Monday, December 17, 2007

Football is the national sport of England, and as such has an important place within English national life. The sport is almost always referred to simply as football; it is unusual for it to be called soccer and it is only referred to as "association football" in very limited circumstances. Any unqualified reference to football in an English context should be read as a reference to association football rather than to any other member of the football family of sports. The only other members of this family played to any great extent in England belong to the rugby football sub-family, and are usually referred to as rugby. The title and remainder of this article refers to football in its English sense.
Kicking ball games are described in England since at least 1280. England can boast the earliest ever documented use of the English word "football" (1409) and the earliest reference to football in French (1314). A description of an exclusively kicking ball game from Nottinghamshire in the fifteenth century bears similarity to football. There is good evidence for refereed, team "foteball" games being played in English public schools since at least 1581

League system
The Premier League was founded in 1992 after England's top clubs broke away from the Football League in a successful effort aimed at increasing their income at the expense of clubs in the lower divisions. Links with The Football League were maintained, and each season the bottom three clubs are relegated from the Premier League and replaced by three from the Championship.

The Football League

Main article: English football league system The English football league system
Although the Football Association abandoned a formal definition of "amateur" in the early 1970s, the vast majority of clubs still effectively play as amateurs, with no financial reward. The Amateur Football Alliance is the largest organised of such competitions, being particularly strong in the London area.

Amateur football
Many teams operate reserve teams in separate leagues; in some lower levels of the pyramid, reserve teams play against first teams. The top division for reserve teams of professional clubs is the FA Premier Reserve League. Beneath that operate the Central League, and the Football Combination, which cover the north and south of England respectively.

Reserve leagues
Many club sides have Academy (youth) teams; the top level of youth football is the FA Premier Academy League, consisting of Premier League and Football League club's Academy sides, which operates at U18 and U16 levels (although the latter is non-competitive). The next level below the Academy League is the Football League Youth Alliance, in which the remainder of Football League clubs field their youth teams. There is also the FA Youth Cup, a nationwide cup competition for U18 teams.

Youth leagues
Football in England is not just a spectator sport or the preserve of official leagues and clubs, but a sport attracting mass participation at many different levels and in a wide variety of forms, including Sunday league football and five-a-side football.

Football in England Beyond organised football
The two most important cup competitions in England are the FA Cup and the League Cup, but several other national cups are targeted at clubs at different levels.
The FA Cup, first held in 1872, is the oldest and most respected national cup competition in the world. It is open to around 600 clubs in the higher levels of the pyramid. The FA Community Shield is played each August as a one-off match between the FA Cup winners and the Premier League champions.
The League Cup (currently known as the Carling Cup) is England's second major cup competition, and is contested by the 92 Premier League and Football League clubs. The winners of both main cup competitions qualify for the UEFA Cup, and both are considered as important tournaments.
The Football League Trophy is a competition for clubs in Football League One and Football League Two.
The FA Trophy is open to clubs in the top four levels of the National League System, and the FA Vase is for clubs in the next couple of levels below that. These competitions replaced the FA Amateur Cup, which was the leading competition for amateur non-League teams for many years. Representative teams from leagues lower still, mostly at county level, contest the FA National League System Cup, and the FA Sunday Cup is for Sunday league football teams.
Defunct national cup competitions include:

Full Members Cup
Super Cup
Anglo-Italian Cup
Anglo-Scottish Cup
Texaco Cup
Watney Cup Cup competitions
Clubs who do well in either the Premier League, FA Cup or League Cup can qualify to compete in various UEFA-organised Europe-wide competitions in the following season (as well as continuing to play in domestic competitions). The number of English clubs playing in Europe in any one season can range from seven to eleven, depending on the qualification scenarios. Currently, England is awarded the following places in European competitions:
In addition, once in a European competition, it becomes possible to qualify for others:

All the winners of the Champions League Third Qualifying Round go forward to the Champions League
All the losers of the Champions League Third Qualifying Round go forward to the UEFA Cup
All the winners of the UEFA Cup Second Qualifying Round go forward to the UEFA Cup
All the winners in the Intertoto Cup Final Round go forward to the UEFA Cup Second Qualifying Round
Any clubs playing in the Champions League that finish third in the group stage go into the UEFA Cup Third Round Qualification for European competitions

Main article: England national football team The England national team

Main article: Women's football in England Women's football

For more details on this topic, see History of English football. Stadiums of English football
The following articles detail the major results and events in each season since 1871-72, when the first organised competition, the FA Cup, was created. Seasons in italics are wartime seasons, when official national competition was suspended, although regional football continued.

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