|Organising body||The Football Association|
|Number of teams||736 (2016–17)|
|Domestic cup(s)||FA Community Shield|
|International cup(s)||UEFA Europa League|
|Current champions||Manchester United (12th title)|
|Most successful club(s)||Arsenal
Manchester United (12 titles)
|Television broadcasters||BBC Sport
|2016–17 FA Cup|
The FA Cup, known officially as The Football Association Challenge Cup, is an annual knockout association football competition in men's domestic English football. First played during the 1871–72 season, it is the oldest association football competition in the world. It is organised by and named after The Football Association (The FA). For sponsorship reasons, from 2015 through to 2018 it is also known as The Emirates FA Cup. A concurrent women's tournament is also held, the FA Women's Cup.
The competition is open to any eligible club down to Levels 10 of the English football league system – all 92 professional clubs in the Premier League and Football League (Levels 1 to 4), and several hundred "non-league" teams in Steps 1 to 6 of the National League System (Levels 5 to 10). A record 763 clubs competed in 2011–12. The tournament consists of 12 randomly drawn rounds followed by the semi-finals and the final. Entrants are not seeded, although a system of byes based on league level ensures higher ranked teams enter in later rounds – the minimum number of games needed to win the competition ranges from six to fourteen.
The first six rounds are the Qualifying Competition, from which 32 teams progress to the first round of the Competition Proper, meeting the first of the 92 professional teams. The last entrants are the Premier League and Championship clubs, into the draw for the Third Round Proper. In the modern era, non-league teams have never reached the quarter finals, and teams below Level 2 have never reached the final.[note 1] As a result, as well as who wins, significant focus is given to those "minnows" (smaller teams) who progress furthest, especially if they achieve an unlikely "giant-killing" victory.
Winners receive the FA Cup trophy, of which there have been two designs and five actual cups; the latest is a 2014 replica of the second design, introduced in 1911. Winners also qualify for European football and a place in the FA Community Shield match. Manchester United are the current holders, having beaten Crystal Palace 2–1 after extra time in the 2016 final to win the cup for the 12th time in their history and become the tournament's joint-most successful club alongside Arsenal.
- 1 History
- 2 Eligibility
- 3 Competition format
- 4 Qualification for subsequent competitions
- 5 Venues
- 6 Trophy
- 7 Medals
- 8 Sponsorship
- 9 Records and statistics
- 10 Cup runs and giant killings
- 11 Winners and finalists
- 12 Media coverage
- 13 References
- 14 External links
In 1863, the newly founded Football Association (the FA) published the Laws of the Game of Association Football, unifying the various different rules in use before then. On 20 July 1871, in the offices of The Sportsman newspaper, the FA Secretary C. W. Alcock proposed to the FA committee that "it is desirable that a Challenge Cup should be established in connection with the Association for which all clubs belonging to the Association should be invited to compete". The inaugural FA Cup tournament kicked off in November 1871. After thirteen games in all, Wanderers were crowned the winners in the final, on 16 March 1872. Wanderers retained the trophy the following year. The modern cup was beginning to be established by the 1888–89 season, when qualifying rounds were introduced.
Following the 1914–15 edition, the competition was suspended due to the First World War, and didn't resume until 1919–20. The 1922–23 competition saw the first final to be played in the newly opened Wembley Stadium (known at the time as the Empire Stadium). Due to the outbreak of World War II, the competition wasn't played between the 1938–39 and 1945–46 editions. Due to the wartime breaks, the competition didn't celebrate its centenary year until 1980–81; fittingly the final featured a goal by Ricky Villa which was later voted the greatest goal ever scored at Wembley Stadium, but has since been replaced by Steven Gerrard.
Having previously featured replays, the modern day practice of ensuring the semi-final and final matches finish on the day, was introduced from 2000 onwards. Redevelopment of Wembley saw the final played outside of England for the first time, the 2001–2006 finals being played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. The final returned to Wembley in 2007, followed by the semi-finals from 2008.
The competition is open to any club down to Level 10 of the English football league system which meets the eligibility criteria. All clubs in the top four levels (the Premier League and the three divisions of the Football League) are automatically eligible. Clubs in the next six levels (non-league football) are also eligible provided they have played in either the FA Cup, FA Trophy or FA Vase competitions in the previous season. Newly formed clubs, such as F.C. United of Manchester in 2005–06 and also 2006–07, may not therefore play in the FA Cup in their first season. All clubs entering the competition must also have a suitable stadium.
It is very rare for top clubs to miss the competition, although it can happen in exceptional circumstances. Defending holders Manchester United did not enter the 1999–2000 FA Cup, as they were already in the inaugural Club World Championship, with the club stating that entering both tournaments would overload their fixture schedule and make it more difficult to defend their Champions League and Premiership titles. The club claimed that they did not want to devalue the FA Cup by fielding a weaker side. The move benefited United as they received a two-week break and won the 1999–2000 league title by an 18-point margin, although they did not progress past the group stage of the Club World Championship. The withdrawal from the FA Cup, however, drew considerable criticism as this weakened the tournament's prestige and Sir Alex Ferguson later admitted his regret regarding their handling of the situation.
