Fancy That ! 10 things you never knew about The Associate Members Cup / Freight Rover Trophy / Sherpa Van Trophy / Leyland DAF Cup / Autoglass Trophy / Auto Windscreens Shield / LDV Vans Trophy / Johnstone's Paint Trophy
Ninety Nine per cent of all football fans may mock it. Relegation haunted Championship clubs may dread the prospect of having to enter it. Fans of Manchester United and Chelsea may never even have heard about it. And even the people who invented it probably still get it confused with the Full Members/Simod/Zenith Data Systems Cup thingy. But the legendary Associate Members Cup lives on.
Anyway, here are 10 surprising facts to broaden your knowledge of AFC Bournemouth's favourite cup competition...
- No.1 The first season of the competition was 1983/84. It was sponsored by Associate Members (Motto: No Member Too Small. By Association!), but it never actually took place. It was cooked up by a Football League statistician, who was bored one lunchtime, whilst fiddling about on his Spectrum 48K. He sent made up results to the Rothmans Yearbook people and hey bingo, they fell for it. A trophy was sent to 'winners' Bournemouth and a competition was born.
- No.2 The first tournament that actually happened was the following year. The final was played at Wembley and was sponsored by Freight Rover. Hosting such a glamorous event meant that Live Aid was delayed by several months to incorporate the final into Wembley's schedule.
- No.3 The presentation of the 1985 trophy was marred by an unseemly wrestling match over who should hand over the cup involving guests of honour Martin Kemp and Mikhail Gorbachev.
- No.4 The 1987 final was won by Mansfield on penalties, beating Bristol City. The hero of the hour wasn't the Stags keeper but the town's most famous son, Alvin Stardust, who performed a strange series of jigs behind the goal each time a Robins player stepped up to take a kick. This was allowed as part of a bizarre FIFA experiment using local celebrities to intimidate penalty takers in shoot outs. Unfortunately for City, The Wurzels failed to upset the Mansfield players with their now infamous rendition of 'Pump Up the Volume'.
- No.5 The Football League once invited teams from the Conference to participate in the competition. Unfortunately they wrote to the wrong Conference, American Football's NFC! The Planks ! However the letter was binding and subsequently the Green Bay Packers surprised pundits by reaching the Northern Final where they lost 4-2 on aggregate to Scunthorpe United.
- No.6 To boost spectator interest in the unpopular early stages of the cup, the Football League has tried all sorts of marketing gimmicks. Perhaps the most infamous was the 'Nude Match' in 1998 between Rochdale and Darlington. Players wore coloured bowler hats to differentiate between team mates and opponents. The attendance was lower than usual due to the post watershed kick off of 2am.
- No.7 Two years later the organisers courted controversy again when they decreed that Macclesfield should play Port Vale with each time fielding at least one farmyard animal. Local farmer John Billinge became a local celebrity when his pig, Garry, saved a Vale penalty in the last minute.
- No.8 The difficulty of structuring a knock out cup when there are 48 teams has long troubled organisers. The original plan to sort this out was a play-off round where all 48 clubs played each other home and away and the 32 teams with the best records in relation to their league position subdivided by turnover and coefficients over the last 7 years were allowed to progress to a money spinning 32 match group / round robin stage. Although it never got off the ground the formula was adopted by UEFA in 2009 for their revamped Europa League.
- No.9 The trophy is the most prized sponsorship in the corporate world of vans and windscreens. A total of six different companies from these sectors have sponsored the competition. When Johnstone’s Paint took over in 2006 van makers and windscreen manufacturers across the globe were in uproar. This led to a boycott of the company's paint which lasted a week before former US president Bill Clinton, acting on behalf of the UN, intervened and brokered an end to the impasse.
- No.10 Despite repeated attempts from the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan, the Football League still refuses to allow teams from outside the bottom two divisions of the league to compete. To get around this Leeds United deliberately got themselves into catastrophic financial trouble to enable enough relegation's for them to try and win this most prestigious of trophies.