The history of the Carabao Cup

The Carabao Cup is still one of the major honours in English football, with qualification to the Europa League for the winners, regardless of league position. It had become a bit of a laughingstock – but that seems to be changing again. For many clubs, the Carabao Cup is one of the most realistic opportunities to qualify for European football, and have a trip to Wembley. You only have to look at the last 10 finals to see how seriously big teams now take the Carabao Cup.

We thought we would dedicate this article to this previously-maligned cup competition, and better explain what is the Carabao Cup, looking at the history of the Football League Cup, the format of the competition, how it has changed over the years and how you might be able to purchase Carabao Cup tickets for the later stages of the competition.

Carabao Cup History

Humble beginnings

Originally, the idea for a second cup competition in English football was for it to be a consolation cup for teams that had been knocked out of the FA Cup, and then later to allow clubs to generate extra revenue which might offset proposed changes to the football league structure.

In the early 60s, English football was losing prestige on the international stage. Attendances were dwindling, English clubs were struggling against European competition, and tensions between the Football League and the FA were high, mainly due to disagreements about how to divvy up revenues.

However, the majority of the bigger clubs had installed floodlights, which made playing matches during the evenings a possibility – opening the gateway for more matches (and more revenue). So they introduced the Football League Cup in the 1960-61 season. It is fair to say that the response to the announcement was tepid at best. The Times’ correspondent wrote:

“Where men like Count Bernabeu with his wider horizons, think in terms of a European League for the future in which a lead could surely now be given jointly by our leaders, the Football League propose next season to implement their useless Football League Cup to be played in midweek. It gets the players, the clubs and the public nowhere.”

Nevertheless, the inaugural EFL Cup took place and was won by one of the big clubs, Aston Villa, who at the time were the most decorated club in English football. The cup final was played over two legs – the second leg was not played until after the start of the following season, due to fixture congestion! Rotherham won the first leg 2-0, but Villa took the trophy with a 3-0 win at Villa Park, after extra time. The attendance for the two legs combined was under 45,000.

The competition struggled to capture the imagination of the public for the following few years, as the next three finals were all won by teams that had never won a major trophy before – Norwich City, Birmingham City and Leicester City.

Taking action

The big benefit of the League Cup, even though it hadn’t really taken off, was that it gave the Football League negotiating power with the FA and UEFA. The Football League Secretary, Alan Hardaker, threatened to boycott the UEFA Cup if UEFA didn’t grant the winners of the League Cup European qualification. UEFA agreed, as long as the team was in the First Division (now called the Premier League).

Tottenham Hotspur were the first team to qualify for the UEFA Cup, when they won the League Cup final in 1971. In the years prior to that season, it had not been compulsory to enter the League Cup, and Everton had opted out so that they could concentrate on the European Cup. Entry in the competition was compulsory for all 92 teams in the Football League from the 1971-72 season.

Previous names of the EFL Carabao Cup 

Some would argue its added charm, some would argue that it’s undermined the competition, but the League Cup has been sponsored by many different organisations over the years, which has led it to have many names:

1981-86: The Milk Cup

1986-1990: The Littlewoods Challenge Cup

1990-92: The Rumbelows Cup

1992-98: The Coca-cola cup

1998-2003: The Worthington Cup

2002-12: The Carling Cup

2012-16: The Capital One Cup

2016-17: The EFL Cup (No Sponsor)

2017-2024: The Carabao Cup

The EFL Cup in the modern game

The EFL Cup will never be able to compete with league competitions, the FA Cup or a European competition, but it does still have a role to play in modern football.

It has had to adapt – there is now no extra time in any round other than the final as teams were worried about playing too many matches, with draws going straight to penalties. Until 1997, finals that finished level after extra time would go to a replay at a neutral venue. Premier League teams don’t join until the second round, and teams in European competitions get a bye for the first two rounds. The away goals rule does now not apply in the semi final. The competition has had to fit around the wishes of the clubs.

These days, the ‘bigger’ Premier League teams involved in the early rounds of the competition tend to rotate their squad to give the fringe and youth players a chance to get fitness and experience. While this has undermined the competition a bit, it has also helped these clubs to see it as a more worthwhile cup to play in. A great way to give players much-needed minutes on the pitch. The fact that Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea have dominated finals in recent years suggests that clubs are taking it seriously again. For the smaller clubs, it represents a great chance to play at Wembley Stadium.

League Cup Facts

Some quick facts about the Carabao Cup:

Most League Cups: Liverpool – 9 (Manchester City – 8)

Most League Cup Final appearances: Liverpool – 13 (Manchester City, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – 9)

Player with most League Cup winner medals: Sergio Agüero and Fernandinho for Manchester City – 6

Most goals (career): Ian Rush – 49

Player with most EFL Cup final appearances: Ian Rush for Liverpool (1981–1984, 1987, 1995), Emile Heskey for Leicester City (1997, 1999, 2000), Liverpool (2001, 2003) and Aston Villa (2010), Fernandinho for Manchester City (2014, 2016, 2018–2021) – 6

Biggest win in a final: Swansea – 5-0 vs Bradford City in 2013

How to get Carabao Cup tickets

The EFL Cup is one of the easier competitions to get match tickets for. Many clubs struggle to sell out for these matches, and away fans are usually given much larger allocations compared to the Premier League.

As such, the prices are usually a little lower, even for the hospitality packages. It could be a great way to experience matches from a slightly different perspective, surrounded by great food and drink. We offer hospitality packages at many different Premier League clubs, so get in touch with us today if you are interested in these packages.

How to get Carabao Cup tickets for the Final

The final of the Carabao Cup is a different matter – tickets can be very difficult to come by as they are for all major finals. However, hospitality packages for the Carabao Cup may come to your rescue…

On top of the hospitality packages that we offer at Premier League grounds, we also have many options for tickets at Wembley Stadium, ranging from Club Wembley packages, which include full access to a range of bars and restaurants within the stadium, to Private Box packages, with a 3-course fine dining meal and a free bar.

If you are interested in Carabao Cup tickets, get in touch with us today and we can help you find the right package for you and your guests.