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Thread: First Class Matches Criteria

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
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    Default First Class Matches Criteria

    The criteria to define first-class matches for the purposes of collating such as player appearances and match result data is one of the most common questions posed to the AFS.

    As it has proved to be a complex subject, we are pleased to propose the extensive criteria formulated by Everton statistician and AFS member Steve Flanagan in January 2006.

    Although specific to Everton, we are confident it can be adapted to other senior clubs and similar competitions, especially relating to games played in the early years of professional football.

    The following is Steve’s explanation in full:

    1. All first-class matches must have been scheduled to be played between two teams of 11 players each. This has been specifically worded as, in the early years of league and cup football, there were occasions whereby a team took the field with less than 11 players.

    2. A match must have been scheduled to last for 90 minutes. If a match was subsequently abandoned, but the result was declared as final, then that match is deemed as being a first-class match. If a match was abandoned, but then ordered to be replayed, then the abandoned match will not be deemed to be a first-class match.

    3. The third ‘test’ is in regards to the competition and is broken down into several parts. Matches that meet the criteria laid down by myself are included irrespective of the standard of the players playing in the competition.

    3a. – All league matches are class as first-class only whereby it is possible to be promoted or relegated based purely on performance within the division involved (e.g. It is possible, I think, that a team may finish top of the Conference but not promoted due to their ground not meeting certain criteria), and whereby the winner of the top division in the league ladder qualifies to play in an official competition of the same national association or a higher association (e.g. UEFA or FIFA). Based on this, all matches in levels 1 to 4 are deemed to be first-class. Any matches following the end of the regular season (i.e. play-offs) are also first-class matches as performance within the play-offs determines whether a team involved is promoted or not.

    3b. – All cup competitions are classed as first-class only where the winners of the competition qualify to play in an official competition of the same national association or a higher association (e.g. UEFA or FIFA), entry into the competition is deemed by performance in a national league / cup competition or where the competition is only open to teams that play in a national league that is deemed first-class under section 3a. This would therefore include the FA Cup, the Football League Cup, Football League Trophy and various other competitions highlighted below.

    Using these guidelines (3a and 3b), I have ascertained whether the following competitions (which Everton have played in) are deemed to be first-class or not.

    FIFA World Club Championship.
    Although Everton have yet to play in this competition, I would deem it to be a first-class match as only teams winning their continental championship are allowed to play.

    UEFA club competitions.
    I deem these to be first-class as entry is entirely based on performance within a national competition (league or cup). This would include the InterToto Cup, but only where performance in the InterToto Cup could lead to a team entering the UEFA Cup (i.e. from 1995-96 onwards).

    UEFA Super Cup.
    This is deemed to be first-class as the two teams playing are based purely on their performance within the club competitions.

    FA Cup.
    Any matches in the FA Cup (including qualifying rounds) are deemed to be first-class. The reason I have included qualifying rounds is that it is possible (however unlikely) that a team playing in a qualifying round could win the competition.

    League Cup.
    As the winners of the League Cup qualify for the UEFA Cup or UEFA Europa League, this is deemed to be first-class.

    FA Charity / Community Shield.
    This is deemed as first-class as the two teams involved are chosen purely on their performance within the league or FA Cup.

    Football League Trophy (i.e. Associate Members’ Cup, Auto Windscreens Shield, Johnstone’s Paint Trophy etc).
    Only open to teams from the lower first-class divisions of the English league therefore I would deem this to be first-class.

    Full members’ Cup (i.e. Simod Cup and Zenith Data Systems Cup).
    Deemed as first-class as it follows the same criteria as above.

    Texaco Cup / Anglo-Scottish Cup.
    My understanding is that the top teams from England and Scotland who did not qualify for Europe where involved, therefore, entry was linked to performance and thus is deemed as a first-class match.

    Screen Sport Super Cup.
    The competition was introduced for one season only as an attempted compensation tournament for teams that were banned from European football following the Heysel disaster. As the teams involved were determined by their league or cup performance, this competition qualifies as being given first-class status.

    British Championship.
    This was played between the winners of the English league and the Scottish league. As the teams involved were determined by their league performance, this qualifies as being given first-class status.

    Mercantile Credit Centenary Challenge.
    A match played between the English champions and the German champions to celebrate 100 years of the Football League in 1988. As the teams involved were determined by their league performance, this competition qualifies as being given first-class status.

    Mercantile Credit Centenary Trophy.
    A competition between the top eight teams from the English league to celebrate 100 years of the Football League in 1988. As the teams involved were determined by their league performance, this competition qualifies as being given first-class status.

    Mercantile Credit Centenary Festival.
    A competition between 16 teams held at Wembley Stadium from all four English divisions based on their performance with in their particular division. This would appear, therefore, to qualify for first-class status. However, all matches were only 20 minutes in length so, under definition point 2 above, do not qualify for first-class status.

    Glasgow Exhibition Trophy.
    A competition played in Glasgow in 1902 between the top teams from England and Scotland. As participation was based on performance within the league, this competition is defined as first-class.

    Empire Exhibition Trophy.
    A competition played in Glasgow in 1939. It was originally envisaged as well as being played between the tiop four teams from England and Scotland. However, due to some teams being unwilling or unable to play, it became a competition between four teams from the top divisions of England and Scotland respectively. This competition has provided a grey area as to whether it can be given first-class status or not. Due to the original nature of inviting the top four teams from each country to participate, the participation would be based on league performance. This competition is therefore given first-class status.

