The Football League War Cup

The FA Cup has been cancelled for two periods in history. The first covered the Great War, and during this period no official football competitions were contested at all.

However, during the Second World War, the popularity of FA Cup football had grown to such an extent that provisions had to be made for a replacement tournament when the FA Cup was cancelled.

The FA Cup was cancelled mainly due to a government ban on public gatherings. It was believed that this was a necessary precaution to take early in the war, with a German invasion and widespread bombing of civilian infrastructure expected.

To appease the football-mad public, the government allowed the FA to organise the Football League War Cup – a competition organised to restrict the travel of masses of supporters across the country, as well as the sizes of the crowds attending games.

The first Football League War Cup was held at Wembley on 10 May, 1940. Although the size of the crowd was officially restricted to 15,000, almost 43,000 football fans decided they’d take their chances with German bombs if the alternative meant missing West Ham United play Blackburn Rovers. The Hammers won that game 1-0.

The next Football League War Cup was played right in the midst of the blitz. The final featured Preston North End against Arsenal, and 60,000 brave Londoners watched the game end in a draw. The replay saw Preston North End claim the Cup 2-1.

The 1942 Football League War Cup saw Wolverhampton trounce Sunderland 4-1 in the final replay. This was to be the last War Cup organised for the whole of England. Thereafter, the league was split into a Southern League and a Northern League, each of which contested its own finals and an inter-league play-off until the FA Cup was resumed in 1946.

Football League War Cup Winners

  • 1940 West Ham United 1-0 Blackburn Rovers
  • 1941 Preston North End 1-1 Arsenal
  • Replay Preston North End 2-1 Arsenal
  • 1942 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-2 Sunderland
  • Replay Wolverhampton Wanderers 4-1 Sunderland

War Cup North

  • 1943 Blackpool 2-2 Sheffield Wednesday
  • Replay Blackpool 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday
  • 1944 Blackpool 2-1 Aston Villa
  • 2nd leg Aston Villa 4-2 Blackpool
  • 1945 Bolton Wanderers 1-0 Manchester United
  • 2nd leg Manchester United 2-2