It has been revealed that the second edition of the Football Association (FA) Cup trophy, which was sold at auction in September for more than three-quarters of a million pounds, was bought by Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed.
Sheikh Mansour, the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and a member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi, has offered the trophy to remain on loan to the National Football Museum in Manchester, where it has been housed since 2005.
It had been feared that the historic trophy would be purchased by a private collector and taken overseas.
Work on a new presentation display is underway at the National Football Museum, to be completed ahead of its reopening once current COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Sheikh Mansour paid £759,062 ($976,080/€833,014), including the buyer's premium, for the trophy when it was put up for auction at Bonham’s in London last September.
The trophy, which cost £25 ($34/€27) to make, had been put up for sale by David Gold, the co-owner of Manchester City’s Premier League rivals West Ham United.
Gold had bought the trophy in 2005 at auction for £478,000 ($648,000/€530,000) while chairman of Birmingham City, claiming at the time he was preserving the piece of history for the country.
The historic silver trophy formed as a two-handled cup and cover, surmounted by a figure of a footballer with a football at his feet, was awarded to the winning team in the oldest national football competition in the world between 1896 and 1910.
It was the first trophy won by Manchester City 117 years ago in the 1904 FA Cup final, when the club beat Bolton Wanderers 1-0, becoming the first professional football club from the city to win a major honour.
The 1904 FA Cup win is credited with helping establish football into the city’s wider cultural life, moving sporting loyalties away from rugby for which Manchester was then better known.
This cultural transformation was exemplified by the club’s then ground-breaking decision to take part in the first trophy parade in Manchester’s history.
"This Cup is a visible reminder of the rich and long history of English football to which Manchester City is inextricably entwined," Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said.
"Winning this actual trophy in 1904 was a turning point for the club and for the city of Manchester in that it firmly cemented football in the heart of its community.
"Sheikh Mansour’s view is that a trophy of such cultural significance must be shared with the people of Manchester, the English football family, and all of those who love the English game.
"The National Football Museum is in a unique position to do that."
National Football Museum chief executive Tim Desmond was relieved that the trophy would continue to remain to be on display.
"At the National Football Museum, we are blessed to have many wonderful items on display, but, as the oldest surviving FA Cup, this particular trophy was amongst the ‘crown jewels’ of our artefacts," he said.
"When it left us in September 2019 to be auctioned by its then owner, we feared we may never see it again and that Britain would be losing the FA Cup for good.
"The fact that it has been bought by His Highness Sheikh Mansour and offered back to us is simply wonderful news both for the National Football Museum but also for the preservation of our sporting heritage in this country.
"We look forward to welcoming visitors from Manchester, the UK and beyond to see this special trophy as soon as circumstances allow."
The trophy, which is 50.7 centimetres high with the plinth, bears the winners' names from 1872 onwards.
The first FA Cup trophy used between 1872 and 1895 was stolen from a shop window in Birmingham in September 1895 when it was on display after Aston Villa had won it that year.
A £10 ($13/€11) reward was offered for the recovery of the FA Cup, but the trophy was never seen again.
The trophy was retired in 1910 after Newcastle's 2-0 victory over Barnsley and presented the following year to Lord Kinnaird by The FA to mark his 21st anniversary as President of the national governing body.
"This is wonderful news," FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said when it was revealed that Sheikh Mansour had bought the trophy and donated it to the National Football Museum.
"Our sincere thanks go to His Highness Sheikh Mansour and Manchester City for ensuring the oldest surviving FA Cup will remain in this country and on view for all who visit the National Football Museum.
"The FA Cup holds a special place in the hearts of many football fans.
"Not just in England but across the whole world, and this trophy is an enduring symbol of its wonderful history and heritage.
"With this November marking the 150th anniversary since the FA Cup began in 1871, this is a fitting way to start the commemorations of such an important milestone."