Welsh sides that play in English leagues are eligible, although since the creation of the League of Wales there are only six clubs remaining: Cardiff City (the only non-English team to win the tournament, in 1927), Swansea City, Newport County, Wrexham, Merthyr Town and Colwyn Bay. In the early years other teams from Wales, Ireland and Scotland also took part in the competition, with Glasgow side Queen's Park losing the final to Blackburn Rovers in 1884 and 1885 before being barred from entering by the Scottish Football Association. In the 2013–14 season the first Channel Island club entered the competition when Guernsey F.C. competed for the first time.
The number of entrants has increased greatly in recent years. 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 this increased to 674 entrants, in 2006–07 to 687, in 2007–08 to 731 clubs, and for the 2008–09 and 2009–10 competitions it reached 762. The number has varied slightly but remained roughly stable since then, with 759 clubs participating in 2010–11, a record 763 in 2011–12, 758 for 2012–13, 737 for 2013–14 and 736 for 2014–15. By comparison, the other major English domestic cup, the League Cup, involves only the 92 members of the Premier League and Football League.
Beginning in August, the competition proceeds as a knockout tournament throughout, consisting of twelve rounds, a semi-final and then a final, in May. A system of byes ensures clubs above Level 9 and 10 enter the competition at later stages. There is no seeding, the fixtures in each round being determined by a random draw. Prior to the semi-finals, fixtures ending in a tie are replayed once only. The first six rounds are qualifiers, with the draws organised on a regional basis. The next six rounds are the "proper" rounds where all clubs are in one draw.
Entrants from the bottom two levels (9 and 10) begin the competition in the Extra Preliminary Round. Clubs from higher levels are then added in later rounds, as per the table below. The months in which rounds are played are traditional, with exact dates subject to each year's calendar.
|Round||New entrants at this round||Month|
|Preliminary Round||Level 8 clubs||August|
|First Round||Level 7 clubs||September|
|Second Round||Level 6 clubs||September|
|Fourth Round||Level 5 clubs||October|
|First Round||Level 4 and 3 clubs||November|
|Third Round||Level 2 and 1 clubs||January|
The qualifying rounds are regionalised to reduce the travel costs for smaller non-league sides. The first and second proper rounds were also previously split into Northern and Southern sections, but this practice was ended after the 1997–98 competition.
The final is normally held the Saturday after the Premier League season finishes in May. The only seasons in recent times when this pattern was not followed were 1999–2000, when most rounds were played a few weeks earlier than normal as an experiment, and 2010–11 and 2012–13 when the FA Cup Final was played before the Premier League season had finished, to allow Wembley Stadium to be ready for the UEFA Champions League final, as well as in 2011–12 to allow England time to prepare for that summer's European Championships.
The draws for the Extra-Preliminary, Preliminary, and First Qualifying Rounds all occur at the same time. Thereafter, the draw for each subsequent round is not made until after the scheduled dates for the previous round, meaning that in the case of replays, clubs will often know their future opponents in advance.
The draw for each of the proper rounds is broadcast live on television, usually taking place at the conclusion of live coverage of one of the games of the previous round. Public interest is particularly high during the draw for the third round, which is where the top-ranked teams are added to the draw.
In the qualifying and proper rounds, fixtures resulting in a tie (after normal time) are replayed at a later date; if that replay is still tied, the winner is settled by a period of extra time, and if still necessary, a penalty shootout. Replays used to also decide the winners for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final; ties are now settled on the day, using extra time and penalties.
Until the 1990s further replays would be played until one team was victorious. Some ties took as many as six matches to settle; in their 1975 campaign, Fulham played a total of 12 games over six rounds, which 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 for the rounds proper. This led to penalty shoot-outs being introduced, the first of which came on 26 November 1991 when Rotherham United eliminated Scunthorpe United.
The last quarter-final to go into a replay was Manchester United vs West Ham United in the 2015-16 FA Cup. The original game at Old Trafford ended in a 1–1 draw, while Manchester United won the replay at Boleyn Ground, 2–1. It was also the last FA Cup game ever played at Boleyn Ground.
Qualification for subsequent competitions
The FA Cup winners qualify for the following season's UEFA Europa League (formerly named the UEFA Cup; until 1998 they entered the Cup Winners' Cup instead). This European place applies even if the team is relegated or is not in the English top flight. In the past, if the FA Cup winning team also qualified for the following season's Champions League or Europa League through their league position, then the losing FA Cup finalist was given the Europa League place instead. FA Cup winners enter the Europa League at the group stage. Losing finalists, if they entered the Europa League, began earlier, at the play-off or third qualifying round stage. From the 2015–16 UEFA Europa League season, however, UEFA will not allow the runners-up to qualify for the Europa League through the competition.
