The Pernicious Pervasiveness of Gambling Companies in Football

I have a confession to make.

I gamble.

I don’t gamble often, but I do make occasional visits to a bookie, a newsagent, and sometimes even to a casino.

I’ve had some memorable days in the past when gambling has brought short term happiness into my life. When a substantial win has become a future dinner party anecdote.

In fact if it wasn’t for gambling I would not have made it through University.

I became that rare thing for a student. I left university with my account in the black. And all because I made a profit from gambling.

But I was one of the lucky ones (and not just because I won money from the bookies). I have had the self-discipline not to believe I will always win and not to chase my losses when gambling.

Even now, when finances are extremely tight, I don’t think that gambling could be the answer to my financial problems. But many others do think that, even when gambling has been the cause of their financial problems.

You see, gambling is a drug. And like any drug it affects people in different ways. And like so many other drugs, when it affects people adversely it can become addictive and life destroying.

Unless you’ve been a gambling addict or have lived with someone who is addicted to gambling, or have witnessed the devastating effects on people’s lives due to gambling, then it’s very difficult to empathise and visualise what life must be like for those affected by it.

For those of us who have the occasional flutter on the nags, or a weekly acca on the football, or place £2 on a random number lottery ticket, the idea of gambling being anything other than a leisure pursuit is apocryphal.

But for others it can ruin their lives.

I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been able to dip in and dip out of gambling without it affecting me (win or lose). But I’ve witnessed others who have been less fortunate, and whose lives, and the lives of those around them, have become downright miserable as a consequence.

It is this potential of gambling to destroy lives that makes me rail against its pernicious involvement in the game I love.

Promotion of gambling companies in football is omnipresent. It has pervaded its way into the game so much so that it has become the norm.

If you don’t think gambling messages are pervasive in football then you’ve not been paying attention.

When commentators refer to Stoke City’s stadium they refer to it by the company who bought the naming rights? But why do they do that? Why not just call it ‘Stoke City’s’ ground.

When looking at photos of Aston Villa playing Leeds United or Middlesbrough up against Derby County, all that stands out in the picture is that the name on both team’s shirts is that of the same gambling company. But why do clubs allow gambling company names on their shirts, especially when a large proportion of their fan-base are under 18s?

When club Twitter feeds promote competitions that require followers to like and RT a gambling company sponsor’s free ticket giveaway Tweet. Why do they do that when they know that many followers are not old enough to gamble?

When League and Football administrators get into bed with gambling companies because their sponsorship terms are so much more lucrative than can be provided by companies in other businesses. And these sponsorship names become the name of the Leagues and are regurgitated ad infinitum by those in the media.

When newspapers highlight the double standards of the FA for promoting a ‘heads-up’ mental health awareness campaign whilst at the same time licencing the FA Cup to a gambling company, when that self-same media is funded by overt gambling company adverts and actively runs gambling tips columns in its sports pages.

I could go on providing hundreds more examples of gambling companies’ Japanese Knotweed-like stranglehold on football.

And the reason gambling companies are so involved in football is down to one thing and one thing only; the continual pursuit of more and more profit by those in charge of the game and the clubs involved.

Why settle for £50million to name the stadium ‘the Electronics Company arena’ when for £250million it can be called ‘the Gambling Company ground’?

Why accept £30k to be called ‘the Garage Mechanics Company league’ when for £100k it could be ‘the Betting league’?

Why bank just £500k to have ‘local company name’ emblazoned on the front of shirts when £2.5milion means ‘foreign country’s gambling company name’ could be there instead?

Of course, it makes economic sense to accept the highest bidder, but surely there needs to be a moral compass somewhere amongst the clubs and the administrators that puts a check step in place to say there is a balance between the money being offered and where it’s coming from.

After all, surely money offered by drugs cartels, or cigarette companies, or arms dealers or porn producing companies would be refused no matter how much was offered. So why is money from gambling companies not refused as well?

And as long as gambling companies can get away with permeating all aspects of the game, they will continue to do so. Because they know it works.

They know it gets already addicted gamblers to carry on gambling. It converts the occasional gambler into a more frequent one. And it generates a whole load of new gamblers, particularly amongst those who are legally not allowed to gamble.

So, I’ll make a slight amendment to a statement I wrote earlier.

If you don’t think gambling messages are pervasive in football then it’s probably because it’s working.


