Internet Football Association
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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
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.
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.
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. 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.
|Year||WorldNET Winners||WorldNET Runners Up||Plate Winners||Plate Runners Up||Veterans Winners||Veterans Runners Up|
|2002||Charlton Athletic||Bradford City||Aberdeen||Motherwell|
|2005||Rotherham United||QPR||Scunthorpe||Inter Milan|
|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|
The IFA League
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.
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|
|2004||Fulham||Ayr United||Tranmere Rovers|
|2006||Rotherham United||Hearts||Preston North End|
|2007||Preston North End||Falkirk||Preston North End|
|2009||Preston North End||Ayr United||West Ham United|
|2010||Preston North End||Ayr United||Kidderminster Harriers|
|2012||Preston North End||Ayr United||Watford|
|2013||Livingston GS||Livingston GS||AFC Chorley|
|2014||Preston North End||Livingston GS||West Ham United|
The IFA Challenge Cup
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.
|2006||Preston North End||Nottingham Forest|
|2009||Preston North End||West Bromwich Albion|
|2010||Preston North End||West Bromwich Albion|
|2011||Preston North End||Kidderminster|
|2013||Preston North End||Hearts|
|2014||Livingston GS||Preston North End|