FA Community Shield
The FA Cup winners also qualify for the following season's single-match FA Community Shield, the traditional season opener played against the previous season's Premier League champions (or the Premier League runners-up if the FA Cup winners also won the league – the double).
Fixtures in the 12 rounds of the competition are usually played at the home ground of one of the two teams. The semi-finals and final are played at a neutral venue – the rebuilt Wembley Stadium. (since 2007 and 2008 respectively).
In the matches for the twelve competition rounds, the team who plays at home is decided when the fixtures are drawn – simply the first team drawn out for each fixture. Occasionally 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. The clubs involved could alternatively agree to toss for home advantage in the second replay.
The semi-finals have been played exclusively at the rebuilt Wembley Stadium since 2008, one year after it opened and after it had already hosted a final (in 2007). For the first decade of the competition, the Kennington Oval was used as the semi-final venue. In the period between this first decade and the reopening of Wembley, semi-finals were played at high-capacity neutral venues around England; usually the home grounds of teams not involved in that semi-final, chosen to be roughly equidistant between the two teams for fairness of travel. The top three most used venues in this period were Villa Park in Birmingham (55 times), Hillsborough in Sheffield (34 times) and Old Trafford in Manchester (23 times). The original Wembley Stadium was also used seven times for semi-final, between 1991 and 2000 (the last held there), but not always for fixtures featuring London teams. In 2005, both were held at the Millennium Stadium.
In 2003 the FA took the decision to permanently use the new Wembley for semi-finals to recoup debts in financing the new stadium. This was controversial, with the move seen as both unfair to fans of teams located far from London, as well as taking some of the prestige away from a Wembley final. In defending the move, the FA has also cited the extra capacity Wembley offers, although the 2013 fixture between Millwall and Wigan led to the unprecedented step of placing 6,000 tickets on sale to neutral fans after the game failed to sell out. A fan poll by The Guardian in 2013 found 86% opposition to Wembley semi-finals.
The final has been played at the rebuilt Wembley Stadium since it opened, in 2007. The rebuilding process meant that between 2001 and 2006 they were hosted at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff in Wales. Prior to rebuilding, the final was hosted by the original Wembley Stadium since it opened in 1923 (being originally named the Empire Stadium). One exception to this 78 year series of Empire Stadium finals (including five replays) was the 1970 replay between Leeds and Chelsea, held at Old Trafford in Manchester.
In the 51 years prior to the Empire Stadium opening, the final (including 8 replays) was held in a variety of locations, predominantly in London, and mainly at the Kennington Oval and then Crystal Palace. It was played 22 times in the Oval (the inaugural competition in 1872, and then all but two times until 1892). After the Oval, Crystal Palace hosted 21 finals from 1895 to 1914, broken up by 4 four replays elsewhere. The other London venues were Stamford Bridge from 1920 to 1922 (the last three finals before the move to Empire Stadium); and Oxford University's Lillie Bridge in Fulham for the second ever final, in 1873. The other venues used sparingly in this period were all outside of London, as follows:
- Racecourse Ground, Derby (1886)
- Fallowfield Stadium, Manchester (1893)
- Goodison Park, Liverpool (1894)
- Burnden Park, Bolton (1901 replay)
- Old Trafford, Manchester (1911 replay)
- Goodison Park (1910 replay)
- Bramall Lane, Sheffield (1912 replay)
- Old Trafford (1915)
The FA permitted artificial turf (3G) pitches in all rounds of the competition from the 2014–15 edition and beyond. Under the 2015–16 rules, the pitch must be of FIFA One Star quality, or Two Star for ties if they involve one of the 92 professional clubs. This followed approval two years previously for their use in the qualifying rounds only – if a team with a 3G pitch progressed to the competition proper, they had to switch their tie to the ground of another eligible entrant with a natural grass pitch. Having been strong proponents of the surface, the first match in the proper rounds to be played on a 3G surface was a televised first round replay at Maidstone United's Gallagher Stadium on 20 November 2015.
The eventual winners of the competition receive the FA Cup; it is only loaned to the club by the FA, under the current (2015–16) rules it must be returned by March 1, or earlier if given seven days notice. Traditionally, the holders had the Cup until the following year's presentation, although more recently the trophy has been taken on publicity tours by the FA in between finals.
