British Home Championship
|Number of teams||4|
|Last champions||Northern Ireland (1983–84)|
|Most successful team(s)||England (54 titles)|
The British Home Championship[a] (historically known as the British International Championship or simply the International Championship) was an annual football competition contested between the United Kingdom's four national teams: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (the last of whom competed as Ireland for most of the competition's history). Starting during the 1883–84 season, it is the oldest international association football tournament and it was contested until the 1983–84 season, when it was abolished after 100 years.
The first international association football match, between Scotland and England, took place in November 1872. Following that contest, a schedule of international matches between the four home nations gradually developed, the games taking place between January and April of each year. In 1884, for the first time, all six possible matches were played. This schedule continued without interruption until the First World War.
|Year||England v Scotland||Scotland v Wales||England v Wales||England v Ireland||Wales v Ireland||Scotland v Ireland|
Recognition of the international season as constituting a single tournament came slowly. Early reports focused on the rivalries between the two teams in each match, rather than any overall title. Talk of a "championship" began to emerge gradually during the 1890s, with some writers suggesting the use of a league table between the nations, with 2 points for a win and 1 point for a draw (as had been in use for the Football League since 1888). By 1908, we find a published list of "International Champions" extending all the way back to 1884.
The championship, although increasingly recognized as such, had no official prize until 1935 (see below), when a trophy for the "British International Championship" was created in honour of the silver jubilee of King George V.
The dates of the fixtures varied, but they tended to bunch towards the end of the season (sometimes the entire competition was held in a few days at the end of the season), except between the World Wars, when some fixtures were played before Christmas. The rise of other international competitions, especially the World Cup and European Championships, meant that the British Home Championship lost a lot of its prestige as the years went on.
However, the new international tournaments meant that the Championship took on added importance in certain years. The 1949–50 and 1953–54 Championships doubled up as qualifying groups for the 1950 and 1954 World Cups respectively and the results of the 1966–67 and 1967–68 Championships were used to determine who went forward to the second qualifying round of Euro '68.
The British Home Championship was discontinued after the 1983–84 competition. There were a number of reasons for the tournament's demise, including it being overshadowed by the World Cup and European Championships, falling attendances at all but the England v Scotland games, fixture congestion, the rise of hooliganism, the Troubles in Northern Ireland (civil unrest led to the 1980–81 competition being abandoned), and England's desire to play against 'stronger' teams. The fate of the competition was settled when the (English) Football Association, swiftly followed by the Scottish Football Association, announced in 1983 that they would not be entering after the 1983–84 Championship. The British Home Championship trophy remains the property of the Irish FA, as Northern Ireland were the most recent champions.
The Championship was replaced by the smaller Rous Cup, which involved just England, Scotland and, in later years, an invited guest team from South America. That competition, however, ended after just five years.
Since then, there have been many proposals to resurrect the British Home Championship, with advocates pointing to rising attendances and a significant downturn in football-related violence. The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations are keen on the idea, but the English association are less enthusiastic, claiming that they agree in principle, but that fixture congestion makes a revived tournament impractical.
Therefore, the Scottish Football Association, the Football Association of Wales and the Irish Football Association, with the Republic of Ireland's Football Association of Ireland, pressed ahead and organised a tournament similar to the British Home Championship. The Nations Cup, between Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, was launched in Dublin in 2011. It was discontinued after one tournament because of poor attendance.
Format and rules
Each team played every other team once (making for a total of three matches per team and six matches in total). Generally, each team played either one or two matches at home and the remainder away, with home advantage between two teams alternating each year (so if England played Scotland at home one year, they played them away the next).
A team received two points for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. From these points, a league table was constructed and whoever was top at the end of the competition was declared the winner. If two or more teams were equal on points, that position in the league table was shared (as was the Championship if it occurred between the top teams). In 1956, all four teams finished level on points and for the only time the Championship was shared four ways. From the 1978–79 Championship onwards, however, goal difference (total goals scored minus total goals conceded) was used to differentiate between teams level on points. If goal difference could still not separate them, then total goals scored was used.
Early editions of the tournament had no trophy. In 1935, a trophy was presented to King George V by the Football Association in recognition of the monarch's silver jubilee. It was first awarded, as the "Jubilee Trophy", to Scotland, victors of the 1935–36 competition. The trophy was of solid silver, consisting of a pedestal supporting a football surmounted by a winged figure. It bore the words "British International Championship".
1902: Tragedy at Ibrox
The Scotland v England match of 5 April 1902 became known as the Ibrox Disaster of 1902. The match took place at Ibrox Park (now Ibrox Stadium) in Glasgow. During the first half, a section of the terracing in the overcrowded West Stand collapsed, killing 25 and injuring over 500. Play was stopped, but was restarted after 20 minutes, with most of the crowd not knowing what had happened. The match was later declared void and replayed at Villa Park, Birmingham.
1950: World Cup qualification
The 1950 British Home Championship was used as a qualification group for the 1950 FIFA World Cup, with the teams finishing both first and second qualifying. England and Scotland were guaranteed the top two places and World Cup qualification with one match to go, when the Scottish Football Association declared that it would only go to the 1950 World Cup if they were the British champions. Scotland played England at Hampden Park on 15 April in the final game and lost 1–0 to a goal by Chelsea's Roy Bentley. Scotland finished second and withdrew from what would have been their first-ever World Cup appearance.