FA Cup 2019-20 3rd Rd Top-Line Review

Stat of the Round

Liverpool become the first club to knock the same club out of the ‘Proper’ Rounds of the FA Cup a dozen times.


First time in 4th Round in a while

16 years – Northampton Town

7 years – Barnsley, Norwich City

4 years – AFC Bournemouth, Shrewsbury Town

3 years – Fulham, Oxford United


Into 4th Round and a while since last KO before Round 4

23 years – Chelsea

8 years – Manchester City

6 years – Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur

4 years – Millwall, Newcastle United

3 years – Sheffield Wednesday, West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United


First time Knocked-Out before 4th Round for a while

4 years – Brighton and Hove Albion

3 years – Swansea City


Consecutive 3rd Round Exits

4 – Aston Villa, Fleetwood Town, Luton Town, Stoke City

3 – Blackburn Rovers, Leeds United

2 – Blackpool, Huddersfield Town, Nottingham Forest, Peterborough United, Preston North End, Rotherham United, Wigan Athletic


Knocked Out in 3rd Round but Set Best Run

AFC Fylde (12th campaign)


Knocked Out in 3rd Round but Equalled Best Run

Fleetwood Town (5th time in 21 campaigns and 4th successive time)


Avenged Previous FA Cup Defeat(s)

AFC Bournemouth 4-0 Luton Town

Preston North End 2-4 Norwich City


Coventry City 3-0 Bristol Rovers


Biggest Wins of the 3rd Round

Queens Park Rangers 5-1 Swansea City

AFC Bournemouth 4-0 Luton Town

Manchester City 4-1 Port Vale

Oxford United 4-1 Hartlepool United

Millwall 3-0 Newport County


Newcastle United 4-1 Rochdale

Coventry City 3-0 Bristol Rovers



Burton Albion (3) 2-4 Northampton Town (4)

Brighton and Hove Albion (1) 0-1 Sheffield Wednesday (2)

Crystal Palace (1) 0-1 Derby County (2)

Fulham (2) 2-1 Aston Villa (1)


Shrewsbury Town (3) 1-0 Bristol City (2)


Hat-tricks and more

Tom Eaves (Hull City)

Adam Idah (Norwich City)



Birmingham City have now defeated Blackburn Rovers in all four of their FA Cup meetings.

Queens Park Rangers recorded their biggest FA Cup victory for 25 years.

FA Cup 2019-20 3rd Rd Preview


The FA Cup 3rd Round weekend is still one of the biggest events in the English football calendar as 44 clubs from the top two divisions join the 20 other clubs who have fought their way through to this round from various starting points.

09 Rd 3 2019-20 Club Badges FACupFactfile Logo-page-001.jpg

Two non-league clubs survive, both with club FA Cup records in their sights. AFC Fylde are participating in the FA Cup for just the 12th time and are appearing in the 3rd Round for the first time ever. Whatever happens in their encounter with Premier League side Sheffield United, the Coasters will become history makers.

Despite being a Football League club for most of their 102 year existence, Hartlepool United have never actually gone further than the 4th Round. A win at EFL One club Oxford United would equal that record run, but this time would be achieved having had to start one round earlier than on their previous best runs.

Four wins in one FA Cup season, though, would still not be a record for Pools despite their limited cup runs in the past. Back in their early FA Cup exploits the club once reached the 6th Qualifying Round having started in the Preliminary Round, a total of six victories in one season. If they match that this season, they’ll be in the Quarter Finals!

Near neighbours to AFC Fylde are Fleetwood Town who are already equalling their best FA Cup run to the 3rd Round for the 5th time in the last nine seasons. Hosting fellow EFL One club Portsmouth probably represents the best chance the Fishermen have had so far to progress to the 4th Round for the first time ever.

Burton Albion versus Northampton Town is the only 3rd Round tie where neither side has at least reached the FA Cup Quarter Finals in the past. The Brewers are looking to equal their best run to the 4th Round whilst the Cobblers have only ever gone as far as the 5th Round in the past.

There are just two all Premier League clashes in this year’s 3rd Round. Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United reprise their Quarter Final from last season. If Wolves win again this time it would become the first time ever the Red Devils have been knocked out of the competition by the same club in successive FA Cup matches!

