FA Cup

FA Cup

infobox football tournament
current = FA Cup 2008-09

founded = 1871
number of teams = 762
region = England
current holders = Portsmouth
most successful club = Manchester United
(11 titles)
website = [http://www.thefa.com/TheFACup/ FA Cup]

The Football Association Challenge Cup, commonly known as the FA Cup, is a knockout cup competition in English football, run by and named after The Football Association. The name "FA Cup" refers to the English men's tournament.

The FA Cup is the oldest football competition in the world, commencing in 1871–72. Because it involves clubs of all standards playing against each other there is the possibility for "minnows" from the lower divisions to become "giant-killers" by eliminating top clubs from the tournament, although lower division teams rarely reach the final. A record 762 teams have been accepted into the cup for 2008-2009, beating the previous record of 731 teams accepted into the FA Cup in 2007–08. [ [http://www.thefa.com/TheFACup/TheFACup/NewsAndFeatures/Postings/everyones_up_for_the_cup.htm record number of entries for 2008/9] ] In comparison, the League Cup can involve only the 72 members of The Football League (which organises that competition) and the 20 teams in the Premier League for a total of 92 eligible teams.

The holders of the FA Cup are Portsmouth, who beat Cardiff City 1–0 in the 2008 final on 17 May 2008. This is the first time that a team from outside the 'top four' (Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal) has won the FA Cup in 13 years.

As well as being presented with the cup, the winning team also qualifies by right for the first round of the UEFA Cup, unless they have already qualified for Europe in which case the position goes to the runners-up or to the highest placed Premier League side without European qualification.


The Cup involves clubs in the English football league system. In the early years other teams from Wales, Ireland and Scotland also took part in the competition with Glasgow side Queen's Park reaching the final in 1884 and 1885. Six Welsh clubs that currently play in the English football league system compete in the FA Cup: Cardiff City, Swansea City, Wrexham, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport County and Colwyn Bay.

The competition is a knockout tournament with pairings drawn completely at random - there are no seeds, and a draw takes place after the majority of fixtures have been played in each round. However the qualifying round draws are regionalised to reduce the travel costs of smaller non-league sides. Rounds one and two were also previously split into northern and southern draw sections, however this practice was abandoned after the 1997–98 cup competition. The draw also determines which team will play at home. If a match (other than the semi-final or final) is drawn, there is a replay, usually at the ground of the team who were away for the first game. Drawn replays are now settled with extra time and penalty shootouts, though in the past further replays were possible, and some ties took as many as six matches to settle; in their 1975 campaign, Fulham played 12 games over six rounds. This remains the most games played by a team to reach a final. [cite web |url=http://www.thefa.com/TheFACup/TheFACup/History/Postings/2004/02/FACup_1975Final.htm |title=TheFA.com - Hammers nail Fulham |publisher=The FA |accessdate=2005-03-05] Replays were traditionally played three or four days after the original game, but from 1991–92 they were staged at least 10 days later on police advice. This led to penalty shoot-outs being introduced.

The draw for each round, performed by drawing numbered balls from a bag, is a source of great interest to clubs and their supporters, and is broadcast on television. When the top clubs enter the competition the possibilities for interesting and lucrative match-ups generate plenty of speculation. Sometimes two top clubs may be drawn against each other in the early rounds, removing the possibility of them meeting in the final. Lower-ranked clubs with reputations as 'giant-killers' look forward to meeting a top team at home, although in some cases the expense of providing policing for a game can outweigh any financial windfall from larger crowds. Mid-ranked teams hope for a draw against a peer to improve their chances of reaching future rounds. Top-ranked teams look for easy opposition, but have to be on their guard against a lower team with ambitions, or as was once the case with Yeovil Town F.C., having to play on an extremely eccentric pitch. The draw was once broadcast from a television studio, and was done by officials of the Football Association. By 2007 it had become a public event. For the first round proper, it was broadcast live from Soho Square in London, the balls being drawn by famous players.

All Premier League and Football League clubs may enter. Non-league clubs may also enter if they competed in the previous season's FA Cup, FA Trophy, or FA Vase competition and are deemed to be playing in an "acceptable" league for the current season. All clubs entering the competition must have a suitable stadium. In the 2004–05 season, 660 clubs entered the competition, beating the long-standing record of 656 from the 1921–22 season. In 2005–06 a further high point was reached, with 674 entrants, and again in 2006–07 when 687 clubs entered. A new record was made in the 2007–08 season where 731 clubs entered.

The competition begins in August with the extra preliminary round contested by clubs occupying a low position in the English football league system, and the preliminary round. There are then four qualifying rounds and six rounds of the competition proper, followed by the semi-finals and the final.

