Football in the United Kingdom: Wikis


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Football in the United Kingdom is organised on a separate basis in each of the four countries of the United Kingdom, with each having a national football association responsible for the overall management of football within their respective country. There is no United Kingdom national football team, though attempts are being made to create one to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

For details about football in the four countries, see:

This article provides some comparisons concerning football in the different countries.


Football associations

Each of the countries of the United Kingdom, sometimes referred to as the home nations, has a national football association responsible for the overall management of football within their respective nation: The Football Association, (FA) is responsible for England and the Crown Dependencies and was founded in 1863, The Scottish Football Association (SFA) was founded in 1873 followed by the Football Association of Wales in 1876 and Irish Football Association (IFA) in 1880. They are the world's four oldest national football associations and play an important part in football worldwide as they take up four of the eight seats on the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which determines the laws of football, (the other four seats being occupied by FIFA.

League systems

There are separate club football league systems for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland though some clubs play outside of their country's respective system for mainly logistical reasons. Wales did not get a national league until 1992 (though regional leagues existed prior to that), which explains why the top Welsh clubs play in what is now regarded as the English system.

The English football league system includes hundreds of interlinked leagues, consisting of thousands of divisions. The Premier League is at the top, followed by The Football League and then the Football Conference, where the structure starts to become regional and includes the Northern Premier League, the Southern League, the Isthmian League and many more besides. The Welsh clubs of Cardiff City, Colwyn Bay, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport County, Swansea City and Wrexham play in the English system. One club that plays in the Football League, Chester City, has a stadium that straddles the Welsh border, with the Club offices in England but the pitch actually in Wales.

The Northern Ireland football league system includes the IFA Premiership. One Northern Irish club, Derry City, plays its football outside of the UK in the Republic of Ireland football league system.

The Scottish football league system is much smaller, with just two national leagues: the Scottish Premier League (SPL) and Scottish Football League. There are, however, other regional leagues that are not connected to the national system, most notably the Highland Football League, East of Scotland Football League and the South of Scotland Football League. One English club, Berwick Rangers, play in the Scottish system.

The Welsh football league system includes the Welsh Premier League and a number of regional leagues. Premiership club The New Saints began playing their home matches on the English side of the border in Oswestry in 2007. Historically, the Saints represented the small Welsh village of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain, but merged with Oswestry Town, which had historically played in the Welsh football system, in 2003.

Cup competitions

There is a multitude of knockout club cup competitions. Again, these are organised on an English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish basis. Many carry qualification for the UEFA Europa League for the winners.

Each football association runs its own national cup, the FA Cup in England, the Scottish Cup in Scotland, the Welsh Cup in Wales and the Irish Cup in Northern Ireland. Traditionally, these cups have been the most liberal about whom they accept, with many teams from outside that nation (and/or league system) entering. More recently, rules have been tightened, with the competitions only open to teams who play in that nation's football league system.

There are also a number of other cups that have more stringent requirements but carry less prestige, including the Football League Cup in England, the Scottish League Cup in Scotland, Welsh Premier League Cup in Wales and Irish League Cup in Northern Ireland. Some past cups have even crossed UK boundaries, such as the Anglo-Scottish Cup. Another cup competition that crosses the UK's border is the current Setanta Sports Cup, which features four teams from the Northern Ireland league and four teams from the Republic's league system, with an extra berth from 2009 granted to the current cup holders.

National teams

There is currently no United Kingdom national football team as separate teams compete in international competition representing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There are sometimes issues about which team players are eligible for (as all the players will have simply British passports), but a player is generally eligible for whichever nation he, his parents or grandparents were born in (in the case of these being different nations, then he can choose). This has been the case with some younger players such as Aiden McGeady and Jack Collison who have chosen to play for the country of their parental heritage rather than the country of their birth. Players from crown dependencies (like the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands), which are technically not in the UK are eligible for all four teams (e.g. Matt Le Tissier and Graeme Le Saux, both of whom opted for England), as are British citizens born outside the UK or its possessions (e.g. current England international Owen Hargreaves, born in Canada).

There have, however, been times when a single team has competed under a UK banner, the most noticeable being in the Summer Olympic Games where a UK team competes as one country under the name Great Britain. In the early years, the Olympic football competition was contested between amateur sides and the UK Olympic Committee agreed to let the amateur England team represent the entire UK (Thus the team was not really representative of the entire UK, but played under that banner). More recently the Olympic competition has been played by under-23s teams and the UK has not sent any representatives.

Some people, such as politician Tony Banks, have argued for the UK having just one team to represent it but all four football associations are very much against such an idea.

The issue of a UK national team came to a head starting in 2005, when the 2012 Summer Olympics were awarded to London. While The Football Association, England's federation, favoured the idea of a single UK team for 2012, the other three federations opposed the concept, with Scotland being particularly strident in its view, fearing that a single UK team would jeopardise the independent status all four Home Nations currently enjoy within FIFA. The row lasted well into 2009, with FIFA setting a deadline of 1 June 2009 for the Home Nations to come to an agreement. On 29 May, after last-ditch talks, the four associations came to an agreement, sending a letter to FIFA stating that while the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Ireland associations still opposed the concept of a unified Team GB and would not participate in such a team, they would not prevent England from fielding a team under that banner.[1] FIFA president Sepp Blatter officially approved the deal within days.[2]

International matches between the home nations

The UK teams have played each other more times than any other footballing nations in the world. The world's first international football match was played between Scotland and England in Glasgow in 1872 (a 0–0 draw). From then on, all four teams started playing regular friendlies against each other.

