The FA Cup is the oldest association football competition in the world and is open to any of the teams that compete in English football, regardless as to the level at which they play. This means that teams of all standards are able to take part, whether they compete in the Premier League, the Football League or steps 1 to 5 of the FA National League System.
Organised as a knockout competition, the FA cup allows amateur village teams to compete against some of the largest and wealthiest clubs in the game and to have a fair chance of ending up as the winners of the competition. First held in 1871-72, following the suggestion from a sporting newspaper that a "Challenge Cup" should be established, the competition has taken place every year since.
1. Most Successful Clubs
As of 2015, Arsenal are the most successful club ever to take part in the competition with a total of 12 wins. They are followed by Manchester United with a total of 11 wins and Tottenham Hotspur are in third position with eight wins to their name. The top club didn't always have it their own way - in 1893, 1899 and 1946, Arsenal lost the competition by 6-0. In the build-up to the 1936 FA Cup final, Arsenal were found to be fielding weakened teams in order to increase their chances of success. The club was fined £250.
2. Mixed Success
The knockout nature of the cup means that success is totally independent of progression through the league system. In 2013, Wigan Athletic became the first club to win the FA Cup and be relegated from the Premier League in the same season. Perhaps the unluckiest team in the competition is Leicester City; the club has reached the final four times but has never won the cup.
3. Trophy Trivia
The FA Cup trophy, presented to the winning team at the end of the final, is actually the fifth version of the award. The first, created for the first ever game in 1871 at a cost of £20, was stolen from the window of a shoe shop in Birmingham after being won by Aston Villa in 1895 and has never been seen again. The second trophy was an exact replica of the first and was in use from 1896 to 1910 when it was presented as a gift to Lord Kinnaird, the then head of the FA. (In 2005 it was sold at Christie's auction house for £420,000.)
In 1911 a third, larger trophy was created by Fattorini's of Bradford and that same year the firm's local club, Bradford City, were the winners of the tournament. In the early 1990s the trophy was deemed to be too fragile to use so a new replica was built and has been used since 1992. At the same time an identical 'backup' trophy was created, just in case the main trophy was lost or damaged.
The most recent version of the trophy, in use since the 2014 FA Cup Final, was introduced as the 1992 trophy was showing increasing signs of wear and tear. This latest trophy is significantly heavier than previous versions to allow it to withstand increased handling. In order to ensure that it is ready for presentation, ribbons from both the winning and the losing team are attached to the trophy during the course of the game. Ribbons from the losing team are removed once the result is known.
4. Exceptional Scores
The highest scoring final in the history of the FA Cup took place in 1890 when Blackburn Rovers beat The Wednesday by six goals to one. In 1903 Derby Country suffered a painful loss to Bury, conceding six goals and failing to score any of their own. The largest total number of goals scored in a final was recorded in 1953 when Blackpool won 4-3 over Bolton. There have only been two occasions upon which the final of the FA Cup has been decided on penalties. It first happened in 2005 between Arsenal and Manchester United and the following year the final went to penalties once more after a 3-3 draw between Liverpool and West Ham. Back in 1873, the final between Sheffield and Shropshire Wanderers was decided on the toss of a coin, resulting in a win for Sheffield.
5. Giant Killings
The FA Cup is famous for its many upsets, known as giant killings, when low ranked teams from outside the Football League beat top ranked teams from the Premier League. Notable examples include Sutton United beating Coventry City by two goals to one in 1989 and Level 5 Conference Premier side Luton Town's defeat of Premier League team Norwich City in the fourth round of the 2012-13 FA Cup. Back in 1901, Tottenham Hotspur, then a non-league side, won the cup, defeating leading league side Sheffield United, the first and only non-league side to actually win the trophy. Sixty years later, Tottenham Hotspur became the first club to win the double - the league and the FA Cup. One club with a particular reputation for giant killing is Yeovil Town. Prior to the club’s promotion to the Football League, the club recorded twenty wins against league sides; more than any other club in the competition.