The English Football Association (FA) was founded in 1863 when the chief clubs and schools playing their own versions of football met to form an association for the purpose of framing a set of official rules under which all could play the game. Uniformity was the aim. The FA Cup, international football, professionalism and league competition followed. From there, football has spread irresistibly all over the world.
The FA's influence increased significantly after a Challenge Cup was established in 1871. Within a decade, the original membership of 12 clubs had increased to 128. Wanderers, a team set up by ex-public school and university players, won the first FA Cup final 1-0 against Royal Engineers at Kennington Oval in London in 1872. From 1923 to 2000 the match was played at Wembley before moving to Cardiff for six years while the new Wembley was being built. The FA Cup is one of England's great sporting institutions.
The first international games were those played between England and Scotland in the 1870s. A crowd of 4,000 watched the first official international in Glasgow in 1872. It was not until 1908, when an England side toured central Europe, that teams from outside Britain were encountered.
The FA was represented at a FIFA meeting for the first time in 1906, but withdrew in 1920 because it refused to be associated with certain countries, before rejoining in 1924. However, it dropped out again four years later in a dispute over FIFA's definition of amateurism.
The FA renewed its FIFA ties in 1946, and an England team competed in its maiden FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 1950. Bobby Charlton played a crucial role in England's re-emergence as a world football power in the 1960s, alongside team-mates of the calibre of Gordon Banks, Bobby Moore and Martin Peters. Ably managed by Alf Ramsey, England won the World Cup in 1966. Since that great day at Wembley, there have been two appearances in UEFA European Championship semi-finals (1968 in Italy, and 1996 on home soil), and one in a World Cup semi-final (1990 in Italy).
Down the years, England has produced further fine players of the quality of Sir Stanley Matthews, Sir Tom Finney, Duncan Edwards, Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne, Peter Shilton, Glenn Hoddle and Bryan Robson. Club sides have also performed with great distinction in European competitions. Liverpool FC have lifted the European Champion Clubs' Cup five times, while Manchester United FC (three times), Nottingham Forest FC (twice), Aston Villa FC and Chelsea FC have also landed Europe's most prestigious club prize. Furthermore, Tottenham Hotspur FC, West Ham United FC, Manchester City FC, Chelsea (twice), Everton FC, Manchester United and Arsenal FC claimed the former European Cup Winners' Cup, and Liverpool (three times), Tottenham (twice) and Ipswich Town FC captured the UEFA Cup.
Initially, the FA maintained a strictly amateur outlook, and its authority remained in the balance until it decided to legalise professionalism in 1885. The association has been a limited company since 1903. It has consolidated its reputation as the world's senior football administration, adding greatly to its activities over the decades.
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