|Conference League Cup 2008-09|
|Number of Teams|
|Most successful club(s)|
| Bromsgrove Rovers, Doncaster Rovers, Northwich Victoria|
(2 wins each)
The Conference League Cup was formed for the inaugural season of the Football Conference, in 1979-80 and existed for twenty-two seasons before being axed at the end of the 2000-01 season. It was briefly reformed for the 2004-05 season, but it was again agreed not to renew the competition for the next season. With the transfer of sponsorship of the Conference to Blue Square for the start of the 2007-08 season two seasons later, the re-introduction of the competition was announced, scheduled to commence that very year.
The competition is a knockout tournament with pairings drawn at random - like the FA Cup there is a minimal form of seeding, in that members of the (higher-level) Conference National enter together at a later stage in the tournament, and the draw for each round takes place after the completion of the round before. Assuming the Conference is neither expanded nor diminished in future, there will thus be an annual entry of 68 teams into the tournament. The first three rounds are contested solely between teams from the Conference's North and South divisions, however, until only 8 teams total from the two Divisions remain, at which point the teams of the Conference National will be entered. Matches which produce no winner after 90 minutes continue into extra time and then progress to a penalty shoot-out akin to the style of the Football League Cup, rather than scheduling replays as in the FA Cup. The first round is scheduled for October, with the intention that teams are unlikely to find themselves contesting the Conference League Cup at the same time as they play in the FA Cup and to a lesser extent, the FA Trophy, thus reducing the workload of even the more successful teams.
As an added incentive to attract greater crowds and more interest and commitment, the Football Conference announced that it has arranged a deal with Setanta Sports, the competition's sponsor, to provide live television coverage of the latter stages of the competition, thus generating much-needed revenue as well as interest from non-Conference sources.
Although the Setanta Shield will likely be considered a new competition, it is technically the delayed first reoccurrence of the one-season Conference Challenge Cup. The competition was formed for the 2004-05 Conference season as a competition in the style of the Football League Cup, with a series of one-leg matches played in a knockout tournament fashion, with extra time and penalties deciding the result in the event of a tied scoreline at the end of full-time, rather than the replay style of the FA Cup and other FA tournaments.
Though the Challenge Cup was possibly the shortest-surviving official football tournament on record, its history was still somewhat eventful. Although the Challenge Cup was announced before the start of the season, the format of the tournament was not decided upon until over a month after the season's games had started, and even then the Conference's Board of Directors reserved the right to alter the format. This caveat appears to have been centred around the desires of the Board to introduce European competition into the Cup in the Fifth Round (Quarter-Finals) or later, though this plan never solidified, and the Challenge Cup remained a solely-Conference affair.
Also among the Challenge Cup's twists and turns were its numerous name changes. Upon its announcement, the Cup was given the working title of the "Football Conference Challenge Cup", which it retained until it found a sponsor in the Carthium Group in mid-September, thus becoming the "Carthium Cup". However, the name was not to last as the business group folded less than two months later. Following this, the Cup was renamed the "National Conference Cup", in lieu of a new sponsor taking pride of place in the title. After less than two more months, the Cup was rewarded in its search, gaining the sponsorship of Gladwish Land Sales, becoming the "GLS Cup" and earning its fourth name in only three months.
The Challenge Cup added to its chequered history by expelling Bishop's Stortford F.C. from its first competition after only two rounds, for fielding an ineligible player. While the notion of banning Bishop's Stortford for such a rule violation is not uncommon, the fact that it was forced to do so after only two months and two rounds makes the event yet another ignominious decision in the Cup's history.
After a season of endless problems, and with other, more important, competitions to focus on, the fans eventually turned against the Challenge Cup, and its attendances were exceedingly low. With plans in the offing to alter the format of the Football Conference, including raising the size of its new national division to the present standard of 24 teams, it was decided that renewing the Challenge Cup was simply not worth it, and it was felt that continuing the competition would simply overcrowd a match schedule which would already be increasing by four matches for each team in the new season. Given these circumstances, the Challenge Cup was announced as scrapped shortly before the official start of the 2005-06 season.
In the 2007-08 season, however, the Setanta Sports television company gained the rights to broadcast Conference football. In order to increase the variety and number of matches played, the Conference agreed to relaunch the competition under the sponsorship of Setanta, as the Setanta Shield.
|1988-89||Yeovil Town||Kidderminster Harriers|
|1992-93||Northwich Victoria||Wycombe Wanderers|
|1993-94||Macclesfield Town||Yeovil Town|
|1994-95||Bromsgrove Rovers||Kettering Town|
|1995-96||Bromsgrove Rovers||Macclesfield Town|
|1996-97||Kidderminster Harriers||Macclesfield Town|
|1998-99||Doncaster Rovers||Farnborough Town|
|2007-08||Aldershot Town||Rushden & Diamonds|