There is currently some criticism of the fact that both the media and Swansea fans are calling the League Cup Swansea’s first major trophy. This is being taken as an insult to the Welsh Cup, a trophy Swansea first won in 1913. However, as this extract from my book Soccer & Society: South Wales 1900-39 argues, between the wars the Welsh Cup was simply not regarded as an important competition by the football community in south Wales.
Despite its national consciousness and patriotic celebrations, inter-war soccer in south Wales was essentially bound to the wider English club scene and it paid little regard to all-Wales competitions such as the Welsh Cup and League. Before 1914, the emerging soccer fraternity in the south had seen the Welsh Cup as an important route to establishing its credentials but, after the war, with local teams now playing in the higher standard and more prestigious Football League, the competition lost its appeal. Cardiff City et al. rarely fielded their first teams in the cup and even the date of the final was often fitted around southern clubs’ league fixtures. Matches were generally not well attended and the local press rarely made any effort to hype the games. The venue of the 1920 Welsh Cup final was moved from Cardiff to Wrexham because it was felt that the latter town’s team would not attract a large crowd in the south where crowds were used to watching the higher standard Southern League soccer. For the clubs from the south, becoming champions of Wales held no appeal compared with the possibility of success on the English stage that the Football League and FA Cup offered; prestige was about recognition from outside Wales, not from the politically, culturally and economically distant north.
In contrast, clubs from the north were eager to use the Welsh Cup to proclaim their equality and there was a sense of regret about the south’s apathetic attitude. This attitude may have been different had north Wales possessed enough clubs of a sufficient standard to challenge consistently for the trophy. However, between 1920 and 1939, the trophy was only won five times by teams from the north. In the hope of raising the competition’s status, the FAW invited English clubs to enter in the 1930s. Yet that failed to raise interest in the south. The English teams that entered were mostly small clubs from the counties that bordered north and mid Wales and meant little to the inhabitants of south Wales. The only result was embarrassment for the FAW as the trophy left Wales on seven occasions during the 1930s. The FAW appealed for stronger efforts to bring the cup back to Wales but the calls fell on deaf ears amongst south Wales clubs whose eyes were focused on the more prestigious English competitions.