The good, the bad and the ugly of FA Cup Final programmes

Nick Moore takes a misty-eyed journey through the evolution of that essential collector’s item, the cup final programme...

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1882: Old Etonians vs Blackburn Rovers

The oldest surviving FA Cup final programme is simply a single sheet of faded paper printed onto in black ink. A copy was sold at Sotheby’s in 2013 for £35,250, and contained some scribbled pencil notes on it about who had played well. Design-wise, the only way was up.

Eton, meanwhile, won 1-0. Call us cruel, but we’d love to see some current Old Etonians – David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Douglas Hurd, Hugh Laurie, Bear Grylls, Prince William and Ranulph Fiennes, perhaps – turn out against the modern-day Blackburn at Ewood Park on a chilly Wednesday night, and witness the likes of Grant Hanley boot their daft boater hats into next week.

1883 FA Cup final programme

1912: Barnsley vs West Bromwich Albion

Jump forward two decades and the FA Cup final proggy looks a little more sophisticated. It’s a centre-folded 25cm x 32cm effort with prominent adverts for beer and cider – not much will change on that front – as well as a big boxout extolling the multifarious wonders of OXO.

1912 FA Cup final programme

There’s a nicely centred team sheet, and a promotion for a future wrestling match, too. Find one of these in the attic and you’re looking at a £9,000 bonanza. The match ended 0-0; Barnsley scraped through in a replay at Bramall Lane.

1913: Aston Villa vs Sunderland

The first Cup Final programme to be in the A4 format – a design which would become a terrace staple for the next 90 years.

1913 FA Cup final programme

With simple, no-nonsense typography, reference to the ‘Football Association Challenge Cup’, and ‘proper’ teams like Villa and Sunderland, this is where the modern template begins. Villa won 1-0, after an unprecedented 17 minutes of stoppage time.

1924: Aston Villa vs Newcastle United 

Another Villa final, another landmark: after a decade of fancy illustrated fluffery depicting the fair and beautiful nymph Britannia sitting by the trophy, we finally get a classic comic book illustration of two sturdy lads leaping to contest a header in front of a huge bank of supporters.

1924 FA Cup final programme

There’s also a lovely depiction of Wembley, and the words ‘FINAL TIE’ emblazoned across the masthead, which is something that would run, on and off, until 1965.

1925: Cardiff City vs Sheffield United

A team from outside England were taking part in the final for the first time since Glasgow’s Queens Park lost one in 1885, and in another shocker, photography would be used for the first time on the cover of the programme – yours for 6d.

1925 FA Cup final programme

The grand aerial shot of the Twin Towers, taken from a blimp, would have dazzled the 91,763 present.

NEXT: Photography, colour and fussy art directors