Scarborough, Yorkshire born inside right Jack Spaven played for junior clubs Scarborough St James in 1911 and Scarborough North End in 1912 before joining hometown Midland League club Scarborough in 1913, and he played for Goole Town in 1914 before the onset of the First World War forced the suspension of peacetime football in May 1915. Spaven joined Midland League club Scunthorpe & Lindsey United in 1918 before moving to Second Division club Nottingham Forest in February 1920 making his Football League debut against Birmingham the same month.
Spaven scored a hat-trick for Forest in a win over Rotherham County on Christmas Day 1920 in his second season at The City Ground, and stayed six years with The Garibaldi Reds, top scoring with 18 goals in 1921-22 as Forest won the Second Division Championship, when he was also ever present. but he lost his place in December 1923 and stayed on the fringe for two more seasons at Forest, playing his last match in April 1926. He had scored 50 times in 170 appearances before joining Midland League Grantham in the 1926 close season, his final club before his eventual retirement.