The other all Premier League tie is the Merseyside Derby. Liverpool and Everton have been paired in the ‘Proper’ Rounds of the FA Cup more often than any two other teams. Including Finals, this will be their 19th FA Cup pairing and their 25th match.

Even though they lead by 11 wins to seven in past FA Cup meetings, two years ago saw Liverpool’s first victory over their neighbours in the competition at Anfield!

If no Premier League club suffers a Cupset in this round then it would equal the 18 top flight clubs who progressed to the 4th Round in the 2000-01 season when Bradford City and Newcastle United were the only Premier League 3rd Round casualties.

The second most common tie of this year’s 3rd Round sees Arsenal take on Leeds United in the Monday night match on BBC One. Including Finals this is the 10th time the two clubs have been drawn together in the competition with the Gunners winning through on seven of the previous nine occasions.

Arsenal are Leeds United’s most common FA Cup opponent but they’ve never beaten the Gunners at Elland Road in the competition. If they’re going to cause a Cupset this year, then they’d better not rely on a replay to achieve it.

Eighteen 3rd Round ties in total involve two clubs who’ve actually met each other in the competition at least once in the past, but for one tie many researchers may not realise they have actually done so. There’s no record of ‘Gillingham’ playing ‘West Ham United’ in the FA Cup, but they have met four times before, all at the turn of the Twentieth Century, when one or both of the clubs played under their previous names.

Two Premier League clubs are in the midst of contrasting FA Cup runs. Chelsea have not failed to progress beyond the 3rd Round for 21 seasons, last losing at this stage of the competition in the 1997-98 season (3-5 at home to Manchester United).

Norwich City, on the other hand, have failed to progress to the 4th Round since the 2012-13 season (a 3-0 win at Peterborough United). The Canaries’ poor run is the longest current non-winning run, a title they only recently claimed by virtue of their local rivals, Ipswich Town, winning their first FA Cup game in 10 years earlier in this year’s competition.

There are 13 Premier League clubs hosting an FA Cup 3rd Round tie, meaning that 13 of the 32 ties will utilise VAR whilst the others will not. Unfortunately the FA have not taken the lead from UEFA who decided that if all Euro 2020 qualifying matches could not use VAR then no qualifying matches would use it. Their approach brings an imbalance to the competition and I believe it is a poor decision by the FA to allow this inconsistency.

A positive decision made by the FA, however, is that all FA Cup 3rd Round matches are officially starting one minute later than matches might ordinarily begin, in order to highlight the FA’s mental health charity’s Heads-Up campaign. Which leads me to ….


Tie by Tie Previews (listed in Kick Off time order)

