Internet Football Association

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The IFA Logo

The Internet Football Association (also known as the IFA) is an organisation which runs football competitions for supporters' teams across the United Kingdom. Its flagship competition is the IFA League, and the highlight of the IFA calendar is WorldNET. The motto of the IFA is "Internet football is not about winning, it's about building bridges between rival groups of football supporters."

Origins of the IFA[edit]

In the early nineties many supporters, particularly ex-pats, kept in touch with other fans via email. Those people tended to mainly be in technical or academic professions where email was widely available. The first ever internet organised football match was held in Nottingham on 30 July 1995 between Leeds Lards and Internet Hotspurs. Leeds won the match 6-3.[1]

WorldNET[edit]

History[edit]

The IFA's annual tournament, WorldNET, traces its roots back to 1996. In the build up to UEFA Euro 96, there had been concerns over whether English football fans would be able to behave themselves. Dave "Voice of Football" Walmsley wanted to show that football fans could come together in the spirit of the game, play football and build bridges between their respective teams. Through the use of email discussion groups, Dave organised a sixteen-team tournament to be held on June 9, 1996 in Nottingham, and EuroNET 96 was born. From that point it grew to represent the teams of message boards and email discussion groups across the UK. Dave Walmsley stood down after EuroNET 96 and the organisation was taken on by John Boocock and Roger Goodair. In 1999 it was renamed WorldNET to better represent the world-wide interest the tournament now had.[1]

WorldNET Today[edit]

In the time since then, WorldNET has become even bigger. 2008 saw the introduction of a Veterans' tournament. With 64 teams in the main tournament and 16 in the veterans, there were a record 80 teams competing at WorldNET 2009.

WorldNET was held at Bodington Hall, University of Leeds between 2000 and 2012.[2] In 2013, the Veterans' tournament remained in Leeds whilst the main tournament was held at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston. WorldNET attracts teams from all over Europe and some from even further afield, with previous entrants including supporters of Inter Milan, RC Lens, St. Pauli and even an Arsenal supporters' team from Nigeria.

The WorldNET tournament is played over a summer weekend. The tournament is preceded on the Friday by the IFA Challenge Cup Final and an England vs Scotland friendly. The tournament begins with the group stages on the Saturday. There are 4 teams in each group who play each other once. Games are 30 minutes long (15 minutes each half). All teams return on the Sunday for the knock-out stages, with the top two teams from each group competing in the main tournament (called the WorldNET Cup) to determine the overall winner. The bottom two teams from each group compete for the WorldNET Plate.[3]

WorldNET has been supported by The Football Supporters' Federation since 2009, and they provided a free programme for all participants and spectators.[4]

Past Winners[edit]

Year WorldNET Winners WorldNET Runners Up Plate Winners Plate Runners Up Veterans Winners Veterans Runners Up
1996 Middlesbrough QPR
1997 Bradford City Birmingham
1998 QPR
1999 Arsenal
2000 Middlesbrough Arsenal
2001 Middlesbrough Dumbarton Arsenal
2002 Charlton Athletic Bradford City Aberdeen Motherwell
2003 Celtic Inter Milan Portsmouth Brentford
2004 Dumbarton Stockport Stockport Inter Milan
2005 Rotherham United QPR Scunthorpe Inter Milan
2006 Celtic Dumbarton QPR Doncaster
2007 RC Lens Leicester Darlington
2008 Preston North End Watford A QPR Arsenal Nigeria Arsenal Nigeria Birmingham
2009 West Bromwich Albion Bradford City Welling United York City Bury Leicester City
2010 Bradford City RC Lens QPR Leicester City AFC Halifax Arsenal Nigeria
2011 RC Lens Bradford City Portsmouth Darlington Bury AFC Halifax
2012 Crystal Palace RC Lens Darlington Bradford City AFC Halifax Everton
2013 AFC Halifax Crystal Palace Manchester United Darlington Bradford City AFC Halifax
2014 AFC Halifax Preston North End Runcorn Linnets Port Vale

[5]

[6]

The IFA League[edit]

The IFA league has an unusual structure, where instead of a set fixture list with teams playing each other a set number of times, it is up to the teams themselves to organise fixtures. This means that some teams play more games than others, but each team is limited to playing a maximum of twenty games. Even when they lose, teams are rewarded for making the effort to turn up and play fixtures, with one league point being awarded for a defeat, two points for a draw and three for a win.

The ideal of the IFA is that two supporters teams will get together and play each other on a Saturday morning, before attending the match between the two teams they support in the afternoon. IFA fixtures are often arranged so as to coincide with meetings of the teams they support, however it does not always work out this way.

The main IFA league consists of around eighty teams, and is not split into separate divisions. However, there is a Scottish league. Scottish teams tend to compete in both leagues, with their fixtures counting towards both competitions. Scottish teams regularly do well in matches against their English counterparts, with Celtic having won WorldNET twice, and Hibs having won the IFA Cup three times, and in 2011 Motherwell became the first Scottish team ever to win the IFA league.[7]

Every year, each team is invited to vote for the Team of the Year award. This is for the team that has played the game in the best spirit, closest to the ethos of the IFA.

Below is a table of past winners of the IFA league, along with the Scottish League Champions and the Team of the Year.

Year IFA League Champions Scottish League Champions Team of the Year
1998 QPR Watford
1999 QPR Not awarded
2000 Arsenal Huddersfield Town
2001 QPR Brentford
2002 QPR Hibs Hull City
2003 Millwall Hearts Grimsby Town
2004 Fulham Ayr United Tranmere Rovers
2005 Millwall Aberdeen Watford
2006 Rotherham United Hearts Preston North End
2007 Preston North End Falkirk Preston North End
2008 Rochdale Stirling Albion Watford
2009 Preston North End Ayr United West Ham United
2010 Preston North End Ayr United Kidderminster Harriers
2011 Motherwell Motherwell Ipswich Town
2012 Preston North End Ayr United Watford
2013 Livingston GS Livingston GS AFC Chorley
2014 Preston North End Livingston GS West Ham United

[7]

The IFA Challenge Cup[edit]

Every year, the IFA Challenge Cup is contested by IFA member teams from across the UK alongside regular IFA League games. The final of this competition is played on the Friday evening of WorldNET. Below is a list of past winners of this competition.

Year Winners Runners Up
2000 Celtic
2001 Hibs
2002 QPR Watford
2003 Hibs Charlton Athletic
2004 Ayr United Millwall
2005 Fulham Ayr United
2006 Preston North End Nottingham Forest
2007 Hibs Bury
2008 Bury A Rochdale
2009 Preston North End West Bromwich Albion
2010 Preston North End West Bromwich Albion
2011 Preston North End Kidderminster
2012 Kidderminster Ayr United
2013 Preston North End Hearts
2014 Livingston GS Preston North End

[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "History of the IFA".
  2. ^ IFA WorldNET
  3. ^ "WorldNET rules".
  4. ^ "FSF Support WorldNET 09".
  5. ^ "Worldnet Roll of Honour".
  6. ^ "Big Tam Vets Roll of Honour".
  7. ^ a b "IFA Roll of Honour".
  8. ^ "IFA Challenge Cup Roll of Honour".

External links[edit]