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The FA Cup Final

DateSaturday 15th May 2010
LocationWembley National Stadium
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Wembley National Stadium
Telephone No.0844 980 8001
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The FA Cup Final, which is commonly referred to in England simply as The Cup Final, is the last match in the Football Association Challenge Cup, the oldest football tournament in the world. It is the finale of a sensational competition among clubs belonging to The Football Association in England. Scottish teams competed in the early years, and Welsh teams on a regular basis try to win, with Cardiff winning the 1927 Cup.

Various venues in London hosted early FA Cup Finals. In the period from 1923 until 2000, the final was held at Wembley Stadium, English football's national stadium. From 2001 to 2005, the final was moved to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff during the rebuilding of Wembley Stadium. The Millennium Stadium was used again in 2006 due to construction delays in opening the new Wembley Stadium.

Until 1993, if the final could not be decided in a single match, the match would be replayed. After only six replays since 1923, The Football Association then decided that all future finals would be decided 'on the day', putting an end to FA Cup Final replays. This meant that a draw at the end of the normal time would be followed by thirty minutes of extra time (two fifteen-minute halves). If scores were still level, there would be a penalty shootout to determine the winner of the competition. Since 1993, two FA Cup Finals have been decided by a penalty shootout, those of 2005 and 2006.

The present trophy, which has been played for since 1992, is the competition's fourth. It is a precise replica of the third trophy. Manchester United has won the Cup the most times (ten), followed by Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur (eight). Forty-two different clubs have won it up to the present writing of this article.

The FA Cup is the oldest football competition in the world, commencing in 1871-72. Because it involves clubs of all standards playing against each other, there is the possibility for "giant-killers" from the lower divisions to eliminate top clubs from the tournament, though lower division teams rarely reach the final. A record 731 teams were accepted into the FA Cup in 2007-2008. In comparison, the League Cup can involve only the 72 members of The Football League, which organises the competition, and the 20 teams in the Premier League. The results of the Football League War Cup are deemed to be separate from both competitions.

The name "FA Cup" usually refers to the English men's tournament. The equivalent competition for women's teams is the FA Woman's Cup.

The first FA Cup competition in season 1871-72 had fifteen entries. During the latest season more than 600 took part. Wanderers, a team formed by ex-public school and university players, won the first final 1-0 against Royal Engineers at Kennington Oval. A crowd of 2,000 attended the match, each paying one shilling for the privilege. The first Cup Final goal was scored by Morton Betts, playing under the assumed name of 'A.H. Chequer'

The original trophy, much smaller than the present one, was made by Messrs Martin, Hall & Co. and cost £20. In 1895, after Aston Villa had won the competition, the cup was stolen from the window of a firm of football outfitters in Birmingham where it had been placed on display. It was never recovered.

It is now over 130 years old, and yet, season by season it generates remarkable interest not only in the country of its birth but all over the world. The history and tradition of the competition and the pageantry of the Cup Final are familiar to millions.

The competition is a splendid tournament with pairings drawn completely at random. There are no seeds, and a draw takes place after the majority of fixtures have been played in each round. However, the qualifying round draws are regionalised to reduce the travel costs of smaller non-league sides. Rounds One and Two were also previously split into Northern and Southern draw sections, but this practice was abandoned after the 1997-98 Cup competition. The draw also determines which team will play at home. If a match other than the semi-final or final is drawn, there is a replay, usually at the ground of the team who were away for the first game. Drawn replays are now settled with extra time and penalty shootouts although in the past further replays were possible. Some ties took as many as six matches to settle. In their 1975 campaign, Fulham played 12 games over 6 rounds. This remains the most games played by a team to reach a final. Replays were traditionally played 3-4 days after the original game, but from English football they were staged at least 10 days later on police advice. This led to penalty shoot-outs being introduced.

All Premiere League and Football League clubs may enter. Non-league clubs may also enter if they competed in the previous season's FA Cup, FA Trophy, or FA Vase competition and are deemed to be playing in an acceptable league for the current season. All clubs entering the competition must have a suitable stadium. In the 2004-05 season 660 clubs entered the competition, beating the long-standing record of 656 from the 1921-22 season. In 2005-6 a further high point was reached with 674 entrants. The even greater number of 687 clubs entered in 2006-7.

The FA Cup has had a very set pattern for a long time as to when each round is played. Normally the first round is played in mid-November with the second round on one of the first two Saturdays in December. The third round is played at the start of January, with the fourth round later in the month and fifth round staged in mid-February. The sixth round traditionally occurs in early or mid March, with the semi-finals a month later. The final is normally held the Saturday after the Premier League season finishes in May. The only season in modern times when a similar pattern to this has not been kept was 1999-2000, when most rounds were played a few weeks earlier than normal as an experiment.

The winning team qualifies by right for the first round of the UEFA Cup. If the winners also qualify for the Champions League by merit of league position, the runners-up qualify for the UEFA Cup in their place. If both finalists qualify for the Champions League, an extra UEFA Cup place is given on the basis of Premier League position.

Matches in the FA Cup are usually played at the home ground of one of the two teams. The team who plays at home is decided when the matches are drawn. In the event of a draw, the replay is played at the ground of the team who originally played away from home. In the days when multiple replays were possible, the second replay (and any further replays) were played at neutral grounds.

At the end of the final, the winning team is presented with a trophy, also known as the "FA Cup", which they hold until the following year's final. The present FA Cup trophy is the fourth. The FA Cup is the oldest domestic football competition in the world. Its trophy is not the oldest; that title is claimed by the Youdan Cup. A "backup" trophy was made alongside the existing trophy in 1992, but it has not been used so far and will only be used if the current trophy is lost, damaged or destroyed.

Since the start of the 1994-95 season, the FA Cup has been sponsored. However, to protect the identity of the famous competition, the name has never changed from "The FA Cup", unlike in sponsorship deals for the League Cup.