Thursday - 23 October 2014

When miners won the world cup…

30 August 2011Written by ATG Reporter

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 12.

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 place.

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 light.

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, Aprile 1909.

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 £3000-5000.

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.

Written by

ATG Reporter

Back to top