    Regional Cup Competitions (i.e. Lancashire Cup, Liverpool Cup etc.).
    These competitions were only open to teams affiliated to the respective regional FA and, therefore as they are not determined by national league or cup performance, are not given first-class status.

    Regional League Competitions (i.e. Palatine League etc.).
    These competitions were organised on a league basis following the success of the Football League. Participation was by invitation only and, as this was not based on league performance, these competitions are not given first-class status.

    International Soccer League.
    A league played in USA in the 1960s. Participation was by invitation only and, as a consequence, matches in this competition are not afforded first-class status.

    Wartime Matches.
    A further consideration is whether the abandoned Football League matches at the start of the World War II should be classified as first-class, as teams were chosen and played under the assumption that the league campaign would be finished. However, the Football League chose to annul these matches and did not include them in any League records. On this basis, and on the premise that no promotion or relegation took place following these matches, they have not been given first-class status.

    A further question arises whereby a match is played (and completed, i.e. is not abandoned) in a first-class competition, but is then ordered to be replayed. Does this count as a first-class match? My answer would be yes.

    An example is whereby Everton played Burnley in the FA Cup in 1892. The original match was played, and Burnley won 4-2. However, prior to the match, both teams lodged protests as to the state of the pitch and agreed to replay the match (irrespective of the result) if the FA agreed but it would stand if the FA did not agree. The FA agreed so the match was replayed with Burnley winning 3-1.

    Another grey area surrounds Everton’s FA Cup tie against Bolton Wanderers in 1887. Bolton won the match 2-1. However, Everton appealed against the eligibility of a Bolton player and the FA ordered a replay. Eventually, Everton won the tie and progressed to the next round against Preston North End, which they lost 0-6. However, after the Preston match, Everton were found to have played seven ineligible players in the Bolton tie and were disqualified, so Bolton then met Preston. From this, I’ve deemed the Preston v Everton match cannot be deemed first-class.

    We would like to thank Steve for his tremendous efforts and co-operation, and would welcome any further discussion and observations on this complicated topic.

  2. #2


    Without sounding a pessimist this argument is never going to be solved what should be considered for record purposes. Using a cricket analogy is perhaps the wrong way to tackle this.

    As a starter, what about Football League Jubilee Fund and Festival of Britain games? Anglo-Scottish Friendship Cup games?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Athens, Hellas

    Default One burbon, one scotch and one beer...

    Well-founded arguments and extremely informative.
    I only have one suggestion, one objection and one question (according to the old blues song “one bourbon, one scotch and one beer”)...

    Suggestion: the organising authority/body should be taken into consideration, too. This is obvious for British Football, but not the case in all countries, especially in the past. Matches, tournaments, cups, trophies etc organised by two or more separate clubs should not be considered as A-class, regardless the purpose of the match (i.e charity, raising money during war-time etc, or the replay of Everton vs Burnley for FA the Cup in 1892, in case the FA wouldn’t have agreed).
    Furthermore, the number of substitutions used should serve as a criterion. The problem is that even in National Teams matches before WW II and under mutual consent of the involved countries’ Federations, more substitutions than allowed (by FIFA) were used. Please, comment on that...

    Objection: not completed matches (for any reason) SHOULD BE regarded as A-class, irrespective of whether they were replayed or not, as long as they HAD STARTED. I strongly support this on the basis of PLAYERS’ EFFORT:
    they gave their best since kick-off, not knowing that the match was never to be completed.
    The coach had selected the squad, which had travelled on club’s (or their own) expenses, warmed-up and COMPETED until the interruption, not to mention the presence of fans, officials etc. I think these are enough for the match to be recognised as A-class and be included in both players/coaches’ and clubs’ records.
    On the other hand, a match that had never started should not be regarded as A-class, regardless the reason (ban for one of the clubs, transportation problems, weather conditions, crowd trouble etc) and whether it was replayed or not. This match should ONLY stand for the records of the corresponding competition (in case of no replay) and NOT for individual records (players/coaches, clubs, officials, venue).
    Conclusively, the criterion for abandoned matches should be the KICK-OFF (even for one second) and not the replay. After all, sports history is made by players/coaches/fans/referees and not by federations, associations, historians or statisticians…

    Question: in 1943, during German occupation of Hellas, there were some sort of football tournaments in certain cities. Due to disagreements over revenue distribution, half of the clubs based in Athens/Piraeus left Hellenic Football Federation, they formed an association and using qualified referees, organised their own championship. A separate one was played between the other half of Athenian clubs, but both competitions were stopped in early 1944 when an agreement was reached and a “proper” league started under the auspices of HFF. This was also interrupted at the final war stages and never restarted.
    Matches of all 3 competitions would have easily been regarded as A-class (under the above “players’ effort” spectrum), if there not had been an important detail. Pre-war membership cards (football had amateur status back then) were not valid between 1941-44 and a player could have played for any club he wished, usually the one that provided him with some food, or based nearest his residence.
    This situation puzzles me, as it seems to contradict the rule of healthy sports competition. I agree that this has always been the case, with wealthier clubs gaining advantage, but some sort of regulations must exist, mustn't they?
    Looking forward to answers.

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