Saturday 12.31 pm

Birmingham City vs Blackburn Rovers

32 Birmingham City v Blackburn Rovers.jpg

Bristol City vs Shrewsbury Town

13 Bristol City v Shrewsbury Town

Burnley vs Peterborough United

31 Burnley v Peterborough United

Millwall vs Newport County

23 Millwall v Newport County

Rochdale vs Newcastle United

07 Rochdale v Newcastle United

Rotherham United vs Hull City

25 Rotherham United v Hull City

Saturday 3.01pm

Brentford vs Stoke City

26 Brentford v Stoke City

Brighton and Hove Albion vs Sheffield Wednesday

15 Brighton & Hove Albion v Sheffield Weds

Cardiff City vs Carlisle United

08 Cardiff City v Carlisle United

Fulham vs Aston Villa

03 Fulham v Aston Villa

Oxford United vs Hartlepool United

09 Oxford United v Hartlepool United

Preston North End vs Norwich City

22 Preston North End v Norwich City

Reading vs Blackpool

20 Reading v Blackpool

Southampton vs Huddersfield Town

11 Southampton v Huddersfield Town

Watford vs Tranmere Rovers

21 Watford v Tranmere Rovers

Saturday 5.31pm

AFC Bournemouth vs Luton Town

14 AFC Bournemouth v Luton Town

Fleetwood Town vs Portsmouth

27 Fleetwood Town v Portsmouth

Leicester City vs Wigan Athletic

01 Leicester City v Wigan Athletic

Manchester City vs Port Vale

18 Manchester City v Port Vale

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Manchester United

05 Wolves v Manchester United

Sunday 2.01pm

Bristol Rovers vs Coventry City

16 Bristol Rovers v Coventry City

Burton Albion vs Northampton Town

30 Burton Albion v Northampton Town

Charlton Athletic vs West Bromwich Albion

06 Charlton Athletic v West Brom

Chelsea vs Nottingham Forest

04 Chelsea v Nottingham Forest

Crewe Alexandra vs Barnsley

17 Crewe Alexandra v Barnsley

Crystal Palace vs Derby County

24 Crystal Palace v Derby County

Middlesbrough vs Tottenham Hotspur

19 Middlesbrough v Tottenham Hotspur

Queens Park Rangers vs Swansea City

02 QPR v Swansea City

Sheffield United vs AFC Fylde

10 Sheffield United v AFC Fylde

Sunday 4.01pm

Liverpool vs Everton

12 Liverpool v Everton

Sunday 6.16pm

Gillingham vs West Ham United

29 Gillingham v West Ham United

Monday 7.56pm

Arsenal vs Leeds United

28 Arsenal v Leeds United

Vote for the 2019-20 FACTAs

BREAKING – The 2019-20 FACTA winners have been announced

Performance of the FA Cup FACTA goes to … Maldon & Tiptree

2019-20 Performance of the Cup-page-001

Special Team Award FACTA goes to … Chichester City

2019-20 Special Team Award-page-001

Surprise of the FA Cup FACTA goes to … Chichester City

2019-20 Surprise of the Cup-page-001

Team of the FA Cup FACTA goes to …. Maldon & Tiptree

2019-20 Team of the Cup-page-001

Congratulations to Maldon & Tiptree and to Chichester City for their deserved awards, and to all the nominees in this year’s FACTAs, all of whom produced something in this season’s FA Cup worthy of recognition.



Voting is now open for the fifth FACupFactfile Team Awards (FACTAs) 2019-20.

The FACTAs are the only awards that are dedicated to celebrating Non-League clubs’ achievements in the FA Cup.

Voting for clubs in each FACTA category can be done in up to five different ways.

  1. Reply with a comment stating Club Name and FACTA Category
  2. Send a Direct Message (DM) to @FACupFactfile on Twitter
  3. Vote for your favourites in the Twitter Polls on @FACupFactfile pinned Tweet
  4. Send an email to stating Club Name and FACTA Category
  5. Leave a reply on the FACupFactfile Facebook page announcing FACTA nominees


The FACTA Categories, nominees and reasons for nominations

Team of the FA Cup FACTA

AFC FYLDE – For reaching the 3rd Rd for the first time ever in just their 12th campaign

CHICHESTER CITY – First club in 70 years to reach 2nd Rd having started in the Extra Preliminary Rd

MALDON & TIPTREE – For reaching 2nd Rd for first time ever, 3 rounds further than ever gone before

ROYSTON TOWN – For reaching the 4th Qualifying Rd for the first time ever in their 42nd campaign


Performance of the FA Cup FACTA

CARSHALTON ATHLETIC – For their 2-1 win over two levels higher Dagenham & Redbridge

KINGSTONIAN – For their 4-0 win at EFL 2 club Macclesfield Town in 1st Round ‘Proper’

LONGRIDGE TOWN – For winning 6-1 versus Barnoldswick Town in their first ever FA Cup match

MALDON & TIPTREE – For their 2-1 win at EFL 2 club Leyton Orient in 1st Round ‘Proper’

MELTON TOWN – For their debut game 2-1 turnaround Cupset at FA Cup veterans Worksop Town

SUTTON ATHLETIC – In their debut FA Cup run won 6-0 versus two levels higher Ashford Town (Mdx)

WHICKHAM – For their 10-1 win at Harrogate Railway Athletic, the highest in this year’s competition

WHITBY TOWN – For their 3-1 Cupset at Gloucester City with a squad of just 14 including 3 keepers


Surprise of the FA Cup FACTA

ABBEY RANGERS – For winning through 4 FA Cup rounds having never ever won a FA Cup tie before

CHICHESTER CITY – For going 5 Rounds further than ever before since merging with Portfield in 2000

COLNE – For becoming the first club from the Lancashire town to reach the 4th Qualifying Rd

WALTHAMSTOW – For producing two Cupsets against Great Wakering Rovers & Aylesbury United

Special Team Award FACTA

BOSTON UNITED – For the spirit of the club and the enthusiasm of the fans to win through 4 away ties and to provide a terrific last FA Cup game memory at York Street

