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Conference League Cup (Setanta Shield)
Founded
1979
Number of Teams
68
Current Holders
A.F.C. Telford United
Country
 England
 Wales
Most successful club(s)
Bromsgrove Rovers, Doncaster Rovers, Northwich Victoria
& Runcorn
(2 wins each)

The Conference League Cup (recently known as the Setanta Shield for sponsorship reasons) is an English football competition, open to clubs playing in levels 5 or 6 of the English football league system, (steps 1 and 2 of the National League System), which covers the three Football Conference divisions.

The Conference League Cup was formed for the inaugural season of the Football Conference, in 1979-80 and existed for twenty-two seasons before being axed at the end of the 2000-01 season. It was briefly reformed for the 2004-05 season, in the form of the Conference Challenge Cup, but following a poor response it was again agreed not to renew the competition for the next season. With the transfer of sponsorship of the Conference to Blue Square for the start of the 2007-08 season two seasons later, the re-introduction of the competition was announced, scheduled to commence that very year.[1] On 23 June 2009 the Conference League Cup's sponsor, Setanta's GB division went into administration and ceased broadcasting. Without a sponsor, the tournament was put on an indefinite hiatus from the 2009-10 season.

Contents

Format

The competition is a knockout tournament with pairings drawn at random - like the FA Cup there is a minimal form of seeding, in that members of the (higher-level) Conference National enter together at a later stage in the tournament, and the draw for each round takes place after the completion of the round before. Assuming the Conference is neither expanded nor diminished in future, there will thus be an annual entry of 68 teams into the tournament. The first three rounds are contested solely between teams from the Conference's North and South divisions, however, until only 8 teams total from the two Divisions remain, at which point the teams of the Conference National will be entered. Matches which produce no winner after 90 minutes continue into extra time and then progress to a penalty shoot-out akin to the style of the Football League Cup, rather than scheduling replays as in the FA Cup, however the 2008-9 final between Forest Green Rovers and AFC Telford United went straight to penalties. The semi-finals and final are contested at the ground of the club higher ranked in the league. The first round is scheduled for October, with the intention that teams are unlikely to find themselves contesting the Conference League Cup at the same time as they play in the FA Cup and to a lesser extent, the FA Trophy, thus reducing the workload of even the more successful teams.

As an added incentive to attract greater crowds and more interest and commitment, the Football Conference announced that it has arranged a deal with Setanta Sports, the competition's sponsor, to provide live television coverage of the latter stages of the competition, thus generating much-needed revenue as well as interest from non-Conference sources.

Predecessors

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Football Conference Challenge Cup

The predecessor to the Setanta Shield was the one-season Football Conference Challenge Cup. The competition was formed for the 2004-05 Conference season as a competition in the style of the Football League Cup, with a series of one-leg matches played in a knockout tournament fashion, with extra time and penalties deciding the result in the event of a tied scoreline at the end of full-time, rather than the replay style of the FA Cup and other FA tournaments.

Although the Challenge Cup was announced before the start of the season, the format of the tournament was not decided upon until over a month after the season's games had started, and even then the Conference's Board of Directors reserved the right to alter the format. This caveat appears to have been centred around the desires of the Board to introduce European competition into the Cup in the Fifth Round (Quarter-Finals) or later, though this plan never solidified, and the Challenge Cup remained a solely-Conference affair.

Also among the Challenge Cup's twists and turns were its numerous name changes. Upon its announcement, the Cup was given the working title of the "Football Conference Challenge Cup", which it retained until it found a sponsor in the Carthium Group in mid-September, thus becoming the "Carthium Cup". However, the name was not to last as the business group folded less than two months later. Following this, the Cup was renamed the "National Conference Cup", in lieu of a new sponsor taking pride of place in the title. After less than two more months, the Cup was rewarded in its search, gaining the sponsorship of Gladwish Land Sales, becoming the "GLS Cup" and earning its fourth name in only three months.

Attendances were low, with fans reacting poorly to the tournament. With plans in the offing to alter the format of the Football Conference, including raising the size of its new national division to the present standard of 24 teams, it was decided that renewing the Challenge Cup was simply not worth it, and it was felt that continuing the competition would simply overcrowd a match schedule which would already be increasing by four matches for each team in the new season. Given these circumstances, the Challenge Cup was announced as scrapped shortly before the official start of the 2005-06 season.

Nevertheless, though its first season was blighted with misfortune, the competition did otherwise run smoothly, with Woking beating Stalybridge Celtic 1-0 in the final.

Conference League Cup

The Conference league cup had previously run for the first 21 seasons of the Football Conference's existence. The tournament was always considered as tertiary in importance to the FA Trophy and FA Cup. Like its successors, it struggled for attendances from fans. However, it did provide many clubs with the opportunity to win silverware that would otherwise have been missing.

Winners

Season Winner Runner-up
1979–80 Northwich Victoria Altrincham
1980–81 Altrincham Kettering Town
1981–82 Weymouth Enfield
1982–83 Runcorn Scarborough
1983–84 Scarborough Barnet
1984–85 Runcorn Maidstone United
1985–86 Stafford Rangers Barnet
1986–87 Kettering Town Hendon
1987–88 Horwich RMI Weymouth
1988–89 Yeovil Town Kidderminster Harriers
1989–90 Yeading Stamford
1990–91 Sutton United Barrow
1991–92 Wycombe Wanderers Runcorn
1992–93 Northwich Victoria Wycombe Wanderers
1993–94 Macclesfield Town Yeovil Town
1994–95 Bromsgrove Rovers Kettering Town
1995–96 Bromsgrove Rovers Macclesfield Town
1996–97 Kidderminster Harriers Macclesfield Town
1997–98 Morecambe Woking
1998–99 Doncaster Rovers Farnborough Town
1999–2000 Doncaster Rovers Kingstonian
2000–01 Chester City Kingstonian
2001–02 not held
2002–03
2003–04
2004–05 Woking Stalybridge Celtic
2005–06 not held
2006–07
2007–08 Aldershot Town Rushden & Diamonds
2008–09 AFC Telford United Forest Green Rovers

References


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