The trophy comes in three parts – the cup itself, plus a lid and a base. There have been two designs of trophy in use, but five physical trophies have been presented. The original trophy, known as the "little tin idol", was 18 inches high and made by Martin, Hall & Co. It was stolen in 1895 and never recovered, and so was replaced by an exact replica, used until 1910. The FA decided to change the design after the 1909 winners, Manchester United, made their own replica, leading the FA to realise they did not own the copyright. This new, larger design was by Messers Fattorini and Sons, and was used from 1911. In order to preserve this original, from 1992 it was replaced by an exact replica, although this had to be replaced after just over two decades, after showing wear and tear from being handled more than in previous eras. This third replica, first used in 2014, was built heavier to withstand the increased handling. Of the four surviving trophies, only the 1895 replica has entered private ownership.
The name of the winning team is engraved on the silver band around the base as soon as the final has finished, in order to be ready in time for the presentation ceremony. This means the engraver has just five minutes to perform a task which would take twenty under normal conditions, although time is saved by engraving the year on during the match, and sketching the presumed winner. During the final, the trophy wears is decorated with ribbons in the colours of both finalists, with the loser's ribbons being removed at the end of the game. Traditionally, at Wembley finals, the presentation is 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 tradition of presenting the trophy immediately after the game did not start until the 1882 final; after the first final in 1872 the trophy was not presented to the winners, Wanderers, until a reception held four weeks later in the Pall Mall Restaurant in London. Under the original rules, the trophy was to be permanently presented to any club which won the competition three times, although when inaugural winners Wanderers achieved this feat by the 1876 final, the rules were changed by FA Secretary CW Alcock (who was also captain of Wanderers in their first victory).
The first trophy, the 'little tin idol', was made by Martin, Hall & Co at a cost of £20 It was stolen from a Birmingham shoe shop window belonging to William Shillcock while held by Aston Villa on 11 September 1895 and was never seen again. Despite a £10 reward for information, the crime was never solved. As it happened while it was in their care, the FA fined Villa £25 to pay for a replacement.
Almost 60 years later, 80 year old career criminal Henry (Harry) James Burge claimed to have committed the theft, confessing to a newspaper, with the story being published in the Sunday Pictorial newspaper on 23 February 1958. He claimed to have carried out the robbery with two other men, although when discrepancies with a contemporaneous report in the Birmingham Post newspaper (the crime pre-dated written police reports) in his account of the means of entry and other items stolen, detectives decided there was no realistic possibility of a conviction and the case was closed. Burge claimed the cup had been melted down to make counterfeit half-crown coins, which matched known intelligence of the time, in which stolen silver was being used to forge coins which were then laundered through betting shops at a local racecourse, although Burge had no past history of forgery in a record of 42 previous convictions for which he had spent 42 years in prison. He had been further imprisoned in 1957 for seven years for theft from cars. Released in 1961, he died in 1964.
After being rendered obsolete by the redesign, the 1895 replica was presented in 1910 to the FA's long-serving president Lord Kinnaird. Kinnaird died in 1923, and his family kept it in their possession, out of view, until putting it up for auction in 2005. It was duly sold at Christie's auction house on 19 May 2005 for £420,000 (£478,400 including auction fees and taxes). The sale price set a new world record for a piece of football memorabilia, surpassing the £254,000 paid for the Jules Rimet World Cup Trophy in 1997. The successful bidder was David Gold, the then joint chairman of Birmingham City; claiming the FA and government were doing nothing proactive to ensure the trophy remained in the country, Gold stated his purchase was motivated by wanting to save it for the nation. Accordingly, Gold presented the trophy to the National Football Museum in Preston on 20 April 2006, where it went on immediate public display. It later moved with the museum to its new location in Manchester. In November 2012, it was ceremonially presented to Royal Engineers, after they beat Wanderers 7–1 in a charity replay of the first FA Cup final.
The redesigned trophy first used in 1911 was larger at 61.5 cm (24.2 inches) high, and was designed and manufactured by Fattorini's of Bradford, coincidentally being won by Bradford City in its first outing.
On the 27 March 2016 episode of the BBC television program Antiques Roadshow, this trophy was valued at £1 million by expert Alastair Dickenson, although he suggested that, due to the design featuring depictions of grapes and vines, it may not have been specifically produced for the FA, but was instead an off the shelf design originally meant to be a wine or champagne cooler.
A smaller, but otherwise identical replica was also made by Fattorini, the North Wales Coast FA Cup trophy, and is contested annually by members of that regional Association.
Each club in the final receives 30 winners or runners-up medals to be distributed among players, staff, and officials.
