Birth of a club and a rivalry: archives reveal 1912 records of Swansea City’s first game, against Cardiff

RIAH thin image bar A hundred years ago on 7 September 1912, Swansea Town played their first professional game, against Cardiff City.  To mark the occasion, the Swans 100 project is opening up its archive from that very first game, including the programme, match reports and pictures, shedding light on the birth of the club, and on the start of a long rivalry with their neighbours to the east.

The Swans 100 project, which will feature the material on its website (www.swans100.org.uk), is based in the University History department.  It is gathering fans’ memories of the Swans to create an online archive, working with the Swans’ Supporters’ Trust, with funding from the Lottery.  

 The game was played at the Vetch Field on Saturday 7 September 1912,  just a few months after the sinking of the Titanic and the deaths of Captain Scott and his team in the Antarctic.   

  • The result was a 1-1 draw, with Billy Ball scoring for Swansea, before skipper Jack Burton equalised forCardiff. 
  • The match programme cost one penny, and advertised pubs, printers and opticians, as well as explaining the offside rule! 

Press reports of the game reveal that some things have changed since those days: 

  • Swanseawere called “the Town” or “Swanseaites” whileCardiffare “the Citizens”. The nicknames Swans and Bluebirds came later 
  • A report gave the official “gate takings” as £153, each of whom paid 3d, with boys going free!

The reports also show an element of local rivalry.  The Cardiff-based Western Mail estimated a crowd of 5,000, whereas the Swansea-based Daily Post said it was 10,000! 

Phil Bethell from the Swans 100 project team said:

“The Swans’ story truly began on the 7th September 1912.  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. 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.

That first season in the Southern League went really well, and as the Daily Post put it, “Swanseashould soon become a side that the town can be proud of”. That is certainly true 100 years down the line!”

Researcher Peter Dawson, a volunteer on the Swans 100 project, unearthed the material on the first game.  He said:

I found the research absolutely fascinating - not only for the details about the match itself but as a starting point for finding out about life in my home town a hundred years ago.

The style of the reports and the way the newspapers were organised has changed totally, but the pride in our local team was just the same right from the start.

As a Swans fan I was very amused by the different opinions of how the luck went that day. Some things never change!

My involvement with the project so far has been great fun and a nice way to give back something in return for the excitement of following the club through the ups and downs of 45 of those 100 years.