Does the F.A. Cup hold anywhere near the same importance as the Champions League?

Famous throughout the world, the FA Cup was football’s first great cup competition, a showpiece occasion that traditionally ended the English season. Its success saw it become the world’s cup final, and the most watched domestic game on the planet.

It all began on 20th July 1871, when the Football Association committee agreed to create a ‘Challenge Cup’, in which all clubs belonging to the Association would be invited to compete. The first ever FA Cup competition subsequently kicked off in November of that year. 

On 16th March 1872, Wanderers were crowned the inaugural winners of the cup, in a final played at the Kennington Oval. This year saw the 150th F.A Cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool, played in front of a sell-out crowd of 85,000 at Wembley stadium.

Champions League

In 1955 the European Cup was introduced as a knockout tournament for the champions of Europe’s domestic leagues. The first winner was Real Madrid, who defeated Stade de Reims 4–3 in the final at Parc des Princes, Paris, on 13th June 1956.

The competition became the Champions League in 1992 and its success saw it quickly evolve. A round-robin group stage was added and multiple team entry from select countries soon followed, allowing stronger teams from the big leagues to enter. 

It is the premier club competition in the world and is regarded as the highest accolade a player can achieve outside of lifting the world cup. Both the Champions league and the F.A Cup are followed by a huge global audience, and the tournaments create huge anticipation and excitement. 

The F.A. Cup can be notoriously hard to make a football prediction for. There are ‘giant killings’ every year, with non-league teams often beating those far higher up the football pyramid. The F.A. Cup certainly has more history, but which tournament is the most prestigious?

F.A. Cup vs Champions League

It may appear a foregone conclusion when debating the merits of wining the F.A. Cup or the Champions league. One is played by the best teams in the world while the other is a domestic based cup competition that incorporates semi-professional teams.

But when you dig a little deeper the distinction is not quite so clear cut, especially from the point of view of your average football fan.

TV Audience

The estimated global TV audience for the 2022 FA Cup was 500 million, while the domestic TV audience was 15 million viewers. Compare that to the Champions League which recorded its highest global audience in 2018 with an estimated 380 million fans tuning in to watch, while domestically this year’s final was watched by only 8.7 million. 

WINNER: F.A. Cup

Final Attendance figures

2022 FA CUP Final: 85,000

Played at the home of football, Wembley Stadium, the FA Cup is always a sell-out, attracting crowds of over 80,000 fans every year.

2022 Champions League Final: 75,000

Played at a different stadium every year, the final venue moves from country to country, often resulting in lower fan attendance due to smaller stadiums being used. This year’s final was played at the Stade de France in Paris.

WINNER: F.A. Cup

Prize Money

The money on offer to teams in the Champions League dwarfs the amount available in England’s premier cup competition, and with sponsorship deals and TV money also taken into account, the Champions league is a money-making machine that leaves the FA Cup in its wake.

FA CUP

Semi-final winners: £1,000,000

Semi-final losers: £500,000

Final runners-up: £1,000,000

Final winners: £2,000,000

Champions League

Champions: €19,000,000

Runner-up: €15,000,000

Semi-finals: €12,000,000

Quarter-finals: €10,500,000

Round of 16: €9,500,000

WINNER: Champions League

Number of Teams

Both competitions have qualifying rounds in order to enter the main draw, making the number of teams involved higher than the figures below. But the official number of entrants to the proper draw are:

FA CUP: 736

Champions League: 32

WINNER: F.A. Cup

Rewards:

The winners of the F.A Cup receive a far smaller pot of prize money when compared to the Champions League, but the footballing rewards are also inferior. An F.A Cup win assures the victors a place in the Europe League competition the following year. While Champions League victory guarantees a much sought-after place in the lucrative Champions League competition next season.

WINNER: Champions League

History

This year’s F.A. CUP will be the 151st time the tournament has taken place, while the Champions League will mark it’s 67th final in Istanbul in 2023.

WINNER: F.A. Cup

The Future

Football is always evolving, and these two cup competitions are no different. There are rumours of Champions League entry for winners of the F.A. Cup in the future that will definitely enhance its prestige.

The Champions League however, has experienced uncertainty over its format for a number of years, as Europe’s elite clubs try and maximise revenues from the competition. The attempted European Super League breakaway was a warning to UEFA that clubs want change, but also a warning to the clubs about the power of their fans who were not happy with the idea.

The Winner is?

The top players at the top clubs will always aspire to winning the Champions league. It is the pinnacle of club football and second only to the world cup in prestige. But the F.A. Cup has tradition and history and for all the players up and down England who will never get to play in Europe, the dream of wining the F.A. Cup is still a powerful one.

Sell-out crowds at Wembley every year and a huge global audience speak to its popularity with fans, as the thrill of F.A. Cup football with its giant killings and last-minute winners, continue to excite fans up and down the country. While the Champions League is seen as a competition for Europe’s elite clubs and rich owners, the F.A. Cup is, and always will be, for the fans.

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