1967: Scotland become 'Unofficial World Champions'
The 1966–67 British Home Championship was the first since England's victory at the World Cup 1966. Naturally, England were favourites for the Championship title. In the end, the outcome of the entire Championship rested on the final game: England v Scotland at Wembley Stadium in London on 15 April. If England won or drew, they would win the Championship; if Scotland won, they would triumph. Scotland beat the World Cup winners 3–2. The match was followed by a large, but relatively harmless, pitch invasion by the jubilant Scottish fans, who were quick to waggishly declare Scotland the 'World Champions', as the game was England's first defeat since winning the World Cup. The Scots' joke ultimately led to the conception of the Unofficial Football World Championships.
1977: Wembley pitch invasion
Again, the 1976–77 Championship came down to the final game between England and Scotland at Wembley on 4 June. Scotland won the game 2–1, making them champions. As in 1967, a pitch invasion by the overjoyed Scottish fans followed, but this time vandalism ensued: the pitch was ripped up and taken back to Scotland in small pieces, along with one of the broken crossbars.
1981: the unfinished Championship
The Troubles in Northern Ireland had affected the British Home Championship before, with things turning so hostile that Northern Ireland often had to play their 'home' games in Liverpool or Glasgow. The entire 1980–81 Championship was held in May 1981, which coincided with a large amount of civil unrest in Northern Ireland surrounding the hunger strike in the Maze Prison. Northern Ireland's two home matches, against England and Wales, were not moved, so both teams refused to travel to Belfast to play. As not all the matches were completed, that year's competition was declared void with no winner; only Scotland completed all their matches. It was the only time in the Championship's history, apart from during World War I and World War II, that it was not awarded.
1984: The final Championship
The Home Championships came to an end, with England and Scotland announcing that the 1983–84 British Home Championship would be their last. They cited waning interest in the games, crowded international fixture lists and a sharp rise in hooliganism for their decision. The final match of the Championship was held at Hampden Park between Scotland and England in which the winners of the game would win the final Championship. The match ended in a 1–1 draw, allowing Northern Ireland to win the Championship on goal difference after all the teams ended on three points each; Wales came second on goals scored.
List of winners
- Where teams finished in a joint position, the level teams are listed in order of better/best goal difference
|Team||Wins total||Wins outright||Shared wins|
* Does not include the British Victory Home Championship in 1945–46 or the 1980–81 Championship where Scotland was on top when tournament was cancelled due to civil unrest in Northern Ireland.
All-time top goalscorers
- Football in the United Kingdom: Matches between the UK teams since 1984
- Nations Cup
- Victory Shield
- Six Nations Championship (a similar tournament in rugby union that survives today)
- For example:
- "Scotland v England". Leeds Mercury: 3. 7 April 1890. describes the decisive 1890 Scotland v England match only as the "last international match of the season".
- "Friendly Matches: England v. Scotland". Lichfield Mercury: 3. 10 April 1891. describes the decisive 1891 England v Scotland match as a "friendly".
- Hazell's Annual for 1892. London: Hazell, Watson & Viney. 1892. p. 276.
Altogether England had an exceptionally successful season, winning all three matches, but especial care was taken that no chance of turning the tables on Scotland should be lost
- "Scotland v. England". Sheffield and Rotherham Independent: 7. 4 April 1892.
[O]n the result of the match in question the championship depended
- "Nottingham and General". Nottingham Evening Post: 2. 7 April 1894.
England and Scotland will meet on Saturday to play for the international championship
- "Football". The Sketch: 44. 3 April 1895.
- "Results of Previous Matches". Dundee Courier: 6. 6 April 1896.
- Sport and Athletics in 1908. London: Chapman and Hall. 1908. p. 241.
- "British Home Championship Trophy, 1935". Retrieved 15 July 2019.
- 4 Associations Tournament Announced for Dublin 2011 Football Association of Ireland, 18 September 2008
- "Jubilee Trophy for Scotland". Western Daily Press: 4. 6 April 1936.
- Herbert, Ian (9 November 2016). "England vs Scotland: Lou Macari reflects on the iconic 1977 Wembley win the Scots expected to lose". The Independent. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
- "Wembley '77: when the Tartan Army descended on London and left with not just a famous win, but the goalposts too". BBC Scotland. 1 June 2018. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
a. ^ Name of the Home Championship in the languages of participating countries:
- Home International Championship, Home Internationals, British Championship
- Irish: An Comórtas Idirnáisiúnta
- Scots: Hame Internaitional Kemp
- Scottish Gaelic: Farpais lìg eadar-nàiseanta
- Welsh: Pencampwriaeth y Pedair Gwlad
- RSSSF: British Home Championship Overview
- England in the British Home Championship England Football Online
- Northern Ireland Football Project BHC Resource
- Northern Ireland – British Champions Our Wee Country
- Wembley 1977 BBC Scotland (requires RealPlayer)
- The British Home Championship at the National Football Museum
- Unofficial British Home Championship compiling ongoing results of games between the home nations.