FA Trophy

Last updated

FA Trophy
Buildbase FA Trophy.png
Number of teams295 (2018–19)
Current champions Hornchurch (1st title)
Most successful club(s) Scarborough
Telford United
(3 titles each)
Television broadcasters BT Sport
(final only)
Website FA Trophy
Soccerball current event.svg 2020–21 FA Trophy

The Football Association Challenge Trophy, commonly known as the FA Trophy, is a men's football knockout cup competition run by and named after the English Football Association and competed for primarily by semi-professional teams. The competition was instigated in 1969 to cater for those non-league clubs that paid their players and were therefore not eligible to enter the FA Amateur Cup.


Eligibility rules have changed over time, but from 2008 onwards the competition has been open to clubs playing in Steps 1–4 of the National League System, equivalent to tiers 5–8 of the overall English football league system. This covers the National League, the Southern League, Isthmian League, and Northern Premier League. [ citation needed ]

The final of the competition was held at the original Wembley Stadium from the tournament's instigation until the stadium closed in 2000. The final has been played at the new Wembley Stadium since its opening in 2007. The record for the most FA Trophy wins is shared by Woking and two defunct clubs, Scarborough and Telford United, with three victories each.

The Trophy is currently held by Hornchurch who beat Hereford in the 2020-21 final held on 22 May 2021.


Ebbsfleet United fans at the 2008 final Crowd wembley FAT 08.jpg
Ebbsfleet United fans at the 2008 final

The competition was created by the Football Association in 1969 to afford semi-professional teams an opportunity to compete for the chance to play at Wembley Stadium. Fully amateur clubs took part in the long-standing FA Amateur Cup, but most of the leading non-league clubs made at least some form of payment to their players and were therefore ineligible to enter the Amateur Cup. [1] The first winners of the competition were Macclesfield Town of the Northern Premier League, who defeated Telford United of the Southern League in the final. [2] Northern Premier League clubs dominated the first decade of the competition, with Telford United the only Southern League team to break the northern clubs' hold on the competition. [3] In the early years of its existence the competition struggled to achieve the same level of prestige as the long-established Amateur Cup. [4]

In 1974 the FA abolished the distinction between official professional and amateur status and discontinued the Amateur Cup, and the Trophy soon had 300 entrants. [4] This figure was gradually reduced until by 1991 only around 120 clubs took part. [4] In 1978 the FA moved the final of the Trophy to the Saturday immediately following the FA Cup Final, so as to give it a longer build-up and avoid conflict with clubs' league programmes, which had previously reduced the competition's prestige. [5]

Martin O'Neill managed Wycombe Wanderers to two Trophy wins. O'Neill, Martin.jpg
Martin O'Neill managed Wycombe Wanderers to two Trophy wins.

In 1979 the leading Southern and Northern Premier League teams formed the new Alliance Premier League, [6] and teams from this league dominated the Trophy during the 1980s, although in the 1980–81 season Bishop's Stortford of the comparatively lowly Isthmian League First Division entered at the preliminary round and won twelve matches to reach the final, where they defeated Sutton United. [7] Telford United's win in 1989 made them the second team to win the Trophy three times. [8] Between 1990 and 2000 three more teams claimed multiple wins. Former Northern Ireland international Martin O'Neill, in his third managerial role, led Wycombe Wanderers to two wins, and Geoff Chapple managed Kingstonian to victory twice and Woking three times, all within the space of seven years. [9] [10] After Chapple's period of success, Mark Stimson became the first man to manage the Trophy-winning team in three successive seasons, when he led Grays Athletic to victory in 2005 and 2006 and repeated the feat with his new club Stevenage Borough in 2007. [11]

As of 2001 the competition was sponsored by Umbro; in the 2007-08 season it was sponsored by Carlsberg. [12] [13]


The competition is a knockout tournament with pairings drawn at random. However, the qualifying round draws and the 1st Round proper draw are regionalised to reduce teams' travel costs. For the 2014–15 season this was extended to the 2nd Round proper draw as well, however this change only lasted one season. If a match (other than the semi-final or final) is drawn, there is a replay, usually at the ground of the team which played away from home for the first game. Drawn replays are now settled with extra time and penalty shootouts, though in the past further replays were possible. [ citation needed ]

Originally the competition included as many qualifying rounds as were required to reduce the number of teams to 32. In 1999 the format was amended to match that of the FA Cup, with six rounds prior to the semi-final stage, albeit without qualifying rounds. Teams from the Football Conference received byes through the early rounds, in a similar manner to the way in which the leading clubs receive byes in the FA Cup. [4]

As of 2008–09 the competition featured four qualifying rounds and four rounds proper before the semi-finals. Teams from Step 4 enter at the preliminary round stage, those from Step 3 at the first qualifying round, those from Step 2 at the third qualifying round, and those from Step 1 at the first round proper. [14]

The FA pays prize money to all teams which win at least one match in the Trophy competition. In the 2014-15 season the prize for the 64 preliminary round winners was £2,500, rising round-by-round to £50,000 for the winners of the final. The prize fund is cumulative, so a team that starts in the preliminary round and wins through several rounds would receive £2,500 for the preliminary round, £2,700 for the first qualifying round, £3,250 for the second qualifying round, and so on. [15]


Villa Park hosted the Trophy final from 2001 until 2005. Villaparkfromtopofholte.jpg
Villa Park hosted the Trophy final from 2001 until 2005.

