Once upon a time, the Football Association had the FA Cup essentially for league teams, the FA Trophy for non-league, semi-professional teams, and the FA Amateur Cup for amateur teams. Then in 1974, the FA realised that many of the top amateur teams were actually amateur in name only, and so scrapped the distinction between paid and non-paid. “Farewell” FA Amateur Cup and “Hello” FA Vase. And they all lived happily ever after.
The biggest attraction of the Vase is that the final is played in Wembley Stadium. So modest players from modest clubs with modest fanbases have the prospect of experiencing dining at football’s top table. Like an ITV “talent” show, the FA Vase gives small town clubs – and even small village clubs – the chance to be a star for a day. Many experts talk about the importance of “grassroots football” but the FA Vase Final represents one of those rare occurrences where the lower leagues actually make the headlines.
Interesting stories about the Vase are thin on the ground, but there is a footnote of note whilst we are talking about amateur football. If you have ever wondered about the origins of “Corinthian spirit,” wonder no more. It has little to do with ancient Greeks but more with a footy team founded towards the end of the 19th century by a bunch of what today would be termed “posh blokes from Oxbridge.” Called “The Corinthians,” the club’s members were amateurs who simply played sport for the enjoyment of sport. Theirgentlemanly approach ran to never arguing with the ref, never entering competitions where there was a prize (they did change this rule eventually), and even extended to removing one of their own players should a member of the opposition get injured or sent off.
FIVE FUN FACTS
No winner of the FA Vase has managed to rise up to the Football League proper.
The 2007 final between Totton Town (small Hampshire town) and Truro City (small Cornish City) saw a record attendance of 36,232, and was a major money-spinner for both teams. The Cornish fans went home happier, though, as their team won 3-1.
The mighty Whitley Bay (small Northern town) have won the Vase a record four times.
The first final saw Hertfordshire’s Hoddesdon beat Surrey’s Epsom & Ewell by two goals to one.
The Vase Trophy was most kindly donated by former FA Councillor Frank Adams.
Extract from “The World’s 50 Greatest Sporting Trophies” by Jerry Gardner, just published, and available from www.publishpromote.com, cost €15 (about £13) including p&p.