Down by the Riverside (page 4)
Riverside had a miserable Junior Cup experience during the next season when, after a bye in the first round, they crashed out 6-1 to Cwmaman in the second. But trouble on the field was now being replaced by problems off it. A week before Christmas 1904, Bart, now living in nearby De Burgh Street, received a reprimand over the Riverside balance sheet from the S.W.&M.F.A. The finance committee had resolved 'that the Honorary Secretary write to Mr Bartley Wilson and inform him that his letter does not meet with the approval of this committee.
Whatever the reason for his reprimand, Bart was out of the bad books by the following October because Riverside were not included on a list of fourteen clubs threatened with suspension for failing to produce satisfactory balance sheets. By that time, Riverside's first trophy had found its way into the club cabinet. In 1905, they won the Bevan Shield, a local competition sanctioned by the S.W.&M.F.A.
This was the breakthrough Bart had been waiting for. After five years of league football, Riverside had proved they could be successful - albeit in a minor cup competition - and he felt it was time for the club to move forward again. On October 28th 1905, as a result of its phenomenal growth and increasing importance to Wales, Cardiff was officially made a city.
A week later, Bart made his way to a meeting of the S.W.&M.F.A at the Alexandra Hotel with Charles Kyd, a local stock-keeper. They wanted to change the name of the club to Cardiff City. The city needed a capital football team in keeping with its new-found status and they believed Riverside was that team.
As the two men entered the hotel, Bart was optimistic that their request would be granted. Not for the first time, they were to be disappointed. The Association had heard rumours that Riverside were already calling themselves Cardiff City. At an emergency committee meeting of the Association, it was resolved:
As is often the case, minutes of meetings seldom tell the whole story. The real reason for the refusal was that Riverside were not playing in a good enough grade of football. They would have to join the South Wales League if they wanted to become Cardiff City. Bart was only too keen to accept the challenge and Riverside successfully applied for election and began competing in the South Wales League in the autumn of 1906.
In the meantime, their miserable record in the Junior Cup continued as they drew 2-2 and were then beaten 2-1 in a replay by Penarth Parish Church in the first round. Two days before Christmas 1905, Riverside found themselves mbroiled in another dispute - this time involving the non-payment of travelling expenses for their players by Pontlottyn in the Llanbradach Charity Cup. Like the Bevan Shield, the L.C.C. was sanctioned by the S.W.&M.F.A. to whom Riverside appealed for help.
The row rumbled on through most of 1905 as the Association tried in vain to persuade the tournament's organisers to explain what had happened to the gate receipts from the game. At a meeting on July 26th, the general committee had both good and bad news for Riverside. They warned the honorary secretary of the Llanbradach Charity Cup that further delay in supplying the Association with information would affect next season's competition and then decided that the club's proposed change of name to Cardiff City should again not be sanctioned.
Both items were on the agenda at a meeting held on September 15th. Again, the news was mixed. A sub-committee consisting of Bart, his opposite number at Pontlottyn and four Association members would examine the whole gate receipts issue. Then, after Bart and Charles Kyd had made another appeal for Riverside to become Cardiff City, the Association decided to lay down the law. It was resolved:
(i)that the application be not granted
(ii) that the Association is now fully convinced that the officials of Riverside A.F.C. have adopted the name of Cardiff City A.F.C. in direct opposition to the ruling of this Association. In the event of any repetition of this offence, the club will render itself liable to suspension.
Both Riverside and the Football Association of Wales were notified of the resolution but Bart had little time to either worry or sulk - he was also involved in the Pontlottyn inquiry. Four days later, the six wise men delivered their verdict. Riverside had to settle for a not very honourable draw as the sub-committee only hinted at dark deeds and skulduggery. It unanimously decided:
that while there was some laxity on the gate arrangements by both sides, there is no unfair handling of the monies. It is a matter of regret that the gate did not allow of payment of fares of visiting players - but that is one of the risks of a cup-tie.
Pontlottyn were fined 2s.6d. for ignoring an order to submit details of the incident, the rules of the competition were amended and the Association decided that all minute books and records should be kept. The following resolution provided cold comfort for the Riverside committee: 'This Association regrets that the ex-secretary of the Llanbradach Charity Cup Competition has destroyed the documents which this Association ordered to be produced and the non-production of such documents caused great delay in the settlement of this case.
Riverside's first season in the South Wales League from the autumn of 1906 was a real struggle. They lost most of their matches with Newport, Cwmparc-and-Treorchy and Treharris all putting six past them. During a 4-1 defeat by Barry District, they fell foul of the referee who sent off a Riverside player for remarking 'Well, I'm blowed, you take the cake! in response to one of his generally contentious decisions.
There was little improvement in the next few seasons as Riverside continued to lose far more games than they won. Aberdare, Treharris and Ebbw Vale scored seven against them, while Ton Pentre inflicted an 8-2 drubbing. As well as competing in the South Wales League, Riverside were now taking part in the S.W.&M.F.A's Senior Cup. A change of competition failed to produce a change of fortune - they were knocked out in successive years in first round matches by Barry Dock Albions and Ebbw Vale.
Relations between Riverside and the S.W.&M.F.A. remained strained when a request for financial help was turned down in August 1907. The Association resolved 'that no further applications for grants can be entertained. But just over a year later, Riverside were to land the most coveted prize of all.
Thursday, September 5th 1908 will always be celebrated as one of the most important milestones in the history of Cardiff City A.F.C. Once again, the Alexandra Hotel in Queen Street was the venue and once again an application by Cardiff Riverside - as they were now being called - to change their name to Cardiff City was on the agenda.
Bart and his committee were taking nothing for granted. They just hoped that this time the S.W.&M.F.A. would acknowledge and then accommodate Riverside's ambition. The resolution was short - but oh so sweet: that permission be given on the condition that if a professional team should be started in Cardiff in the near future, they would relinquish the name.
Nobody knows how Bart Wilson reacted to the news for which he had worked so diligently for more than eight years. It would be natural to suppose though that he could hardly contain his delight. Recognition at last! It must have been a wonderful feeling - and well worth all the effort. Already Bart must have been looking forward to the next exciting chapter in Riverside's history.
As their members celebrated back in the clubhouse that evening, Bart, his crutches propped up against the wall, might well have been found in a quiet corner, studying the precise wording of the Association's decision. Relinquish the name!? After struggling so hard to acquire it? What were the S.W.& M.F.A. thinking? The only professional team that would be started in Cardiff in the near future would be started by him.
Let nobody be in any doubt about that. The Southern League beckoned - as did, in the distance, the Football League. With a new name came a new resolve - who or what could stop Cardiff City now?