Clubs higher up the league system are exempt from certain rounds. For example, clubs playing in the Conference North or Conference South are given exemption to the second qualifying round, while those from the Conference National are given exemption to the fourth qualifying round. Clubs from Football League One and Football League Two are given exemption into the first round proper, and Football League Championship and Premier League teams are given exemption into the third round.

The FA Cup has had a very set pattern for a long time of when each round is played. Normally the first round is played in mid-November, with the second round on one of the first two Saturdays in December. The third round is played at the start of January, with the fourth round later in the month and fifth round staged in mid-February. The sixth round traditionally occurs in early or mid March, with the semi-finals a month later. The final is normally held the Saturday after the Premier League season finishes in May. The only season in modern times when a similar pattern to this has not been kept was 1999–2000, when most rounds were played a few weeks earlier than normal as an experiment.

The winning team qualifies by right for the first round of the UEFA Cup. If the winners also qualify for the Champions League by merit of league position, the runners-up qualify for the UEFA Cup in their place. If both finalists qualify for the Champions League, an extra UEFA Cup place is given on the basis of league position.

Winners from outside the top flight

Since the foundation of the Football League, Tottenham Hotspur in 1901 have been the only non-league winners of the FA Cup. They were then playing in the Southern League and were only elected to the Football League in 1908. At that time the Football League consisted of only two 18-team divisions; Tottenham's victory would be comparable to a team playing at the third level of the English football pyramid (currently League One) winning today. In the history of the FA Cup, only eight teams who were playing outside of the top level of English football have gone on to win the whole competition, the most recent being West Ham United, who beat Arsenal in 1980. Except Tottenham in 1901, these clubs were all playing in the old Second Division, no other Third Division or lower side having so far reached the final. Arguably, one of the most famous of these 'upsets' was when Sunderland A.F.C. beat Leeds United 1–0 in 1973. Leeds were third in the First Division and Sunderland were in the Second. [cite web |url=http://www.thefa.com/TheFACup/TheFACup/History/Postings/2003/11/46982.htm |title=TheFA.com - Shocks do happen |publisher=The FA |accessdate=2005-04-06] Three years later Second Division Southampton also achieved the same feat as Sunderland against First Division Manchester United by the same 1–0 scoreline. The only team to have won the FA Cup and promotion from the second flight is West Bromwich Albion in the 1930–31 season. The other non-top flight winners of the FA Cup were Barnsley in 1912, Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1908, and Notts County in 1894, who were the first non-top flight team to win the FA Cup since the inception of the league. Thus far the FA Cup final has never been contested by two teams from outside the top flight. Uniquely, in 2007-08, three of the four semi-finalists (Barnsley, Cardiff City and West Bromwich Albion), were from outside the top flight, although Portsmouth F.C. went on to win it. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/fa_cup/7286364.stm FA Cup semi-final draw 2008]


Matches in the FA Cup are usually played at the home ground of one of the two teams. The team who plays at home is decided when the matches are drawn. There is no seeding system in place within rounds other than when teams enter the competition, therefore the home team is simply the first team drawn out for each fixture. Occassionally games may have to be moved to other grounds due to other events taking place, security reasons or a ground not being suitable to host popular teams. In the event of a draw, the replay is played at the ground of the team who originally played away from home. In the days when multiple replays were possible, the second replay (and any further replays) were played at neutral grounds. Traditionally, the FA Cup Final was played at London's Wembley Stadium. Early finals were played in other locations and, due to extensive redevelopment of Wembley, finals between 2001 and 2006 were played at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. The final returned to Wembley in May 2007. [cite web |url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/6039052.stm |title=Wembley Stadium to open next year |publisher=BBC |accessdate=2007-03-17] Early finals venues include Kennington Oval, in 1872 and 1874-92, the Racecourse Ground, Derby in 1886, Burnden Park for the 1901 replay, Bramall Lane in 1912, the Crystal Palace Park, 1895-1914, Stamford Bridge 1920-22, and Lillie Bridge, Fulham, London in 1873. The semi-finals are contested at neutral venues; in the past these have usually been the home grounds of teams not involved in that semi-final. The venues used since 1990 were Maine Road (demolished) in Manchester; Old Trafford nearby in Manchester; Hillsborough in Sheffield: Highbury (redeveloped as housing) and Wembley Stadium in London; Millennium Stadium in Cardiff; and Villa Park in Birmingham. Villa Park is the most used stadium, having been used for 55 semi-finals. The 1991 semi-final between Arsenal and Tottenham was the first to be played at Wembley. Two years later both semi-finals were held at Wembley, which was again used for both matches in 1994 and 2000. In 2005 they were both held at the Millennium Stadium. The decision to hold the semi-finals at the same location as the final can be controversial amongst fans [cite web |url=http://web.archive.org/web/20070208165141/http://www.fsf.org.uk/news/news0002-facup.html |title=Football supporters hail FA Cup semi final decision |publisher=FSF |accessdate=2007-02-08] However, starting with the 2008 cup, all semi-finals will be played at Wembley; the stadium was not ready for the 2007 semi-finals. For a list of semi-final results and the venues used, see FA Cup Semi-finals.


