It was Charles W. Alcock whose ideas and drive would transform the game of football. Elected to the committee of the FA and its Honorary Secretary, Alcock’s landmark proposal came in 1871: “a Challenge Cup should be established in connection with the Association, for which all clubs belonging to the Association should be invited to compete”. The FA Cup, played on a knock-out basis, was the world’s first ever national competition between football clubs.
It was in the 1860s that association football started to become a distinct sport. A major step came in October 1863 with a meeting of ‘clubs’ formed in the London area by former pupils of different public schools (reputedly held at the Freemasons’ Tavern in Great Queen Street). The group called themselves ‘the Football Association’. Rules by which they would play ‘association football’ were eventually agreed. Running with the ball and hacking were prohibited.
Alcock’s innovation of the FA Cup in 1871 transformed the sport. It has been described as "the spark that set the whole bonfire of football alight". Alcock was also behind the introduction of international football. In 1870 he proposed that teams of Scottish and English players should compete against each other. His influence would continue to extend over many aspects of the developing game, from encouraging the ‘combination’ style of passing and dribbling to supporting the growth of professionalism.
In the undergrowth of West Norwood Cemetery, in south-east London, a monument at his grave (re-dedicated in 1999) commemorates this inspirational administrator. Prominently carved in stone, and at the forefront of his legacy, is the FA Cup trophy.