THE uplifting story of how West Auckland FC won ‘the first world cup’ has gone down in the annals of English football.
In 1909 millionaire businessman Sir Thomas Lipton invited the
football associations of Europe to participate in an international
tournament in Turin.
The Thomas Lipton Trophy is sometimes referred to as the first
World Cup, although historians of the game point out it was
predated by the Torneo Internazionale Stampa Sportiva (another
pan-European club competition hosted in 1908, also in Turin) and
the football matches held at the Olympic Games since 1900. The
inaugural FIFA World Cup was contested by 13 national teams in
Uruguay in 1930.
Nonetheless, Italy, Germany and Switzerland did send their most
prestigious professional club sides to the competition and, after
the Football Association of England declined to be associated with
Lipton's idea, the organiser himself chose a Northern League side
from the pit village of West Auckland, Co. Durham, to represent
Great Britain and compete against the prestigious professional
clubs Juventus, F.C. Winterhour and Stuttgart.
Surprisingly, West Auckland's team of working coal miners first
beat Stuttgart 2-0 and then Winterhour 2-0 in the final on April
Perhaps even more remarkable, in 1911 West Auckland travelled
again to Italy and defended their title beating Juventus 6-1 in the
final to become outright holders of the silver-plated trophy which
was never contested again.
It was proudly displayed in West Auckland Working Men's Club
until it was stolen in 1994: a silver replica now stands in its
The recently discovered medal from the tournament, to be offered
by Anderson & Garland of Westerhope, Newcastle
Upon Tyne on September 13-14, was found a few years ago at a local
car boot fair in a box of football programmes. The buyer was unsure
of what he had: only recently has its significance come to
Both sides of the base metal medal show vestiges of the original
gilding. One side carries a footballing scene in relief bearing the
artist's initials SJ, while the reverse is struck with a globe
enclosed by a laurel wreath and is inscribed Il Torneo
Internazionale di Football Indetto Dalla Stampa Sportiva, Torino,
An unattached artificial-silk ribbon in the Italian national
colours is identical to that seen on another 1909 Lipton Trophy
winners' medal still in the collection of West Auckland FC and is
thought to be the original. It has been authenticated by Peter
Holme of the National Football Museum.
A&G specialist Steven Moore, who described it as "one of the
rarest football medals in the world", has estimated it will fetch
Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.