CHICHESTER CITY – For committing to donate some of their FA Cup prize money from receiving a bye in the 1st Round to help support any future Bury FC club

DUNSTON – For providing excitement and goals in their Cup run to the 3rd Qualifying Rd netting 21 times to become the top scorers in this season’s FA Cup

HARINGEY BOROUGH / YEOVIL TOWN – For solidarity in the face of racism opting to halt their FA Cup match rather than allow the abuse to continue


Good luck to all the FACTA nominees. Voting closes at mid-day on Thursday 2nd January, 2020

FA Cup 2019-20 2nd Rd Topline Facts & Stats Review

Stat of the Round

Rotherham United equalled the best ever comeback victory winning 4-3 after being 3-0 down at Solihull Moors with just 15 minutes of normal time remaining, probaly the latest any club has left it to turnaround a three goal deficit in the competition’s history.


First time in 3rd Round ever

AFC Fylde (12th campaign)


Into 3rd Round and at least Equalling Best FA Cup Run

Fleetwood Town – 5th time in 21st campaign


First time in 3rd Round in a while

11 years – Crewe Alexandra

4 years – Northampton Town


Into 3rd Round and long time since last KO before Round 3

5 years – Peterborough United


Non-League Clubs into 3rd Round

AFC Fylde, Hartlepool United


Consecutive 2nd Round Exits

3 – Maidstone United, Plymouth Argyle

2 – Cheltenham Town, Solihull Moors


Knocked Out in 2nd Round but Set Best Run

Chichester City (18th / 74th campaign)

Maldon & Tiptree (10th / 23rd campaign)


Knocked Out in 2nd Round but Equalled Best Run

Maidstone United – 4th time in 18th campaign

Solihull Moors – 3rd time in 13th campaign


Knocked Out Before 3rd Round for First Time in a While

Ipswich Town (64 years)


Avenged Previous FA Cup Defeat(s)

Oldham Athletic 0-1 Burton Albion


Crewe Alexandra 3-1 Eastleigh



Hartlepool United (5) 1-0 Exeter City (4) (A.e.t.)


Biggest Wins of the 2nd Round

Tranmere Rovers 5-1 Chichester City

Gillingham 3-0 Doncaster Rovers

Peterborough United 3-0 Dover Athletic


Hat-tricks and more

Morgan Ferrier – Tranmere Rovers

Tom Pope – Port Vale

FA Cup 2019-20 2nd Round Preview

There are now only 84 of the original 736 entrants remaining in the 2019-20 FA Cup, and for the first time in the competition’s history two of them are from Level Eight in the Football Pyramid.

08 Rd 2 2019-20 Club Badges FACupFactfile Logo-page-001

Isthmian League Division One North outfit Maldon and Tiptree produced one of the FA Cup giant-killings in FA Cup history in the 1st Round defeating EFL Two side Leyton Orient on their patch. The Jammers now have the chance to repeat the feat when they host Newport County from the same Division in the opening tie of the Round being shown live by the BBC on Friday 29th November.

Maldon and Tiptree have reached the Second Round for the first time ever after having started their campaign in the Preliminary Round. Likewise, Isthmian League Division One South East side Chichester City are also competing in this Round for the first time ever, but they started their campaign two weeks earlier in the Extra Preliminary Round.

Chichester City are the first club since Mossley 70 years ago to reach the 2nd Round having started in the Extra Preliminary Round, but they face a formidable task to become the first club since Southall in 1936 to make the 3rd Round from such an early start. They travel to EFL One side Tranmere Rovers, a club which has reached the FA Cup Quarter Finals three times since the 2000s.

The achievements of those two Level Eight clubs means that the terrific first appearance in the Second Round for 19 years by Kingstonian has largely gone unnoticed. The Level Seven Surrey club host a fellow Non-League side in the shape of National League AFC Fylde who are equalling their best FA Cup run this season. This tie at least guarantees non-league presence in the 3rd Round, but how many more will join them?

Maidstone United of National League South are also equalling their best FA Cup run this season as they travel to former FA Cup winners Blackpool of EFL One. Likewise, National League Solihull Moors are matching their best FA Cup run to date and they host EFL One club Rotherham United who won only their first FA Cup tie for six years in the 1st Round.

