to introduce a clause giving the referees power to award a free kick for infringements that were happening as a result of not having the Sheffield six yard rule when throws were taken.  Harvey mentions this, but does not make the connection as to why it was introduced.


Chambers and Chesterman could either, with the backing of the Sheffield clubs, go back to London and accept the London rules or persuade rules to be amended in Sheffield’s favour.   It appears there was one exception to this.  The Sheffield rouge rule would apply.  After all, it was a public school concept and not part of the original Sheffield game. Thomas Youdan was not responsible for all this.  What the committee did to get the clubs on board and what lures they used are unknown.  The committee was not as yet an official association, so could not call the cup the Sheffield Association Challenge Cup, nor did they possess funds to promote it.  Thomas Youdan would have been well known by the footballers of the town and his Alexandra Music Hall on Blonk Street would have been a favourite call.  Youdan was a maverick and would engage all notions of concepts to entice the public to his establishment.  More than likely, it was a member of the committee who approached Youdan with the idea of supporting the prize.  His name would be linked with a popular tournament which would drive revenue for him.  Possibly he offered free entry to players and their families during the competition.

Article © Kevin Neill 

To read Part 2 see –


To read the serialisation of John Charles Shaw see –

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