In the 1883-84 FA Cup Blackburn beat Padium (3-0), Staveley (5-0), Upton Park (3-0), and Notts County (1-0) to reach the final. Their opponents were Queens Park, the best team in Scotland. The Scottish club scored the first goal but Blackburn Rovers won the game with goals from Blackburn lads, James Forrest and Joe Sowerbutts.
The following year Blackburn Rovers beat Witton (6-1), Romford (8-0), West Bromwich Albion (2-0) and Old Carthusians (5-0) to reach the final. Once again they had to play Queens Park. Blackburn Rovers was now a team full of internationals. This included James Forrest, Jimmy Brown, Joseph Lofthouse, Hugh McIntyre and Jimmy Douglas. A crowd in excess of 12,000 arrived at the Oval to see the what most people believed were the best two clubs in England and Scotland. With goals from Brown and Forrest, Blackburn Rovers won 2-0.
At the end of the 1883-84 season Preston North End joined forces with other clubs who were paying their players, such as Aston Villa and Sunderland. In October, 1884, these clubs threatened to form a break-away British Football Association. The Football Association responded by establishing a sub-committee, which included William Sudell, to look into this issue. On 20th July, 1885, the FA announced that it was "in the interests of Association Football, to legalise the employment of professional football players, but only under certain restrictions". Clubs were allowed to pay players provided that they had either been born or had lived for two years within a six-mile radius of the ground.
Blackburn Rovers immediately registered as a professional club. Their accounts show that they spent a total of £615 on the payment of wages during the 1885-86 season.
Herbie Arthur won his first international cap for England against Ireland on 28th February, 1885. England won 4-0. Arthur did very well and he retained his place against Wales (14th March) and Scotland (21st March). Both games ended as 1-1 draws. Over the next two seasons he played in four more internationals. In the seven games he let in only four goals.
Blackburn Rovers reached the 1885 FA Cup Final by beating Darwen Old Wanders (6-1), Staveley (7-1), Brentwood (3-1) and Swifts (2-1) Seven of the Blackburn Rovers team, including Herbie Arthur, were appearing in their third successive final, whereas Jimmy Brown, Fergie Suter, Hugh McIntyre and Jimmy Douglas were playing in their fourth final in five season. The game against West Bromwich Albion at the Oval ended in a 0-0 draw.
The replay took place at the Racecourse Ground, Derby. A goal by Joe Sowerbutts gave Blackburn Rovers an early lead. In the second-half Jimmy Brown collected the ball in his own area, took the ball past several WBA players, ran the length of the field and scored one of the best goals scored in a FA Cup Final. Blackburn Rovers now joined the Wanderers in achieving three successive cup final victories.
The decision by the Football Association to allow clubs to pay their players increased their out-goings. It was therefore necessary to arrange more matches that could be played in front of large crowds. In March, 1888, William McGregor, a director of Aston Villa, circulated a letter suggesting that "ten or twelve of the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home and away fixtures each season." The following month the Football League was formed. It consisted of six clubs from Lancashire (Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End, Accrington, Burnley and Everton) and six from the Midlands (Aston Villa, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers). The main reason Sunderland was excluded was because the other clubs in the league objected to the costs of travelling to the North-East.
The first season of the Football League began in September, 1888. Preston North End won the first championship that year without losing a single match and acquired the name the "Invincibles". Blackburn Rovers, who had lost most of their best players to retirement, finished in 4th place, 14 points behind Preston.That year Herbie Arthur played in 19 of the 22 games.
Herbie Arthur lost his place to John Horne in the 1889-90 season. He played for Southport Central before returning to Blackburn Rovers in the 1891-92 season. That year he played in 21 out of the 26 games played in the Football League. Blackburn had a disappointing year finishing in 9th place. They were also knocked out of the FA Cup in the second round by West Bromwich Albion. At the end of the season Arthur left the club.
Herbie Arthur died in 1930.