Football is the unofficial national sport of England, and as such has an important place within English national life. Football as an organised sport first developed in England before being carried throughout the world by its many fans.
The Football Association, commonly known as The FA, is the governing body of football in England. All of England's professional football clubs must be members, and thousands of semi-professional and amateur clubs also belong.
The Football League, established in 1888, was the first professional football league in the world. Since its founding, however, many other leagues have been founded in England. Over recent years there has been an increasing effort to link all these leagues together in a pyramidal structure allowing promotion and relegation between different levels. The primary motivation for this drive is to maintain the possibility that any club in England may dream of one day rising to the very top, no matter what status they currently hold. For more information, see English football league system.
The FA Premier League is the highest league in English football and has 20 member clubs. Winning the Premier League is considered the greatest honour in English football and guarantees qualification for UEFA's Champions League, Europe's elite club competition.
The Premier League was founded in 1992 after England's top clubs broke away from The Football League in a successful effort aimed at increasing their income at the expense of clubs in the lower divisions. Links with The Football League were maintained, and each season the bottom three clubs are relegated from the Premier League and replaced by three from the Football League Championship.
At the top of the Premier League, the second, third, and fourth placed clubs currently qualify for the Champions League, joining the Premier League winners. The fifth placed club qualifies for the UEFA Cup, and the sixth and seventh may also qualify if one of the top four clubs also wins either the FA Cup or League Cup. The number of clubs qualifying for European competition is determined by UEFA and is based on previous years' results.
The FA Trophy is open to leading clubs in the next few levels below the Football League, and the FA Vase to clubs in the next couple of levels below that. These competitions replaced the FA Amateur Cup, which was the leading competition for non-League teams for many years.Representative teams from leagues lower than capable of being competitive in the Vase contest the FA National League System Cup, and the FA Sunday Cup is for Sunday League Football teams.