The final was traditionally held at the original Wembley Stadium, but was moved to Villa Park during Wembley's redevelopment, and a final was also played at West Ham United's Boleyn Ground. [1]

In 2007 the final moved to the new Wembley Stadium, and a record crowd of 53,262 saw Stevenage Borough beat Kidderminster Harriers [1]

FA Trophy winners and finalists

Sacha Opinel, then of Ebbsfleet United, holding the FA Trophy in 2008. Sacha Opinel.jpg
Sacha Opinel, then of Ebbsfleet United, holding the FA Trophy in 2008.

Scarborough (1973, 1976, 1977), Telford United (1971, 1983, 1989), and Woking (1994, 1995, 1997) share the record for the most victories (three) in the final. In 1985 Wealdstone became the first team to win the "Non-League Double" of FA Trophy and Football Conference championship (although in the pre-Conference era both Macclesfield Town and Stafford Rangers had done the double of Northern Premier League championship and FA Trophy in 1970 and 1972 respectively). Since then Colchester United in 1992 and Wycombe Wanderers in 1993 have equalled Wealdstone's achievement.

Three Welsh clubs have reached FA Trophy finals; Bangor City (1984), Newport County (2012), and Wrexham in 2013 and 2015. Wrexham became the first Welsh winners of the FA Trophy in 2013. [16]

Media coverage

From the 2004–05 season Sky Sports had a deal to show the final of the FA Trophy. This changed in 2007 when the FA agreed a new deal with Setanta Sports to provide coverage of FA Trophy matches with effect from the 2008–09 season. [17] In March 2013 it was announced that S4C would broadcast the 2013 Final between Wrexham and Grimsby Town. [18]

BT Sport showed the 2015 FA Trophy Final live. [19] BT Sport also showed the 2016 FA Trophy Final between FC Halifax Town and Grimsby Town live on 22 May as part of a double-header along with the 2016 FA Vase Final. [20]

Related Research Articles

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Womens FA Cup

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FA Womens National League Cup

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The 1923–24 FA Cup was the 49th season of the world's oldest football cup competition, the Football Association Challenge Cup, commonly known as the FA Cup. Newcastle United won the competition for the second time, beating Aston Villa 2–0 in the final at Wembley.

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2009–10 FA Cup football tournament season

The 2009–10 FA Cup was the 129th season of the world's oldest football knockout competition; the FA Cup. As in the previous year, 762 clubs were accepted for the competition. One club, Newcastle Blue Star, folded before the fixtures were released. As they were scheduled to enter the competition in the First Round Qualifying, their opponents in this round received a walkover.

The 2012–13 FA Trophy was the 43rd season of the FA Trophy, the Football Association's cup competition for teams at levels 5–8 of the English football league system. A total of 266 clubs entered the competition. This season's competition was only the third time that the Trophy Holders, in this case York City F.C., were ineligible to defend it due to promotion to the Football League Two.

2013–14 FA Cup football tournament season

The 2013–14 FA Cup was the 133rd season of the FA Cup, the main domestic cup competition in English football, and the oldest football knock-out competition in the world. It was sponsored by Budweiser for a third consecutive season. 737 clubs from England and Wales entered the competition, which began with the Extra Preliminary Round on 16 August. For the first time in the history of the FA Cup, a team from Guernsey entered the competition, Guernsey F.C., who made it to the Second Round Qualifying.

2014–15 FA Cup football tournament season

The 2014–15 FA Cup, also called the 2014–15 FA Challenge Cup, was the 134th occurrence of the FA Cup, the main domestic cup in English football and the oldest knockout competition in the world. It was the first season when the BBC and BT Sport hosted televised matches, seven years after the BBC lost the rights to ITV. The 2014–15 season's Cup also marked the first time that 3G artificial pitches were allowed in all rounds of the competition, designed to lower costs for maintenance. After Queens Park Rangers, Luton Town, Oldham Athletic and Preston North End trialled artificial pitches in the 1980s, they were made illegal in 1995.

The 2014–15 FA Trophy was the 45th season of the FA Trophy, the Football Association's cup competition for teams at levels 5–8 of the English football league system. A total of 275 clubs entered the competition, which was won by Conference North club North Ferriby United after beating Conference team Wrexham in the final on 29 March 2015. Competition ran one club shorter than usual after Conference South club Salisbury City was disbanded before the season started, thus one club were to get a bye in the third round qualifying.

The 2020–21 FA Cup was the 140th edition of the oldest football tournament in the world, the Football Association Challenge Cup. It was sponsored by Emirates and known as the Emirates FA Cup for sponsorship purposes. The winner qualifies for the 2021–22 UEFA Europa League group stage.


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  15. The FA
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  17. The FA
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  19. "BT Sport wins joint FA Cup rights". BT. 17 July 2013.
  20. "Tickets on sale for FA Non-League Finals Day at Wembley". The Football Association . 11 February 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2016.