Since the start of the 1994–95 season, the FA Cup has been sponsored. However, to protect the identity of the competition, the sponsored name has always included 'The FA Cup' in addition to the sponsor's name, unlike sponsorship deals for the League Cup where the word 'cup' is preceded by only the sponsor's name. Sponsorship deals run for four years, though – as in the case of E.ON – one-year extensions may be agreed. Emirates airline is the sponsor from 2015 to 2018, renaming the competition as 'The Emirates FA Cup', unlike previous editions, which included 'The FA Cup in association with E.ON' and 'The FA Cup with Budweiser'.
|1871/72–1993/94||No main sponsor||The FA Cup|
|1994/95–1997/98||Littlewoods Pools||The FA Cup sponsored by Littlewoods|
|1998/99–2001/02||AXA||The AXA-Sponsored FA Cup|
|2002/03–2005/06||No main sponsor||The FA Cup|
|2006/07–2010/11||E.ON||The FA Cup sponsored by E.ON|
|2011/12–2013/14||Budweiser||The FA Cup with Budweiser|
|2014/15–2017/18||Emirates||The Emirates FA Cup|
Records and statistics
- Most wins: 12:
- Most consecutive wins: 3, joint record:
- Most appearances in a final: 19:
- Most appearances without winning: 4, Leicester City (1949, 1961, 1963, 1969)
- Most appearances without losing: 5, Wanderers (1872, 1873, 1876, 1877, 1878)
- Biggest win: 6 goals: Bury 6–0 Derby County, (1903)
- Most goals in a final: 7:
- Most goals by a losing side: 3:
- Most defeats: 8, Everton (1893, 1897, 1907, 1968, 1985, 1986, 1989, 2009)
- Most wins: 7, Ashley Cole (Arsenal) (2002, 2003, 2005) & (Chelsea) (2007, 2009, 2010, 2012)
- Most appearances: 9, Arthur Kinnaird (Wanderers) (1872–73, 1874–75, 1875–76, 1876–77, 1877–78) & (Old Etonians) (1878–79, 1880–81, 1881–82, 1882–83)
- Most goals (one final): 3, Billy Townley (Blackburn Rovers) (1890), James Logan (Notts County) (1894) & Stan Mortensen (Blackpool) (1953)
- Most goals (all finals): 5, Ian Rush (Liverpool) (2 in 1986, 2 in 1989, 1 in 1992)
- Most finals scored in: 4, Didier Drogba (Chelsea) (1 each in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012)
- Youngest FA Cup finalist: Curtis Weston (Millwall), 17 years and 119 days (2004)
- Youngest player to score in an FA Cup Final: Norman Whiteside (Manchester United), 18 years and 19 days (1983)
- Oldest player: Billy Hampson (Newcastle United), 41 years and 257 days (1924)
- Biggest win: Preston North End 26–0 Hyde (First Round, 15 October 1887)
- Biggest away win: Clapton 0–14 Nottingham Forest (First Round, 17 January 1891)
- Highest attendance at Wembley: 126,047 (official) up to 300,000 (estimate) at the "White Horse Final" (Bolton Wanderers v. West Ham United, 28 April 1923)
- Most clubs competing for trophy in a season: 763 (2011–12)
- Longest tie: 660 minutes (6 matches in total), Oxford City v. Alvechurch (Fourth Qualifying Round, November 6/9/15/17/20/22 1971; Alvechurch won the sixth match 1–0)
- Longest penalty shootout: 20 penalties each, Tunbridge Wells v. Littlehampton Town (Preliminary Round Replay, 31 August 2005; Tunbridge Wells won 16–15)
- Most rounds played in a season: 9, for:
- Brighton & Hove Albion (1932–33: 1st–4th Qualifying Rounds, 1st–5th Rounds)
- New Brighton (1956–57: Preliminary, 1st–4th Qualifying Rounds, 1st–4th Rounds)
- Blyth Spartans (1977–78: 1st–4th Qualifying Rounds, 1st–5th Rounds)
- Harlow Town (1979–80: Preliminary, 1st–4th Qualifying Rounds, 1st–4th Rounds)
- Most games played in a season: 13, Bideford (1973–74: one First Qualifying, two Second Qualifying, five Third Qualifying, four Fourth Qualifying and one First Round)
- Fastest goal: 4 seconds, Gareth Morris (for Ashton United v. Skelmersdale United, 1st Qualifying Round, 17 September 2001)
- Most consecutive games without defeat: 22, Blackburn Rovers (First Round, 1884 through Second round, first play, 1886. Won two FA Cups.)
- Most consecutive games without defeat: (Excluding defeat by penalty shoot-out) 29, Chelsea (Third Round Proper, 2009 through Fourth Round Proper, replay, 2013. Won three FA Cups.)
- Fastest hat-trick: 2 min 20 sec, Andy Locke (for Nantwich Town v. Droylsden, Preliminary Round, August 1995)
- Most Career Goals: 49, Henry "Harry" Cursham (for Notts County in 12 tournaments from 1877–78 to 1888–89).
- Most goals by a player in a single FA Cup season: 19, Jimmy Ross (for Preston North End, 1887–88. Preston outscored opponents 50–5 over 7 matches, including "Biggest win" shown above.).