National League North club Altrincham hope to rekindle former FA Cup glories as they travel to EFL One club Portsmouth, the most recent FA Cup winners in this 2nd Round. Fellow Level Six club Boston United also travel to EFL One opposition Rochdale looking to equal their best ever FA Cup run, last achieved 15 years ago. Dover Athletic of the National League are also looking to equal their best FA Cup run with an ‘against the odds’ victory at EFL One club Peterborough United.

Two former recent EFL clubs travel to current EFL Two sides. Hartlepool United have another long haul return trip to face Exeter City in the competition for the first time, whilst Notts County travel to Northampton Town to try to avenge a two-legged defeat to the same opposition back in the 1945-46 season.

National League side Eastleigh might feel fate is on their side to enable them to equal their best FA Cup run, first achieved in 2015-16 season. Four years ago they beat this season’s opponents Crewe Alexandra in the 1st Round before beating Stourbridge in the 2nd Round. They face Crewe in the 2nd Round this year after having defeated Stourbridge in the 1st Round.

Only one 2nd Round tie sees two former winners come face-to-face, but it is the first time that Coventry City and Ipswich Town will have met in the FA Cup. Ipswich Town won their first FA Cup game in 16 attempts in their 1st Round match, but nonetheless it is still 64 years since the club exited the FA Cup before the 3rd Round.

The most common ties of the Round see Bristol Rovers and Plymouth Argyle drawn together for the fourth time (Rovers have a two to one advantage in past meetings), and Shrewsbury Town to face Mansfield Town for the fourth time (with a two to one win ratio, too).

The only other tie involving clubs who’ve met in the competition before sees Oldham Athletic host Burton Albion having been successful on both previous occasions, albeit the first time only on penalties.

Two EFL clubs are looking to equal their best FA Cup runs. Forest Green Rovers host Carlisle United having last made the 3rd Round 10 years ago, whilst Fleetwood Town travel to Crawley Town looking to appear in the 3rd Round for the fourth successive season.


History Beckons for Two Level Eight Clubs in FA Cup

For the first time since a national Non-League division was introduced ahead of the 1979-80 season, there will be two clubs from Level Eight of the English football pyramid in the Second Round of the FA Cup.

(There were two Northern League clubs in the 2nd Round in the 1981-82 season, Bishop Auckland and Penrith, but as there was only one National League and one division of the Northern Premier League at the time, technically they would have been Level Seven.)

Essex based club Maldon and Tiptree, of Isthmian League Division One North, and West Sussex side Chichester City, of the Isthmian League Division One South East, have both fought their way through six FA Cup ties to be part of the last 84 clubs standing in this year’s competition.

Maldon and Tiptree Chichester City

Chichester City have actually come through seven rounds, having started with a 3-1 victory over Erith Town in the Extra Preliminary Round way back on the 10th August, but were the beneficiaries of a ‘bye’ in the 1st Round ‘Proper’, following the disqualification of Bury FC.

Maldon and Tiptree secured their Second Round appearance courtesy of a terrific FA Cup giant-killing away at former Semi-Finalists, Leyton Orient, and have scored 20 goals already en route to this round with Jorome Slew the joint top scorer in the competition with eight goals himself.

There have actually only been five Level Eight clubs who’ve made it to the 2nd Round in the forty years since the National League was established. Harrogate Railway Athletic of the Northern Counties East League Premier Division were the first to do so in 2002-03, then Chasetown in 2007-08, Redbridge in 2011-12, Warrington Town in 2014-15 and Northwich Victoria in 2015-16.

Both clubs will be looking to become the first Level Eight side in the FA Cup 3rd Round since Staffordshire based Chasetown achieved the feat in the 2007-08 season, when as a Southern League Division One Midlands outfit, they progressed to face Cardiff City in the last 64, but succumbed to a 3-1 reverse.

Chasetown are also the only Level Eight club to make it as far as the FA Cup 3rd Round since the Alliance Premier League (now National League) was created in 1979, which established the concept of the football pyramid (that is still evolving to this day), but which didn’t become fully integrated with the Football League until eight years later when automatic promotion and relegation was introduced.

The definition of what is a Level Eight division in the pyramid has changed over the 40 years since the national Non-League division was established. For the first 25 years of its existence, Level Eight was defined by Isthmian League Division Two (for a while Two North and Two South).

