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The first ever FA Cup final

As this letter from July 1871 shows, an FA committee established the first FA Cup. Letter courtesy of the Football Association and the National Football Museum) Saturday’s FA Cup final between Arsenal and Aston Villa at Wembley was watched by half a billion viewers in more than 120 countries. But what exactly was the scene at the original final way back in 1872?

An estimated crowd of 2,000 were there to see 22 amateurs play on a cricket pitch, with no nets, as Wanderers beat Royal Engineers 1-0 thanks to a goal from Morton Betts.

Prior to the 1872 FA Cup, there were no regular competitive games being played in England. Football Association secretary Charles Alcock drew up plans for the first FA Cup which saw 15 teams enter the first round of November 1871.

Step forward Barnes, Civil Service, Hitchin, Crystal Palace (confusingly not the present-day Palace but their precursors who were dissolved in 1876), Maidenhead, Marlow, Queen’s Park, Donington School, Upton Park, Clapham Rovers, Royal Engineers, Reigate Priory, Wanderers, Harrow Chequers and Hampstead Heathens, who were given a bye.

Teething problems and the logistical headaches of scheduling football matches across Britain in the era of steam meant that Scottish side Queen’s Park advanced to the semi-finals without actually playing a game. Read more here

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