- Most goals by a player in a single FA Cup game: 9, Ted MacDougall (for AFC Bournemouth in 11–0 defeat of Margate, First Round Proper, 20 November 1971)
- Scoreline: Two examples of teams scoring 7 goals and not winning – Dulwich Hamlet 8–7 St Albans City (Fourth Qualifying Round Replay, 22 November 1922), and Dulwich Hamlet 7–7 Wealdstone (Fourth Qualifying Round, 16 November 1929).
- Youngest player: Andy Awford, 15 years and 88 days (for Worcester City v. Boreham Wood, 3rd Qualifying Round, 10 October 1987),
- Youngest goalscorer: Sean Cato, 16 years and 25 days (for Barrow Town v. Rothwell Town, Preliminary Round, 3 September 2011)
- Youngest goalscorer (proper rounds): George Williams, 16 years and 66 days (for MK Dons v. Nantwich Town, First Round Proper, 12 November 2011)
Cup runs and giant killings
The possibility of unlikely victories in the earlier rounds of the competition, where lower ranked teams beat higher placed opposition, known as "giant killings", is much anticipated by the public, and is considered an integral part of the tradition and prestige of the competition, alongside that gained by teams winning the competition. Almost every club in the League Pyramid has a fondly remembered giant-killing act in its history. It is considered particularly newsworthy when a top Premier League team suffers an upset defeat, or where the giant-killer is a non-league club, i.e. from outside the professional levels of The Football League.
One analysis of four years of FA Cup results showed that it was 99.85 per cent likely that at least one team would beat one from its next higher division in a given year. The probability drops to 48.8 per cent for a two-division gap, and 39.28 per cent for a three-division gap.
The Football League was founded in 1888, 16 years after the first FA Cup competition. Since the creation of The Football League, Tottenham Hotspur is the only non-league "giant-killer" to win the Cup, taking the 1901 FA Cup with a victory over reigning league runners-up Sheffield United: although at that time, there were only two divisions and 36 clubs in the Football League, and Spurs were champions of the next lowest football tier – the Southern League and probably already good enough for the First Division (as was shown when they joined the Second Division in 1908 and immediately won promotion to the First.) Only two other actual non-League clubs have even reached the final since the founding of the League: Sheffield Wednesday in 1890 (champions of the Football Alliance, a rival league which was already effectively the Second Division, which it formally became in 1892 – Wednesday being let straight into the First Division), and Southampton in 1900 and 1902 (in which years they were also Southern League champions, proving the strength of that league: again, they were probably of equivalent standard to a First Division club at the time, but Southampton's form subsequently faded and they did not join the League till 1920 and the formation of the Third Division.)
Non-league giant killings
The most recent example of a non-league team (Levels 5 to 10) beating a Level 1 opponent is Level 5 Conference Premier side Luton Town's away victory over Level 1 Premier League's Norwich City in the 2012–13 Fourth Round Proper. Prior to that game, the last time a non-league side defeated a Level 1 club was in 1989 when Sutton United claimed a 2–1 victory at home over Coventry City.
In the 1971–72 FA Cup, a non-league side achieved a Level 1 giant killing that was voted "best FA Cup tie ever" in a 2007 poll by The Observer newspaper. Non-league Hereford United was trailing First Division Newcastle United 0–1 with less than seven minutes left in the Third Round Proper replay, when Hereford's Ronnie Radford scored the equalizer – a goal still shown regularly when FA Cup fixtures are broadcast. Hereford finished the shocking comeback by defeating Newcastle 2–1 in the match.
Some small clubs gain a reputation for being "cup specialists" after two or more giant killing feats within a few years. Yeovil Town holds the record for the most victories over league opposition as a non-league team, having recorded 20 wins through the years before it achieved promotion into The Football League. The record for a club which has never entered The Football League is held by Altrincham, with 16 wins against league teams.
Non-league cup runs
For non-league teams, reaching the Third Round Proper – where all Level 1 sides now enter – is considered a major achievement. In the 2008–09 FA Cup, a record nine non-league teams achieved this feat. Since 1945, only seven non-league team have reached the Fifth Round Proper (final 16), and none have progressed to the Sixth Round (final 8) – although the 1977–78 FA Cup saw fully amateur team Blyth Spartans take the fully professional side Wrexham to a Fifth Round replay before finally losing, 2–1.
Chasetown, whilst playing at Level 8 of English football during the 2007–08 competition, are the lowest-ranked team to ever play in the Third Round Proper (final 64, of 731 teams entered that season). Chasetown was then a member of the Southern League Division One Midlands (a lower level within the Southern Football League), when they lost to Football League Championship (Level 2) team Cardiff City, the eventual FA Cup runners-up that year. Their success earned the lowly organisation over £60,000 in prize money.
Giant killings between league clubs
In games between league sides, one of the most notable results was the 1992 victory by Wrexham, 92nd/last in the previous season's league, over reigning league champion Arsenal. Another similar shock was when Shrewsbury Town beat Everton 2–1 in 2003. Everton finished 7th in The Premier League and Shrewsbury Town were relegated to the Football Conference that same season.
