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FA Vase logo, incorporating the name of sponsor Carlsberg
|Region||England, Wales, Channel Islands, Isle of Man (The FA)|
|Number of teams||535 (2013–14)|
|Current champions||Sholing |
|Most successful club(s)||Whitley Bay (4 times)|
The Football Association Challenge Vase is an annual football competition for teams playing below Step 4 of the English National League System. For the 2013–14 season 535 entrants were accepted, with two qualifying rounds preceding the six proper rounds, semi-finals (played over two legs) and final to be played at Wembley Stadium.
Until 1974, football players were either professionals or amateurs. Professionals were paid to play by their clubs, and the only cup competitions such clubs were allowed to enter were the FA Cup and after 1969, for clubs outside The Football League, the FA Trophy. Amateurs, on the other hand, did not get paid (at least not officially) by their clubs, and such clubs had their own cup competition, the FA Amateur Cup.
In 1974, with many of the top amateur players receiving payment for playing, The Football Association abolished the distinction, scrapped the Amateur Cup and introduced the FA Vase for the majority of clubs who had previously played in the competition. Well over 200 clubs entered in the first season, 1974–75 and Hoddesdon Town of the Spartan League beat Epsom & Ewell of the Surrey Senior League 2–1 in the final at Wembley Stadium before a crowd of 9,000.
In recent years, entry to the FA Vase has been restricted to clubs in the ninth and lower tiers of the English football league system, (those in the four levels above qualified for the FA Trophy). Reorganization of the National League System for 2004 onwards moved the dividing line down to the new "Step 5" (ninth tier overall). Clubs from the Channel Islands (First Tower United, St. Martins and Vale Recreation) and the Isle of Man (Douglas HSOB) also entered the Vase in the past. Recently formed (2011) club Guernsey F.C., who play in the "Step 5" Combined Counties League, gained entry for the 2012–13 season and reached the semi-finals.
- Eligible teams who played in the FA Vase the previous season and finished in the top 4 of a Step 5 league are exempt from qualifying and start play in the First round Proper of the Vase, unless they were promoted to a Step 4 league. (If they were promoted, they would play for the FA Trophy instead.)
- Eligible teams who played in the FA Trophy the previous season and were relegated from a Step 4 league are exempt from qualifying and start play in the First round Proper of the Vase as well.
- Clubs that played in the 4th round or later of the previous season's FA Vase are exempt from qualifying and the first round and begin play in the Second round Proper.
FA Vase winners and finalists
Only five teams have managed to win the FA Vase more than once. Whitley Bay are the first team to win the FA Vase three times in successive seasons. Two FA Vase winners, Forest Green Rovers and Tamworth, have gone on to play in the Football Conference at the top level of the non-league pyramid. No FA Vase winner has yet reached the Football League, although 2008–09 finalists Glossop North End had briefly competed in the old First Division over a hundred years earlier, and 1985 finalists Fleetwood Town will be participating in the Football League for 2012-13 season after winning the Conference, though they were reformed in 1997.
- "Sholing win the FA Vase". Southern Daily Echo. 10 May 2014. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
- "FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round draw". the FA. 6 July 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
- "FA Vase: Guernsey FC face Crowborough Athletic in FA Vase". BBC News. 6 July 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
- "Totton smash Vase record after FA admit blunder". Southern Daily Echo. 2008-06-26. Retrieved 2008-07-16.