With the FA Cup semi-final last weekend, we take a look at a little of the history of this competition. From the places the final has been played, to the iconic trophy itself, football takes centre stage in anticipation of the grand final to be played on 21st May 2016.
In the offices of The Sportsman Newspaper on the 20th July 1871, Charles William Alcock,
a popular English sportsman and then FA secretary, announced 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.”
In that moment, the FA Challenge Cup was born.
The very first FA Challenge Cup competition began in November 1871, but not as we know it now, as only thirteen games were played culminating with the final being played at the Kennington Oval, between Wanderers and The Royal Engineers, Wanderers winning 1-0.
After receiving a “bye” to the final the following year, Wanderers beat Oxford University to win the cup for a second time. It was decided that the rules needed to be changed for the following season to allow other teams to try and get to the final.
The FA Challenge Cup competition changed to a more recognised format over the early years, allowing non-league clubs to play in the cup via regional qualifying rounds, with non-league Tottenham Hotspur winning the cup in 1901, beating league side Sheffield United.
They are still to this day the only non-league side to win the FA Cup. They were also the first club to tie ribbons in their club colours to the trophy, a tradition that has been repeated every year since.
Due to the outbreak of the First World War, the FA Cup was suspended after the 1914/15 competition. This Final was nicknamed “The Khaki Final” due to the large amount of soldiers in uniform watching the game.
In 1923, the Cup Final moved to the newly built Empire Stadium (the old Wembley Stadium) and was contested between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United. The official attendance for this final was 126,047 which is still a record to date, but reports from around the time suggest that the figure could have been double that, as no tickets were sold for the game. Unruly scenes in the unprecedented crowd outside the stadium before the game, led to the entrance gates being forced open and the crowd rushing in and spilling over onto the pitch, causing the kick off to be delayed by forty five minutes. Mounted police were used to push the crowd back behind the barriers so the game could be played. The match is known as “The White Horse Final” after the mounted policeman on a white stallion named Billy became the iconic image from the day.
The finals were played at the old Wembley Stadium until 1939, which was the last final to be played before the outbreak of the Second World War. The competition was suspended for the duration of the war and returned to Wembley for the 1946 cup final and continued every year until 2000, when Chelsea beat Aston Villa 2-1 in front of a 78,000 plus crowd. This was the last final to be played at the old stadium, as it would be knocked down to make way for a bigger and better National Stadium at a later date.
The FA Cup finals moved to the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff for the 2000/2001 season in which Arsenal lost 2-1 to Liverpool, but Arsenal then went on to win three out of the next four finals, the fourth being on penalties after extra time had been played. This was the first final to be decided in this way as previous finals had always gone to a replay.
In May 2007, the FA Cup final returned to England, to the new Wembley Stadium, in front of 89,826 people, Chelsea beat Manchester United 1–0. This was to be the first of four wins to date at the new stadium for Chelsea.
Arsenal are the most successful club in the history of the FA Cup, competing in nineteen finals, winning the trophy twelve times. The latest trophy to be presented is the fourth FA Challenge Cup which was made in 1992 to replace the previous trophy that had been in use since 1911. There is also a fifth trophy, which is an identical replica of the latest cup, just in case the cup is lost, stolen or damaged. The original FA Cup for the 1872 final cost just £20 but was stolen while on display in a Birmingham shoe shop in 1895. Another trophy, identical to the first, was made in 1896 and was used in the finals until 1910 after which it was given to Lord Kinnaird, who was then the head of the FA.
This year’s final is the 135th and will be contested between Manchester United and Crystal Palace on Saturday 21st May.
Good luck to both teams.