Additionally, from 1982-83 onwards, the top divisions of the Wessex League, the Western League, the Kent League and the Sussex County League were also considered as Level Eight as they fed into the second level of either the Southern League or the Isthmian League.

The top divisions of the Northern League, the Northern Counties East League (formerly Yorkshire League and Midland Counties League), the North West Counties League (formerly Cheshire County League and Lancashire Combination), and the West Midlands Regional League, typically fed into the Northern Premier League which initially only had one division, so technically they did not become Level Eight until the 1987-88 season.

A second tier of the National League was introduced for the 2004-05 season, North and South, thereby adding an extra layer to the pyramid resulting in Level Eight being defined as the lower tier 1st Divisions of the Northern Premier League, the Southern League and the Isthmian League (in all their regional guises). The top divisions of all the more concentrated regional leagues became either Level Nine or Level Ten in the pyramid alongside those that had been feeding into the old Isthmian League Division Two.

Before the Alliance Premier existed, the structure of non-league was even less easy to define, and so defining levels of clubs competing in the FA Cup was also more difficult to determine. From the 1968-69 season there were three Level Five leagues when the Northern Premier League was created to sit alongside the more established Southern League and Isthmian League. The top divisions of all these leagues were shunted down to Level Six in 1979, and to Level Seven in 2004.

Prior to the development of the Northern Premier League, other regional leagues were considered to be on a par with the Southern League and Isthmian League at Level Five, including the Cheshire County League, the Lancashire Combination, the Midlands Counties League, the Northern Regional League, and the West Midlands (Regional) League (formerly the Birmingham and District League).

Below this Level Five in the ‘pyramid’ at the time were a whole plethora of regional leagues across which it was very difficult to compare and contrast the standards and therefore make an assessment as to exactly at what level clubs were competing.

And just a decade before the Northern Premier League was founded came the introduction of a fourth tier in the Football League and so the top divisions of the Southern League, the Isthmian League and all the other aforementioned leagues could retrospectively be classed as Level Four.

And, of course, if you go back to just after the end of World War I, there were only two divisions in the Football League and so the top non-league divisions could be referred to as Level Three prior to then, at least as far back as 1892 which saw the introduction of a second tier in the Football League.

Suffice to say that over time the level the top divisions in Non-League occupy in the Football Pyramid have diminished, from Level Two in the early days of the Football League to Level Five in the current structure. This change in level classification and the lack of a formally recognised pyramid prior to 1979 means that it is nigh on impossible to say whether or not equivalent Level Eight clubs have appeared in the FA Cup 3rd Round.

They definitely did not do so prior to the 1925-26 season when the structure of the competition was changed to reflect its current format, as the 3rd Round prior to then would be regarded as the 5th Round nowadays. However, there has been a smattering of clubs who have reached the 3rd Round since the 1925-26 season who might be regarded as equivalent to the modern day Level Eight clubs.

In that very first season of the adopted current format of the FA Cup, two clubs appeared in the 3rd Round from below the major Non-League divisions. The first, Corinthians FC, were unique in that the club didn’t have to qualify for its 3rd Round berth, being exempted until the last 64 for the first eight years of the current structure format. They were actually not members of any League at the time, but were an amateur side who regularly competed with and defeated top flight professional Football League clubs. They twice made the 4th Round in those eight years, but eventually merged with Casuals in 1939 to form the current Corinthian-Casuals club.

The other lower level non-league club to reach the 3rd Round in that 1925-26 season was Chilton Colliery Recreation from the Northern Alliance. However, the club only began its campaign that season in the 4th Qualifying Round which suggests that their League status may be regarded as slightly higher than the currently defined Level Eight divisions.

Exemptions based on league status were not as clearly defined in the 1920s as they are today, so there was a lack of consistency between perceived standard of a league and the round in which clubs from that league were exempt in the FA Cup. In fact, prior to World War II, clubs from the same league division might find themselves starting their FA Cup campaigns in much different rounds.

Carlisle United reached Round Three of the FA Cup in the 1926-27 season whilst members of the North Eastern League Division One, but they also began their campaign in the 4th Qualifying Round. However, in the 1931-32 season, another member of the North Eastern League Division One appeared in the FA Cup 3rd Round, but they began their campaign that season in the Preliminary Round.