At the end of the final, the winning team is presented with a trophy, also known as the "FA Cup", which they hold until the following year's final. Traditionally, at Wembley finals, the presentation was made at the Royal Box, with players, led by the captain, mounting a staircase to a gangway in front of the box and returning by a second staircase on the other side of the box. At Cardiff the presentation was made on a podium on the pitch. The cup is decorated with ribbons in the colours of the winning team; a common riddle asks, "What is always taken to the Cup Final, but never used?" (the answer is "the losing team's ribbons"). However this isn't entirely true, as during the game the cup actually has both teams sets of ribbons attached and the runners-up ribbons are removed before the presentation. Individual members of the teams playing in the final are presented with winners' and runners'-up medals. The present FA Cup trophy is the fourth. The first, the 'little tin idol', was used from the inception of the Cup in 1871-2 until it was stolen from a Birmingham shoe shop window belonging to William Shillcock while held by Aston Villa on 11 September 1895. It was never seen again. The FA fined Villa £25 to pay for a replacement. Almost 60 years later, the thief admitted that the cup had been melted down to make counterfeit half-crowns. [The Sunday Times "Illustrated History Of Football" Reed International Books Limited. 1996. p11. ISBN 1-856-13341-9] The second trophy was a replica of the first, and was last used in 1910 before being presented to the FA's long-serving president Lord Kinnaird. It was sold at Christie's on 19 May 2005 for £420,000 (£478,400 including auction fees and taxes) to David Gold, the chairman of Birmingham City. A new, larger, trophy was bought by the FA in 1911 designed and manufactured by Fattorini's of Bradford and won by Bradford City in its first outing, the only time a team from Bradford has reached the final. This trophy still exists but is now too fragile to be used, so an exact replica was made and has been in use since the 1992 final. Therefore, though the FA Cup is the oldest domestic football competition in the world, its "trophy" is not the oldest; that title is claimed by the Youdan Cup. The oldest national trophy is the Scottish Cup. A "backup" trophy was made alongside the existing trophy in 1992, but it has not been used so far, and will only be used if the current trophy is lost, damaged or destroyed.


Since the start of the 1994-95 season, the FA Cup has been sponsored. However, to protect the identity of the famous competition, the name has never changed from "The FA Cup", unlike in sponsorship deals for the League Cup. Instead, the competition has been known as "The FA Cup sponsored by ..." but during 1999-2002, the competition was known as "The AXA Sponsored FA Cup". The competition is formally named "The FA Cup sponsored by E.ON", owing to energy company E.ON sponsoring it for four years from 2006. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/fa_cup/4676576.stm FA announces new Cup sponsorship] ] From August 2006 to 2014, Umbro will supply match balls for all FA Cup matches.

*1995-1998 Littlewoods
*1999-2002 AXA
*2003-2006 The FA Partners: Carlsberg, McDonald's, Nationwide, Pepsi, Umbro
*2006-2010 E.ON (Official Sponsor):Supporters (Carlsberg, Umbro and National Express)


Aside from the non-top-flight winners mentioned above, the FA Cup has a long tradition of lower-division and non-league teams becoming "giant-killers" by defeating much higher-ranked opponents during earlier rounds. There are various famous giant-killing feats, although it is comparatively rare to occur for a team to beat one more than two divisions above them. The last time a non-league team beat top-flight opposition was Sutton United's victory over Coventry City in 1988–89. Another notable result was in 1969 when in the fifth round Mansfield Town of the Third Division were drawn at home to West Ham United, who were standing sixth in the First Division and who had three World Cup winners in their side: Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst along with youngsters Billy Bonds and Trevor Brooking. The game was postponed five times before it finally went ahead on 26 February 1969, on what turned out to be one of the greatest nights in the club’s history. In front of 21,117 at Field Mill, Mansfield won 3–0 and became only the fourth team in club history to knock out clubs from five different leagues in the same competition.

Other giant killings include Hereford United shocking Newcastle United in 1972 with one of the most famous goals in the history of the cup coming from the boot of Ronnie Radford.

In 1975, Wimbledon became nationally famous during a spectacular FA Cup run. They were the first non-league team that century to beat a First Division team at its own ground, when they defeated Burnley F.C. 1-0 at Turf Moor in the third round. In the fourth round they held the reigning First Division Champions, Leeds United F.C., to a 0-0 draw at Elland Road, with goalkeeper Dickie Guy saving a penalty from Peter Lorimer, before narrowly losing to an own goal in the replay at Selhurst Park, in front of over 40,000 spectators. Wimbledon went on to win the FA Cup as a First Division side in 1988.