Winners and finalists
Four 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), Tottenham Hotspur (1961, 1962 and 1981, 1982) and Arsenal (2002, 2003 and 2014, 2015).
The record for most winner's medals for a manager is held jointly by George Ramsey, who won six with Aston Villa (1887, 1895, 1897, 1905, 1913, 1920) and Arsène Wenger, who has won that many with Arsenal (1998, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2014, 2015).
Seven clubs have won the FA Cup as part of a League and Cup double, namely Preston North End (1889), Aston Villa (1897), Tottenham Hotspur (1961), Arsenal (1971, 1998, 2002), Liverpool (1986), Manchester United (1994, 1996, 1999) and Chelsea (2010). In 1993, Arsenal became the first side to win both the FA Cup and the League Cup in the same season when they beat Sheffield Wednesday 2–1 in both finals. Liverpool (in 2001) and Chelsea (in 2007) have since repeated this feat. In 2012, Chelsea accomplished a different cup double consisting of the FA Cup and the 2012 Champions League. In 1998–99, Manchester United added the 1999 Champions League title to their league and cup double to complete a unique Treble. Two years later, in 2000–01, Liverpool won the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup to complete a cup treble. An English Treble has never been achieved.
The FA Cup has only been won by a non-English team once. Cardiff City achieved this in 1927 when they beat Arsenal in the final at Wembley. They had previously made it to the final only to lose to Sheffield United in 1925 and lost another final to Portsmouth in 2008. Cardiff City is also the only team to win the national cups of two different countries in the same season, having also won the Welsh Cup in 1927. The Scottish team Queen's Park reached and lost the final in both 1884 and 1885.
Outside the top division
The final has never been contested by two teams from outside the top division and there have only been eight winners who weren't in the top flight: Notts County (1894); Tottenham Hotspur (1901); Wolverhampton Wanderers (1908); Barnsley (1912); West Bromwich Albion (1931); Sunderland (1973), Southampton (1976) and West Ham United (1980). With the exception of Tottenham, these clubs were all playing in the second tier (the old Second Division) – Tottenham were playing in the Southern League and were only elected to the Football League in 1908, meaning they are the only non-league winners of the FA Cup. Other than Tottenham's victory, only 24 finalists have come from outside English football's top tier, with a record of 7 wins and 17 runners-up: and none at all from the third tier or lower, Southampton (1902) being the last finalist from outside the top two tiers.
Sunderland's win was considered a major upset, having beaten Leeds United who finished third in the top flight that season. Uniquely, in 2007–08 three of the four semi-finalists (Barnsley, Cardiff City and West Brom) were from outside the top division, although the eventual winner was the last remaining top flight team (Portsmouth). West Brom are the only team to have won the FA Cup and earn promotion to the top flight in the same season.
The FA Cup Final is one of 10 events reserved for live broadcast on UK terrestrial television under the Ofcom Code on Sports and Other Listed and Designated Events.
In the early years of coverage the BBC had exclusive radio coverage with a picture of the pitch marked in the Radio Times with numbered squares to help the listener follow the match on the radio. The first FA Cup Final on Radio was in 1926 between Bolton Wanderers and Manchester City but this was only broadcast in Manchester, the first national final on BBC Radio was between Arsenal and Cardiff in 1927. The first final on BBC Television was in 1937 in a match which featured Sunderland and Preston North End but this was not televised in full. The following season's final between Preston and Huddersfield was covered in full by the BBC. When ITV was formed in 1955 they shared final coverage with the BBC in one of the only club matches shown live on television, during the 1970s and 1980s coverage became more elaborate with BBC and ITV trying to steal viewers from the others by starting coverage earlier and earlier some starting as early as 9 a.m. which was six hours before kick off. Nowadays, this continues with Setanta and ESPN having all-day broadcasts from Wembley, but terrestrial TV coverage usually begins two hours before kick off. The sharing of rights between BBC and ITV continued from 1955 to 1988, when ITV lost coverage to the new Sports Channel which later became Sky Sports.
From 1988 to 1997, the BBC and Sky Sports had coverage of the FA Cup, the BBC had highlights on Match of the Day and usually one match per round while Sky had the same deal. From 1997 to 2001, ITV and Sky shared live coverage with both having two matches per round and BBC continuing with highlights on Match of the Day. From 2002 to 2008, BBC and Sky again shared coverage with BBC having two or three matches per round and Sky having one or two. From 2008–09 to 2013–14, FA Cup matches are shown live by ITV across England and Wales, with UTV broadcasting to Northern Ireland but STV refusing to show them. ITV shows 16 FA Cup games per season, including the first pick of live matches from each of the first to sixth rounds of the competition, plus one semi-final exclusively live. The final is also shown live on ITV. Under the same 2008 contract, Setanta Sports showed three games and one replay in each round from round three to five, two quarter-finals, one semi-final and the final. The channel also broadcast ITV's matches exclusively to Scotland, after the ITV franchise holder in Scotland, STV, decided not to broadcast FA Cup games. Setanta entered administration in June 2009 and as a result the FA terminated Setanta's deal to broadcast FA-sanctioned competitions and England internationals. As a result of Setanta going out of business ITV showed the competition exclusively in the 2009–10 season with between three and four matches per round, all quarter finals, semi-finals and final live as the FA could not find a pay TV broadcaster in time. ESPN bought the competition for the 2010–11 to 2012–13 season and during this time Rebecca Lowe became the first woman to host the FA Cup Final in the UK.
