History of the FA CupThe longest and most storied cup competition in all of sport, the FA Cup is nothing short of a marvel that captivates the world as it brings down the curtain on the English football season. It is THE competition that cultivates upsets on a year by year basis, David vs Goliath scenarios that are hard to fathom for those at both ends of the football pyramid, but above all, magic. The magic of the cup. Oh, how many times have we heard that? Whether it’s Leicester City claiming their first FA Cup title in 2021 or Preston North End doing the unthinkable and falling to West Bromwich Albion in 1888 (yes, we went that far back), the magic of the FA cup is like nothing else in world football.
The very startFollowing the formation of the Football Association in 1863 and the early work done in codifying the game by producing its first set of laws, it was that vision of bringing the nation's teams together that formed The FA’s next task, one ideally suited to a competitive arena. Football was still in its infancy as the 1870s approached in England, with teams playing in a patchwork of local friendlies for the most part, few venturing beyond the most parochial of boundaries to play games. Charles W. Alcock, the Secretary of The FA, had already been a prime mover in trying to get international football off the ground by arranging a controversial first meeting between England and Scotland in 1870, so creating a national cup competition for all FA affiliated clubs couldn’t have been any harder, surely?
A mid-July, 1871 meeting changed everything. Alcock’s pitch to his FA intermediaries proved to be charming, with the ratifying of the competition taking place in the months that followed before the competitions first round of games playing out on November 11, 1871. Despite there being 50 member clubs in the FA at the time, just 15 responded to the first ever invitation to play in the competition, with around a dozen competing to lift the maiden trophy.
Centuries of dominanceFor roughly the next 130 years, the FA Cup was the holy grail for club football in England. The turn of the 21st century paved the way for massive foreign ownership to peer into English football, resulting in continental club competitions taking preference over domestic honours. The UEFA Champions League has risen to become the world’s premier club competition of the modern day. For years The FA Cup thrived on a lack of TV broadcasts at football matches in England, but as technology evolved and the demand for live football increased in the latter stages of the 20th century, the magic and thirst for the cup began to subside.
WinnersWanderers, led by Charles W. Alcock were the inaugural winners of the 1871-72 Cup over the Royal Engineers. Cardiff City are the only non-English side to win the competition, having taken it out in the 1926-27 season. Modern-day powerhouse Arsenal are the most successful side with 14 FA Cup trophies in their cabinet. Manchester United are second on that list with 12 crowns, with their latest coming in 2016. Overall, 44 clubs have won the famous trophy throughout its 140 year history.