Crook Town defeated Durham City 3-0 in that Preliminary Round, then saw off Blackhall Colliery Welfare, Horden Colliery Welfare, Murton Colliery Welfare, Bishop Auckland, Stockport County and Aldershot before finally succumbing 7-0 at Leicester City in their seventh tie of the campaign. I would argue, though, that even though Crook Town started their campaign so early, their League status was still not equivalent to a modern day Level Eight club.

Two years later, in the 1933-34 season, a club went from the Extra Preliminary Round all the way to the 3rd Round for the first time ever. Cheltenham Town were members of the Birmingham Combination that season and they began their FA Cup campaign with a 2-0 victory over Mount Hill Enterprise of the lower level Bristol and District League Division One. The Birmingham Combination was below the Birmingham and District League, but their opponents in that Extra Preliminary Round suggest that Cheltenham Town were playing at an equivalent higher level than today’s Level Eight.

Two further years later still, Southall of the Athenian League replicated the feat of starting in the Extra Preliminary Round and going on a run all the way to the 3rd Round. In 1935-36, the Athenian League fed directly into the Isthmian League which was regarded as Level Four at the time, so it is difficult to say that Southall then were the equivalent of a Level Eight club nowadays. This is not to diminish their achievement (they are after all the last club to make the 3rd Round having started in the EP Round), but there were clubs in the competition that year from lower standing leagues.

Nuneaton Borough reached the 3rd Round as a Birmingham Combination side in the 1949-50 season having started in the Preliminary Round that year. Finchley made a similar journey as an Athenian League side in 1952-53 having started in the 1st Qualifying Round, but neither side could be regarded as being at a level any lower than one below the Southern League and the Isthmian League, that being Level Five.

The last Athenian League side to reach the FA Cup 3rd Rd was Barnet in the 1964-65 season. The club started in the earliest round possible that year, the 1st Qualifying Round, and won through six ties before a narrow 2-3 defeat at home to Preston North End brought the run to an end. During the 1960s and 1970s the FA limited entry to the FA Cup to certain standard of clubs, so whilst the Athenian League may have been the lowest level league in the competition it was regarded as a feeder into the Isthmian League and therefore would now be classed as Level Six.

Following the foundation of the Northern Premier League in 1968, the first club from below the top level of Non-League to reach the 3rd Round was Cheshire County League side Rhyl. The North Wales club reached the 3rd Round in the 1970-71 season having started their campaign in the 1st Qualifying Round, but like Barnet before them, would now be classed as Level Six.

Then in the 1973-74 season, Alvechurch made the same journey from the 1st Qualifying Round to the 3rd Round as members of the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division. The Church were already famous for being the victors in the longest FA Cup tie with Oxford City just two seasons earlier, and now arguably were the first Level Seven club to reach the 3rd Round. It’s debatable as many West Midlands (Regional) League clubs could be promoted to either the Northern Premier League (which had one division) or the Southern League (which had two divisions), but as Alvechurch eventually joined the latter it’s fair to say they were Level Seven.

The most famous Level Seven club to reach the 3rd Round (and beyond) was Blyth Spartans in the 1978-79 season whilst members of the Northern League. Having started in the 1st Qualifying Round that season they actually competed in a record equalling nine FA Cup rounds in total, finally exiting to Wrexham in a 5th Round replay.

After the Alliance Premier League was established in 1979, Chesham United became the first Level Seven club of the formal pyramid to reach the 3rd Round, during its inaugural season. They were members of Isthmian League Division One at the time and began their campaign in the 1st Qualifying Round before going on to lose 2-0 at home to Cambridge United seven rounds later.

Whitley Bay were the next Level Seven club to reach the 3rd Round in the 1989-90 season, but they started one round earlier in the Preliminary Round whilst members of the Northern Premier League Division One. After seven FA Cup victories that season they eventually were knocked out 1-0 by Rochdale.

Other Level Seven clubs to reach the 3rd Round since then are Eastwood Town in 2008-09 and Blyth Spartans in 2014-15, both as members of Northern Premier League Premier Division. Both started their campaigns in the 1st Qualifying Round.

So history beckons for both Maldon and Tiptree and Chichester City. A 3rd Round appearance for either club would be monumental, but if both clubs achieved it then it would be record breaking. And Chichester City also have the chance to become the first club since Southall 84 years ago, to go from the Extra Preliminary Round all the way through to the 3rd Round.