In October 2009, The FA announced that ITV would show an additional match in the First and Second Rounds on ITV, with one replay match shown on ITV4. One match and one replay match from the first two rounds will broadcast on The FA website for free, in a similar situation to the 2010 World Cup Qualifier between Ukraine and England. The 2009–10 First Round match between Oldham Athletic and Leeds United was the first FA Cup match to be streamed online live.
Many[who?] expected BSkyB to make a bid to show some of the remaining FA Cup games for the remainder of the 2009–10 season which would include a semi-final and shared rights to the final. ESPN took over the package Setanta held for the FA Cup from the 2010–11 season. The 2011 final was also shown live on Sky 3D in addition to ESPN (who provided the 3D coverage for Sky 3D) and ITV. Following the sale of ESPN's UK and Ireland channels to BT, ESPN's rights package transferred to BT Sport from the 2013–14 season.
Until the 2008–09 season, the BBC and Sky Sports shared television coverage, with the BBC showing three matches in the earlier rounds. Some analysts argued the decision to move away from the Sky and, in particular, the BBC undermined the FA Cup in the eyes of the public.
The early rounds of the 2008–09 competition were covered for the first time by ITV's online service, ITV Local. The first match of the competition, between Wantage Town and Brading Town, was broadcast live online. Highlights of eight games of each round were broadcast as catch up on ITV Local. Since ITV Local closed, this coverage did not continue.
ITV lost the rights to the FA Cup beginning with the 2014–15 FA Cup, terrestrial rights will return to BBC Sport, with the final being shown on BBC One while BT Sport hold the pay TV rights. Under this deal, the BBC will show around the same amount of games as ITV and still having the first pick for each round.
Matches involving Welsh clubs are sometimes exclusively broadcast on Welsh language channel S4C, which is also available to view across the rest of the United Kingdom on satellite and cable television, and through the channel's website. A similar arrangement is shared with BBC Cymru Wales from 2014–15, potentially giving the BBC an extra match per round.
The FA sells overseas rights separately from the domestic contract.
|Territory||Current broadcaster(s)||Former broadcaster(s)|
|Australia||First Round to the Semi-finals are broadcast exclusively by ESPN Australia; final co-broadcast with SBS. Due to Australian anti-siphoning laws, the FA Cup Final is on a list of sporting events, that must first be offered to national television broadcasters and commercial free-to-air television broadcasters before rights can be acquired by a subscription television broadcaster.|
|Africa (Excluding Somalia)||Supersport|
|Albania||Tring Sport, since the 2009–10 season|
|Belgium||Sporting Telenet, since 2012–13||Prime, 2008–09 – 2011–12|
|Canada||Sportsnet World, since 2011–12||Setanta Sports, 2008–09 – 2010–11|
|Denmark||SBS Discovery Channel (Kanal 5, 6'eren, 7'eren), since the 2012–13 season (known as SBS TV until the 2013–14 season)|
|France||beIN Sport, since 2012–13||Canal+, 2007–08, France Télévisions, 2008–09 – 2011–12|
|India||Sony Six, Sony ESPN|
|Italy||Fox Sports, since 2013–14||SKY Italia, 2003–04 – 2011–12, Mediaset Premium, 2012–13|
|Netherlands||FOX Sports, since the 2010–11 season|
|Thailand||Channel 7 (Thailand)|
|Russia||Russia 2 & Sport-1, since the 2011–12 season|
|Somalia||AFE Sports, since the 2015–16 season|
|Sweden||TV10, since the 2013–14 season|
|United States||From 2012–13, Fox Sports will feature the FA Cup games split between Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, Fox Soccer Plus and the broadcast Fox network, with the Final being on Fox (though subject to local pre-emption or tape-delay).|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to FA Cup.|
- The FA Cup Archive – England's official Football Association site, all results with dates, including all qualifying rounds
- The official FA Cup website
- Thomas Fattorini Ltd. makers of the 1911 FA Cup – manufacturers of the 1911 FA Cup and other sporting trophies
- FA Cup going under the hammer – BBC News story on the sale of the second trophy
- FA Supporters – Independent FA Cup Supporters Club