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FA Cup

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FA Cup

The FA Cup — this is the fourth trophy, in use since 1992, and identical in design to the third trophy introduced in 1911
Founded 1871
Region Flag of England England
Flag of Wales Wales
Number of teams 731
Current champions Chelsea
Website F.A. Cup
FA Cup 2007-08

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 equivalent competition for women's teams is the FA Women's Cup.

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 731 teams were accepted into the FA Cup in 2007-2008. In comparison, the League Cup can involve only the 72 members of The Football League (which organises the competition) and the 20 teams in the Premier League for a total of 92 eligible teams.

The current holders of the FA Cup are Chelsea who beat Manchester United 1–0 in extra time in the 2007 final, on 19 May 2007.

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 when the spot 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. . 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 Premier 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 what is now The Premier League and Sunderland were in the equivalent of today's Coca Cola Championship. Three years later Second Division Southampton also achieved the same feat as Sunderland against First Division Manchester United by the same 1–0 scoreline.


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. 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. 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 Trafford, Greater 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 54 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 . 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 shop window belonging to William Shillcock while held by Aston Villa on September 11, 1895. It was never seen again and is presumed to have been melted down. 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 May 19, 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. 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. 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)


The FA Cup has a long tradition of lower-division and non-league teams becoming "giant-killers" by defeating much higher-ranked opponents. 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 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 with one of the most famous goals in the history of the cup coming from the boot of Ronnie Radford. 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. This includes a famous victory over top-flight Sunderland on a sloping pitch in 1949. Chasetown are the lowest ranked team to qualify for the third round, when they beat Port Vale in a replay in the 2007–08 competition.

Notable events in the FA Cup

Past winners of the FA Cup

Clubs by number of wins (and when they last won and lost a final). Teams in italics no longer exist.

Club Wins Last win. Runners-up Last final lost.
1 Manchester United 11 2004 7 2007
2 Arsenal 10 2005 7 2001
3 Tottenham Hotspur 8 1991 1 1987
4 Liverpool 7 2006 6 1996
5 Aston Villa 7 1957 3 2000
6 Newcastle United 6 1955 7 1999
7 Blackburn Rovers 6 1928 2 1960
8 Wanderers 5 1872 0
9 Everton 5 1995 7 1989
10 West Bromwich Albion 5 1968 5 1935
11 Chelsea 4 2007 4 2002
12 Manchester City 4 1969 4 1981
13 Wolverhampton Wanderers 4 1960 4 1939
14 Bolton Wanderers 4 1958 3 1953
15 Sheffield United 4 1925 2 1936
16 Sheffield Wednesday 3 1935 3 1993
17 West Ham United 3 1980 2 2006
18 Preston North End 2 1938 4 1964
19 Sunderland 2 1973 3 1992
20 Old Etonians 2 1882 3 1883
21 Nottingham Forest 2 1959 1 1991
22 Bury 2 1903 0
23 Huddersfield Town 1 1922 4 1938
24 Southampton 1 1976 3 2003
25 Leeds United 1 1972 3 1973
26 Derby County 1 1946 3 1903
27 Royal Engineers 1 1875 3 1878
28 Blackpool 1 1953 2 1951
29 Portsmouth 1 1939 2 1934
30 Burnley 1 1914 2 1962
31 Oxford University 1 1874 2 1877
32 Charlton 1 1947 1 1946
33 Cardiff City 1 1927 1 1925
34 Barnsley 1 1912 1 1910
35 Notts County 1 1894 1 1891
36 Clapham Rovers 1 1880 1 1879
37 Ipswich Town 1 1978 0
38 Coventry City 1 1987 0
39 Wimbledon 1 1988 0
40 Bradford City 1 1911 0
41 Blackburn Olympic 1 1883 0
42 Old Carthusians 1 1881 0

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, these are 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 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. Chelsea repeated this feat in 2007, beating Manchester United 1–0 in the FA Cup final and Arsenal 2–1 in the League Cup final.

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.

Leicester City hold the unfortunate record of having appeared in four FA Cup finals without ever winning the cup.

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