Blyth Spartans' 3–2 win at Second Division Stoke City in 1978 saw them progress to the fifth round, where they were beaten by Wrexham in front of over 40,000 fans at Newcastle United's St James' Park. Bristol City's giant killing replay win over Liverpool in 1994 was also notable as being the last game for Graeme Souness. Yeovil Town won more games against league opposition than any other non-league team before their promotion. [ [http://www.thefa.com/TheFACup/TheFACup/NewsAndFeatures/Postings/2005/12/FACup_TwentyToTackleAnswers.htm TheFA.com - Twenty to tackle answers ] ] This includes a famous victory over top-flight Sunderland on a sloping pitch in 1949. Chasetown are the lowest ranked team to play in the third round, playing eventual runners-up Cardiff City in the 2007–08 competition. The game took place on 5 January 2008 whilst Chasetown were playing in the Southern League Division One Midlands, the eighth tier of the English football pyramid. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/fa_cup/7163953.stm Chasetown 1-3 Cardiff] .]

Notable events in the FA Cup

FA Cup winners and finalists

:"For the full results of all FA Cup finals, see FA Cup Final"

Clubs by number of wins (and when they last won and lost a final). Teams in "italics" no longer exist. Queen's Park can no longer qualify at all due to their competing in the Scottish football league system.

Three clubs have won consecutive FA Cups on more than one occasion: Wanderers (1872, 1873 and 1876, 1877, 1878), Blackburn Rovers (1884, 1885, 1886 and 1890, 1891), and Tottenham Hotspur (1961, 1962 and 1981, 1982).

Six clubs have won the FA Cup as part of a League and Cup double, namely Preston North End (1889), Aston Villa (1897), Tottenham Hotspur F.C. (1961), Arsenal (1971, 1998, 2002), Liverpool (1986) and Manchester United (1994, 1996, 1999). Arsenal and Manchester United share the record of three doubles. Arsenal has won a double in each of three separate decades. Manchester United's three doubles in the 1990s highlights their dominance of English football at the time.

West Bromwich Albion are the only team to date to win the FA Cup and promotion in the same season—in 1930–31.

In 1993, Arsenal became the first side to win both the FA Cup and League Cup in the same season, beating Sheffield Wednesday 2–1, in both finals. Liverpool repeated this feat in 2001, as did Chelsea in 2007.

In 1999, Manchester United added the Champions League crown to their double in memorable fashion, an accomplishment known as "The Treble".

In 2001, Liverpool won the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup to complete a cup treble.

Portsmouth have the unusual accolade of holding the FA Cup for the longest consecutive time due to the second world war.

The FA Cup has only been won by a non-English team once in its history, Cardiff City were the club to achieve this in 1927. They made it to the final only to lose to Portsmouth in 2008.

ee also

*FA Cup Final
*FA Cup Semi-finals

Media coverage

FA Cup matches are currently shown live by both ITV and Setanta Sports across the UK and Ireland. Setanta Sports shows three games and one replay in each round from round three to five, two quarter-finals and one quarter-final replay (if any are required) and one semi-final. ITV shows sixteen FA Cup games per season, including first pick live matches from each of the 1st to 6th rounds of the competition plus one semi-final exclusively live. The deal additionally includes highlights of all weekend and mid-week FA Cup matches. Both ITV and Setanta screen the final live.

The FA Cup 2008–09 early rounds are being covered for the first time by ITV's online property, ITV Local. The first match of the season, between Wantage Town and Brading Town, was broadcast live online. Highlights of eight games of each round are being broadcast as catch up on ITV Local. [Cite web
url = http://www.thefa.com/TheFACup/TheFACup/NewsAndFeatures/Postings/FA_Cup_online.htm
title = Watch The FA Cup online
accessdate =
] [Cite web
url = http://www.thefa.com/TheFACup/TheFACup/NewsAndFeatures/Postings/2008/07/Watch_live_online.htm
title = Cup tie live online
accessdate =

The FA sells overseas rights separately from the domestic contract. In Australia, the FA Cup is broadcast by Setanta Sports Australia, while Setanta Sports North America and Fox Soccer Channel split the rights in the United States.


External links

* [http://www.thefa.com/TheFACup/TheFACup/Archive/ The FA Cup Archive] - England's official Football Association site, all results with dates, including all qualifying rounds
* [http://www.eon-uk.com/thefacup/ The FA Cup sponsored by E.ON]
* [http://www.fattorini.co.uk Thomas Fattorini Ltd. makers of the 1911 FA Cup] - manufacturers of the 1911 FA Cup and other sporting trophies
* [http://www.itvlocal.com/yorkshire/facup/ ITV Local's coverage of the early rounds of the FA Cup] - For the first time in history, matches involving non-League clubs are filmed and available online to ITV viewers
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/fa_cup/4151177.stm FA Cup going under the hammer] - BBC News story on the sale of the second trophy

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