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Football League Trophy

Football League Trophy
Founded 1983
Region  England
Number of teams 48
Current champions Bristol City (3rd title)
Most successful club(s) Bristol City (3 titles)
2015–16 Football League Trophy

The Football League Trophy, also known as the Johnstone's Paint Trophy is an annual English association football knock-out competition open to the 48 clubs in Football League One and Football League Two, the third and fourth divisions of the English football league system.

The competition began in the 1983–84 season as the Associate Members' Cup but, from 1992, it has been named the Football League Trophy, after the lower-division clubs became full members of the Football League. The competition replaced the short-lived Football League Group Cup. The competition has been associated with a title sponsor since its second edition.

The first draws are made in August, then the competition runs as two parallel north and south area competitions, before the two winners meet in late March or early April in the final at England's national stadium, Wembley. The basic north/south format of the competition has existed since its beginnings, although other details have varied over the years, including in some years inviting clubs from the semi-professional Conference Premier, and holding a round-robin group stage prior to moving into knock-out rounds.

The current champions are Bristol City, the only club to win the tournament three times, however, they will not be able to defend their title as they have been promoted to The Championship, the second tier of English football, while clubs in the competition can only be competing in League One and Two, the third and fourth tiers of English football.


  • History 1
  • Current format 2
    • Previous formats 2.1
  • Participants 3
  • Finals 4
    • Venue 4.1
    • Winners 4.2
  • Records 5
    • Attendances 5.1
  • Sponsors 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The competition was inaugurated as the Associate Members' Cup in the 1983–84 season and followed on from the short-lived Premier League and the Football League became responsible for just the lower three professional divisions.[2]

Current format

48 teams enter from League One and League Two.

Clubs are assigned to one of four areas for the purposes of the cup draws: Northern Section – East and West, Southern Section – East and West

  • Round One, 16 games – 16 teams receive a bye to Round Two, while the remaining 32 play single game ties
  • Round Two, 16 games – 32 teams play another single game tie

The cup draw pots are now merged, leaving just a Northern and Southern section

  • Area Quarter Finals, 8 games – 16 teams play a single game tie
  • Area Semi-Finals, 4 games – 8 teams play a single game tie

Drawing is no longer necessary for the final 4 teams

  • Area finals – effectively the competition's semi-finals, the two remaining teams in each section play each other in two-legged game ties, home and away
  • Final – between the Northern and Southern area winners

Source: [3]

Previous formats

In the first year of the tournament the 48 eligible Third and Fourth Division clubs were split into North and South sections of 24 teams each. The first round had 12 knockout ties in each section, and the second had six. The two losers with the 'narrowest' defeat were reprieved and joined the six other clubs in the regional quarter finals.[4]

A major change was introduced for the 1985–86 tournament, with 8 three-team groups being set up in each of the two sections. Teams played one home and one away game and the group winners proceeded to the regional knockout stages.[5] This format was tweaked the following season, with two teams qualifying from each group, resulting in an additional 'round of 16' knockout stage in each section.[6]

For a number of seasons in the early to mid-1990s the competition ran with only seven three-team groups with two teams in each section getting a bye to the knockout stages.[7] This was necessary due to League reorganisation and the demise of Aldershot and Maidstone United, which resulted in there being fewer than 48 teams in the 3rd and 4th levels.

The group phase was abolished for the 1996–97 tournament, with 8 teams in each section getting a bye to the second round, where they were joined by the 8 winners of the first round ties.

For the 2000–01 edition, 8 Football Conference sides also played in the tournament, resulting in 12 ties in each of the north/south sections in the 1st round, with only four teams in each section gaining a bye into the second round. The number of Conference entrants was increased to 12 starting in 2002–03, resulting in 14 1st round ties, and two teams in each regional section gaining a bye straight to the second round.

From the 2006–07 tournament Conference teams no longer participated, and the format reverted to 8 1st round teams in each section, with 8 sides gaining byes to the 2nd round.[8]


The competition has always been contested by all teams at Levels Three and Four of the English football league system. However, between 2000/01 and 2005/06 the event was also open to a certain number of Football Conference sides, and these are listed by season below:[9]

2000–01: Chester City, Doncaster Rovers, Dover Athletic, Hereford United, Morecambe, Rushden & Diamonds, Scarborough, Yeovil Town

2001–02: Barnet, Dagenham & Redbridge, Doncaster Rovers, Leigh RMI, Scarborough, Southport, Stevenage Borough, Yeovil Town

2002–03: Chester City, Dagenham & Redbridge, Doncaster Rovers, Halifax Town, Hereford United, Leigh RMI, Morecambe, Scarborough, Southport, Stevenage Borough, Woking, Yeovil Town

2003–04: Barnet, Chester City, Dagenham & Redbridge, Exeter City, Forest Green Rovers, Halifax Town, Hereford United, Morecambe, Scarborough, Shewsbury Town, Stevenage Borough, Telford United

2004–05: Accrington Stanley, Aldershot Town, Barnet, Carlisle United, Dagenham & Redbridge, Exeter City, Hereford United, Morecambe, Scarborough, Stevenage Borough, Woking, York City

2005–06: Accrington Stanley, Aldershot Town, Cambridge United, Crawley Town, Dagenham & Redbridge, Exeter City, Halifax Town, Hereford United, Kidderminster Harriers, Morecambe, Stevenage Borough, Woking



The League Trophy final is held at the 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium in London, the English national football stadium. The first final in 1984 was to have been played at Wembley, but due to damage to the pitch caused during the Horse of the Year show it was moved to Hull. From 2001 to 2007 when the 1923 built Wembley was being rebuilt, the Football League Trophy finals were played at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.





The record attendance for the final is 80,841, for the 1988 Final match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burnley at Wembley.[11]

The highest attendance for any game outside of the final came on 5 February 2013, when Coventry City lost to Crewe Alexandra 3–0 at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, in front of a crowd of 31,054.[12]



See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ 1983–84 Southern 2nd Rnd results, with links to other stages –
  5. ^ 1985–86 Northern 1st Rnd Group 1 results and table, with links to other groups/stages –
  6. ^ 1986–87 Southern 1st Rnd results, with links to other stages –
  7. ^ 1993–94 Northern 1st Rnd Group 1 results and table, with links to other groups/stages –
  8. ^ 2002–03 Northern 1st rnd results, with links to other stages, and other seasons –
  9. ^ 2004–05 Southern 1st Rnd results, and links to other rounds/seasons –
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^

External links

  • Official site
  • Football League Trophy section of official Football League website
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