By Tony Attwood
The Southern Professional Charity Cup was a competition that existed at least from 1901/2 to 1907/08 – although it may have lasted a little longer. Certainly Arsenal only competed in it during that period.
Each year seven or eight teams took part. These included Portsmouth, Tottenham Hotspur, Millwall, West Ham United, Reading, Brighton and Woolwich Arsenal – which is seven. It would seem logical that there was an eighth team there as well, but for the moment I can’t find who that was.
The competition was played as a knock-out tournament with the first round played home or away depending on the draw, the second round (the semi-final) being either on a neutral ground or on the ground of the team drawn first (it varied from year to year), and the final mostly, but not always, on neutral ground.
In the first season of 1901/2 Arsenal got to the semi-final, drawing at home with Tottenham, and then losing the replay away.
In 1902/3 Arsenal went out to Millwall in the first round, but in 1903/4 got to the final, beating West Ham and Reading en route. The final took place on April 28 1904 where Arsenal lost 1-2 away to Millwall in a game played before 10,000 spectators.
For 1904/5 Arsenal went out in the first round, but in 1905/6 again reached the final…
- Round 1: West Ham at home 3-2 on October 9 1905
- Semi- Final Tottenham (away) 0-0 on April 9 1906 (winning the replay 5-0 on Saturday 28 April 1906).
- Final: April 30 1906 beating Reading 1-0 (at Fulham)
Arsenal played in the competition twice more, each time going out in the first round. In 1906/07 we lost to Millwall 1-2 at home, and in 1907/08 we lost 0-1 to Reading 0-1.
Generally the crowds were modest throughout the c0mpetition, the highest crowd being on 28 April 1906 when 12,000 turned up at the Manor to see the defeat of Tottenham. The final on the following Monday attracted only 3,500.
What makes me feel fairly sure that 1907/8 was the final year of the competition is the fact that in 1908/9 Arsenal entered the London Professional Footballers Association Charity Fund – playing one match each season. But more on that in another article.