22 Amateurs And A Crowd of 2000: The First FA Cup Final | RockSport

Football in the late 19th Century was a chaotic affair as this illustration of an early England v Scotland game at the Oval shows

This season’s FA Cup Final at Wembley will be watched by half a billion viewers in more than 120 countries.

Close to 90,000 fans will be at Wembley for the 135th final of the world’s oldest cup competition as two teams of probably elite, millionaire sportsmen battle it out for glory.

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.

BBC Sport, with the help of Matthew Taylor, professor of history at De Montfort University, look at the first final 143 years ago…

The best 15 teams in the land

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.

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

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.

The semi-finals – both goalless draws – were played at the Kennington Oval. The Royal Engineers booked their place in the final with a 3-0 replay win over Crystal Palace, while Wanderers made it through when Glasgow’s Queen’s Park decided they could not afford another costly trip to London for the replay and withdrew.