English FA Cup Betting Guide
The FA Cup, or the Football Association Challenge Cup, to give the competition its full title is the premier knockout football competition in the United Kingdom and dates back to the earliest days of organised football, with the first trophy presented in 1872. Though FA Cup success lacks the huge financial boost that goes with a berth in the Premier League or the UEFA Champions League, it is still a highly desirable trophy for even the biggest clubs, due to its storied history and the place in the Europa League on offer to the victorious team.
The FA Cup is open to almost all of the clubs in the FA’s National League system from giants like Manchester United and Chelsea all the way down to largely unknown teams of part-time footballers. The 2011-2012 Cup saw a record number of entrants at 763 teams from up and down the UK. Despite byes for the bigger teams which don’t see them enter the competition until the 3rd round ‘proper’, the regular David vs. Goliath matchups that the competition’s unseeded open draw produces gives the Cup a special place in every football fan’s heart.
Format of the FA Cup
The FA Cup is a knockout competition which takes place over a single leg at the ground of the team that is randomly drawn as the home team for the matchup. If the first game is drawn, a replay takes place at the home ground of the other team and should this match also end in a draw, the tie is settled by extra-time and if necessary a penalty shootout. The exceptions are the semi-finals and final, which are played at neutral venues and are settled by extra-time and penalties on the day.
Due to the number of teams eligible to participate the Cup has 14 rounds, commencing at the beginning of the football season in August. The first six rounds are typically referred to as the qualifying rounds, with the second six known as the ‘proper’ rounds. The 4 teams remaining after the proper rounds contest the semi-finals.
The first 3 qualifying rounds are contested by teams in the lowest eligible leagues. The regional Conference teams get a bye to the 4th qualifying round and the Conference National teams (one level below Football League status) join in the 5th qualifying round. The 32 teams remaining after the qualifying rounds are entered into a draw with 48 League One and League Two (the 3rd and 4th ranked divisions of the football league respectively) teams in the first round proper. Teams from the Championship (2nd highest league division) join the competition in the second round proper, and the Premiership teams join in the third round proper, which is usually played out over the first or second weekend in January. The competition continues in parallel with the football league season and the final usually takes place on the Saturday after the Premiership concludes at Wembley Stadium and represents the end of the football season. The winner of the competition is entered into the UEFA Europa Cup. Should the team have qualified for the Champions’ League through the Premiership, the Europa League spot is awarded to the runners up.
Notable Results from the FA Cup
The Cup is almost always won by a Premiership team. The last time a team from outside the then First Division was in 1980 when West Ham United were victorius. Although it is invariably the big teams involved at the business end, shocks , thrilling games, and the dreams of ‘giant killing’ are what makes the competition so exciting. TV channel ESPN used to celebrate the have-a-go-hero nature of the Cup by featuring inserts of amateur players who have scored famous goals working at their regular jobs when going to a commercial break. It’s not unusual for a non-league team who have fought their way to the third round proper to be drawn at home against a Premiership or Championship team and even though their home stadium may only hold a few hundred spectators, many of the minnows opt to play there nonetheless and forego the money that would be generated from ticket sales by holding the match at the opposition’s larger ground.
Some of the most famous shocks in recent memory include Barnsley’s victory over Chelsea in the quarter-final in 2008 and when non-league FC United of Manchester beat League One side Rochdale in the first round proper and pushed eventual League One champions Brighton to a replay. Though not technically a victory, non-league Exeter must also get a mention for holding Manchester United to a 0-0 at Old Trafford in 2005, a match they were unlucky not to win.
Media and TV Coverage
Though the FA Cup doesn’t have the international appeal of the Premiership, it is still the subject of a large amount of media coverage in the UK. In fact the Cup is deemed of such national importance that live coverage of the final must be broadcast on terrestrial television by law. For many years the BBC was the home of live FA Cup coverage, but ITV and BT Sport now split most of the live coverage between them. Early round coverage tends to focus on matches which have the potential for a non-league team to overcome a ‘giant’ or when two Premiership teams are drawn together. The coverage of non-league teams typically focuses on the small communities they represent and the level of support and sometimes even hysteria that surrounds a long Cup run from a small town team. As well as coverage of games, the draws for the third, and each subsequent round are carried out live on national television
The competition commenced commercial sponsorship in 1994 but was without a sponsor between 2002 and 2006. As of 2015 the Cup is sponsored by the airline Emirates.
Interesting Facts About the FA Cup
The final of the FA Cup was held at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff from 2002-2006 while Wembley was rebuilt.
Manchester United have the most FA Cup wins with 11.
Ashley Cole has the most FA Cup Winner’s medals with 6.
Alex Ferguson’s first trophy with Manchester United was the 1990 FA Cup.
The smallest ever team to reach the third round proper was Chasetown in 2007 when they beat Port Vale who played five divisions above them.
Manchester United opted out of the 1999-2000 FA Cup to play in the FIFA World Club Championship.