RM Football History

A Brief History of the Royal Marines Football Association

By Shaun Foster RMFA Manager 

Records show that the Royal Marine Light Infantry & Royal Marine Artillery were playing football in the early 1900’s and the biggest success was when the RMLI (Gosport) won the Amateur Cup in 1910 beating South Bank (Middlesbrough) 2-1, the Amateur Cup in those days attracted crowds of up to 100,000. The Amateur cup took a dent in 1969 when the FA introduced the FA Challenge Trophy & in 1974 when the FA Challenge Vase replaced the Amateur cup.

The Royal Marine Light Infantry & Royal Marine Artillery merged in 1923 to form the Corps of Royal Marines. Royal Marines Chatham played in the Kent league until 1950 and once reached the 3rd qualifying round of the FA cup in 1929 before losing out on a second replay. Royal Marines Portsmouth played in the Hampshire league from 1922/23 season until 1928.

It was not until 1962 that the Royal Marines were invited to play in the Royal Navy Inter Command Championships against other Commands from Portsmouth, Plymouth, Scotland, Air & Medway. The Royal Navy’s Inter Command tournament had run since 1905 and they must have regretted inviting the Royal Marines at the time as the Royal Marines beat Plymouth Command 3-2 in that first year & their record for their first ten years in the Competition read, reached the final 8 out of 10 times winning it 3 times in 1962, 1968 & 1970. The Royal Marines team went on to win the competition twice in the 70’s, four times in the 80’s, twice in the 90’s but in recent years they have really dominated the competition winning it 7 times since 1999 which included a record equalling 4 times in a row matching Portsmouth Commands feat in the sixties.

1928 – The Royal Marines Annual Football Competition

The USMC Challenge Trophy "The Tunney Cup" was presented to the Royal Marines in 1928 by the United States Marine Corps. The USMC wished to perpetuate the bond of friendship which has existed between the two corps since the boxer rebellion in China in 1901, when the Royal Marines and the USMC fought side by side. The Cup was brought from America in the USS Leviathan by the ex Sergeant Major R Francis USMC on behalf of the USMC. 

Former Heavy weight champion of the World Gene Tunney ex US Marine and then US Navy Captain presented the USMC Challenge cup at a parade held in Royal Marines Barracks Eastney. General Commandant John J Lejeune USMC expressed a desire that it should be competed for by Association Football teams. He hoped that it would give as much pleasure as did the presentation of Private Pageant, a Bulldog which had been sent to America by the Royal Marines for the USMC. Private Pagett spent much of his time as mascot to the Training camp.

The Tunney Cup competition is an ideal place for the RMFA Manager to select players for the next assault on the Inter Command Competition, it is played for over a 5 day period and some years you would have had to play five games in five days just to have got to the final, one year in the mid to late 90’s some teams had to play 2 games in one day (imagine the Pro’s of today having to do that on their 100’000 a year deals). The Competition itself is steeped in history and tales ever since RMB Chatham won it in 1928, the competition was only halted for the two World Wars but has never missed a year other than then, unlike the Royal Marines Rugby tournament the Argyle Bowl which has sometimes had to cancel due to a lack of teams. The Tunney Cup was held at RM Deal until its closure in 1995 and it has now found a new home at CTCRM Lympstone in East Devon.