South West Wales

Swansea City FC celebrates 100 years since first game

The first professional Swansea team
Image caption Swansea City FC was founded in the summer of 1912 as Swansea Town and played its first professional game against Cardiff City at the Vetch

Swansea City Football Club is celebrating 100 years since its first professional game took place.

The Swans, who have enjoyed a successful start to their second season in the Premier League, played Cardiff City at their former Vetch Field home on 7 September, 1912.

Known then as Swansea Town, the Southern League match ended 1-1.

To mark the club's centenary, an archive from that first game has been opened up by the Swans100 project.

Swans100 is based at Swansea University's history department and is gathering fans' memories of the Swans history to create an online archive, working with the Swans' Supporters' Trust, with funding from the Lottery.

Image caption The first match programme

The archive from that first game has unearthed a match programme along with match reports and pictures from newspapers.

"It's all come from the fans," said Phil Bethell from the Swans100 project team.

"The whole point is to get them to come forward with their stories or memorabilia.

"There's one or two of the original programmes left from that first game and just this week, we've got some postcards taken by a Mumbles-based photographer from 1912.

"But it's the kind of stuff that people don't usually keep. You are not aware that some of the stuff will be worth something in the future."

The match programme cost one penny at the time and advertised pubs, printers and opticians, as well as explaining the offside rule.

Contrasting reports

A report gave the official "gate takings" as £153 with spectators paying 3d except boys who went free.

The Swansea-based Daily Post estimated a crowd of 10,000 watched the game while the Cardiff-based Western Mail went for half that figure.

Both gave contrasting reports of the match too where Billy Ball put Swansea in the lead before Jack Burton levelled for Cardiff.

The Daily Post also contained an artist's impressions of two moments in the match one involving Swansea hitting the crossbar, the other showing the Cardiff goalkeeper making a save.

In those days, the reports reveal Swansea were known as "the Town" or "Swanseaites" while Cardiff were known as the "Citizens". Today, it's the Swans and the Bluebirds.

That first season in the Southern League went well and the club won the Welsh Cup.

"The Swans' story truly began on 7 September 1912," added Mr Bethell.

"It was not only the beginning of professional football in the city, but also of a century-long soccer rivalry with Cardiff, as passionate as any other derby in the game.

Highs and lows

"It is a genuinely important anniversary in the history of Swansea, especially at a time when the all-white strip is being worn with such panache."

Since those days, the Swans have experienced a number of highs and lows.

Image caption The Swans are enjoying life in the Premier League

The lows included the club being wound up in December 1985 before a group of investors led by Doug Sharpe stepped in to rescue them and the Football League allowed the Swans to continue their fixtures.

And in 2002, the then newly-formed Swansea City Supporters Trust helped oust chairman Tony Petty who left the club on the brink of going bust.

The following season, a last day win over Exeter helped prevent the club dropping out of the Football League.

Since that day in 2003, it sparked the Swans on to one of their greatest highs as they climbed through the divisions and last season became the first Welsh team to play in the Premier League, where they remain.

The club also reached the top flight (the old Division One) in the early 1980s under John Toshack and enjoyed trips to Europe as a result of winning the Welsh Cup on a number of occasions.

"This is a celebration of the 100 years," said Mr Bethell.

"The club couldn't have done much more to promote themselves now other than being in the Premier League.

"The club itself is very focused on the now and tomorrow and they've not made a big fuss about the centenary, but it means a lot to the fans and the city.

"The fans have helped save the club. If it wasn't for the supporters trust [in 2002], then there wouldn't be a club now."

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