In 1883 a formal competition between the UK's teams, the British Home Championship, was introduced, guaranteeing that each team would play the other three at least once a season. The Championship was discontinued in 1984, partly due to crowd trouble. Since then the teams have played each other mainly when drawn together in international competitions such as the European Championship or the World Cup.

Since 1984, when the British Home Championship ended, there has been a number of games played between the four home nations.

  • Scotland v Northern Ireland
    • 19 February 1992 (Hampden Park) Friendly - Scotland 1–0 Northern Ireland
    • 20 August 2008 (Hampden Park) Friendly - Scotland 0–0 Northern Ireland
  • Northern Ireland v England
    • 27 February 1985 (Windsor Park) World Cup Qualifier - Northern Ireland 0–1 England
    • 1 April 1987 (Windsor Park) European Championship Qualifier - Northern Ireland 0–2 England
    • 7 September 2005 (Windsor Park) World Cup Qualifier - Northern Ireland 1–0 England
  • Northern Ireland v Wales
    • 8 October 2005 (Windsor Park) World Cup Qualifier - Northern Ireland 2–3 Wales
    • 6 February 2007 (Windsor Park) Friendly - Northern Ireland 0–0 Wales

Celtic nations tournament

Since the end of the British Home Championship, there have been many calls for it to be restored to the schedule. One argument is that it would replace so-called "meaningless friendlies" with a proper tournament that would raise the interest of both the players and fans. However, there has been a lack of enthusiasm for such a proposal, particularly from England; as time has passed, the Football Association has grown in commercial power beyond that of the other three home associations, so that it could be claimed that friendlies against major footballing nations from Europe and South America are worth more than playing the home nations.

In December 2006, Lawrie Sanchez suggested that a Celtic tournament be organised, featuring the three home Celtic nations plus the Republic of Ireland.[3] He stated that the IFA hierarchy were supportive of a new Home Championship, while the SFA expressed guarded interest. This was further elaborated in February 2007 when Alex McLeish, the newly appointed manager of Scotland, expressed interest in playing against the home nations and the Republic of Ireland. Accepting that England would likely not be interested in a new Home Championship, he said "If the English FA are thinking about opposition for the new Wembley, I hope we're in their thoughts". Both England and Wales were less enthusiastic, stating that with the number of friendlies played each year it would "be difficult to see how the Home Nations would fit in".[4]

On 18 September 2008, it was announced that a tournament (the 4 Associations Tournament) featuring Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would be played in 2011.[5]

Football in the Crown dependencies and the overseas territories

Although technically not part of the UK, football in the crown dependencies is governed by The Football Association. Nevertheless players from the crown dependencies can play in any of the four British teams, while at the same time the crown dependencies also have their own teams:

Overseas territories are not technically part of the UK either, and they have their own teams. Some of the overseas territories have full or associate membership in the corresponding regional federations:

Club meetings in Europe

There have been several occasions when clubs from the four home nations have played each other in European competition. The matches were either played over two legs or in groups where teams play each other twice, the aggregate scores counting both matches in each pairing are listed below.

England v Scotland

  • European Cup
    • 1969–70: Leeds United 1–3 Celtic
    • 1980–81: Aberdeen 1–3 Liverpool
    • 1992–93: Rangers 6–1 Leeds United
    • 2003–04: Manchester United 3–0 Rangers
    • 2006–07: Manchester United 3–2 Celtic
    • 2006–07: Celtic 1–0 Manchester United
    • 2008–09: Manchester United 3–0 Celtic
    • 2008–09: Celtic 1–1 Manchester United
    • 2009-10: Arsenal 2-0 Celtic
    • 2009-10: Celtic 1-3 Arsenal
  • UEFA Cup
    • 1973–74: Aberdeen 2–3 Tottenham Hotspur
    • 1973–74: Leeds United 0–1 Hibernian
    • 1975–76: Hibernian 4–3 Liverpool
    • 1981–82: Ipswich Town 2–4 Aberdeen
    • 1983–84: Nottingham Forest 2–1 Celtic
    • 1984–85: Manchester United 6–5 Dundee United
    • 1997–98: Celtic 2–2 Liverpool
    • 2002–03: Celtic 3–0 Blackburn Rovers
    • 2002–03: Celtic 3–1 Liverpool

England v Wales

England v Northern Ireland

Scotland v Wales

Scotland v Northern Ireland

  • UEFA Cup
    • 1987–88: Coleraine 1–4 Dundee United
    • 1989–90: Glentoran 1–5 Dundee United
    • 2001–02: Glenavon 0–2 Kilmarnock
    • 2006–07: Derry City[6] 7–3 Gretna

Wales v Northern Ireland

National football centres

Currently, none of the British nations operates a national academy, although the FA is planning a National Football Centre to be located at Burton upon Trent..[7]

National football museums


See also

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