English football clubs in international competitions
English football clubs have entered European association football competitions (UEFA Champions League/European Cup, UEFA Cup/Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and the now defunct UEFA Intertoto Cup and UEFA Cup Winners' Cup) since 1955, when Birmingham City and a London XI took part in the inaugural Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. English clubs have also taken part in the FIFA Club World Cup on four occasions and the Intercontinental Cup on six occasions.
The European Cup began in 1955–56, but there was no English representative during that inaugural season as reigning champions Chelsea had been persuaded to withdraw by The Football League. The first English side to participate in the following edition was Manchester United, who were also the first English winners in 1968, ten years after their second entry into the cup had effectively ended when eight of their players died in the Munich air disaster when flying home from Belgrade after qualifying for the 1957–58 semi-final. Tottenham Hotspur won the Cup Winners' Cup in 1963.
Prior to that, England had been pioneers in establishing international competitions, with the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy, which was won by West Auckland when they defeated Italian side Juventus in 1909. English teams have participated in UEFA competitions every year save for the years between 1985–1990, when in the aftermath of the Heysel Stadium disaster, all English clubs were banned from Europe by UEFA; Liverpool, who had been playing at the Heysel Stadium against Juventus, were banned for six years, until 1991. Several teams have managed to play in Europe while being outside the top flight, including more recently Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic. Liverpool are the most successful English team internationally with 13 honours.
Who qualifies for UEFA competitions
From the 2015–16 season, the various permutations allow for a maximum of 5 English clubs to qualify for the UEFA Champions League and 3 for the UEFA Europa League. From the 2018-19 season, the top four clubs in Europe's four highest ranked leagues will qualify directly to the group stages. These leagues are currently England, Germany, Italy, and Spain. The minimum quota is for four English clubs to qualify for the UEFA Champions League and three for the UEFA Europa League.
|UEFA Champions League group stage||Premier League 1st|
|Premier League 2nd|
|Premier League 3rd|
|Premier League 4th|
|UEFA Champions League winners||Since the 2015–16 season, the UEFA Champions League winners will gain entry to the UEFA Champions League in the group stages.|
|UEFA Europa League winners||Prior to the 2015–16 season, there was a limit of four clubs from each association entering the Champions League. If a club outside of England's top four won the Champions League, the 4th placed club would be demoted to the Europa League in the following season. This occurred in the 2011–12 season when Chelsea won the Champions League but only finished sixth in the Premier League. They replaced the fourth-placed team Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League, who were demoted to the Europa League.
Also from that season, if English clubs win both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, and neither finish the Premier League in a position that qualifies them for the UEFA Champions League, the following will happen:
|UEFA Europa League group stage||FA Cup winners or Club finishing fifth in the Premier League||If the FA Cup winners qualify for the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Europa League via the domestic league, by Regulation 3.04, the highest ranking non-qualified league club qualifies, taking the lowest Europa League spot (the League Cup spot – the League Cup inherits the League spot, and the League inherits the FA Cup spot).|
|UEFA Europa League second qualifying round||League Cup winners||If the League Cup winners have already qualified for Europe by a high Premier League finish, then the next highest-finishing Premier League club gets this place|
|UEFA Europa League first qualifying round||Premier League club with the best UEFA Fair Play ranking that has not already qualified for Europe, but only if England has one of the top three positions and has a fair play score of above eight.||As of 2015, Fair Play no longer earns this Europa League spot. Instead, such teams will be awarded in cash prizes, with the monies to be spent on "fair play or respect themed projects".|
Multiple European and worldwide competition winners from England
|Team||Number of Wins||Years|
|Liverpool||13||1973, 1976, 1977 (2), 1978, 1981, 1984, 2001 (2), 2005 (2), 2019 (2)|
|Manchester United||8||1968, 1991 (2), 1999 (2), 2008 (2), 2017|
|Chelsea||6||1971, 1998 (2), 2012, 2013, 2019|
|Tottenham Hotspur||3||1963, 1972, 1984|
|Nottingham Forest||3||1979 (2), 1980|
|Aston Villa||3||1982 (2), 2001|
|West Ham United||2||1965, 1999|
|Leeds United||2||1968, 1971|
|Newcastle United||2||1969, 2006|
European and World competition winners
Full European record
UEFA Champions League/European Cup
English teams have won the competition 13 times and been in the final on 8 occasions as of 1 June 2019.
Note: UEFA denotes qualified for the UEFA Cup/Europa League.
- The Heysel ban for English clubs was lifted for 1990–91, apart from for Liverpool who served an additional year.
Inter-Cities Fairs Cup/UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League
English teams have won the competition 13 times and reached the final on 11 other occasions.
- England had no coefficient points as a result of the Heysel ban, so only one club was granted entry. Under normal circumstances, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, and Nottingham Forest would also have entered.
- England had only one year of coefficient points as a result of the Heysel ban, so only one club was granted entry. Under normal circumstances, Crystal Palace, Leeds United, and Sheffield Wednesday would also have entered.
- England had only two years of coefficient points as a result of the Heysel ban, so only two clubs were granted entry. Under normal circumstances, Arsenal and Manchester City F.C. would also have entered.
- England had only three years of coefficient points as a result of the Heysel ban, so only two clubs were granted entry. Under normal circumstances, Blackburn Rovers and Queens Park Rangers F.C. would also have entered.
- England had only four years of coefficient points as a result of the Heysel ban, so only three clubs were granted entry. Under normal circumstances, Leeds United would also have entered.
UEFA Intertoto Cup
Premier League international performance
Between the 1992–93 and 2012–13 seasons, Premier League clubs had won the UEFA Champions League four times (as well as supplying five of the runners-up), behind Spain's La Liga with six wins, and Italy's Serie A with five wins, and ahead of, among others, Germany's Bundesliga with three wins (see table here). The FIFA Club World Cup (or the FIFA Club World Championship, as it was originally called) has been won by Premier league clubs once (Manchester United in 2008), and they have also been runners-up twice, behind Brazil's Série A with four wins, and Spain's La Liga and Italy's Serie A with two wins each (see table here).
Note that some Premier League clubs are not based in England. Because they are members of the Football Association of Wales (FAW), the question of which country clubs like Cardiff City and Swansea City should represent in European competitions has caused long-running discussions in UEFA. Despite being a member of the FAW, Swansea took up one of England's three available places in the UEFA Europa League in 2013–14, thanks to winning the League Cup in 2012–13. The right of Welsh clubs to take up such English places was in doubt until UEFA clarified the matter in March 2012.
European Cup and UEFA Champions League
Note: The European Cup began in 1955–56 (abbreviated here to 1956) and was renamed the UEFA Champions League in 1992–93 (abbreviated here to 1993). The Premier League also began in 1992–93, so teams from the Premier League were playing in Europe in that season (abbreviated here to 1993), even though they had actually qualified for Europe through the old English First Division the previous season.
English finalists of European Cup and UEFA Champions League
This table combines the English totals before and during the Premier League era. It shows that Liverpool lead, with six wins. Manchester United won the unofficial club world championship, the Intercontinental Cup, in 1999, and the official FIFA Club World Cup in 2008.
|Club||Winners||Runners-Up||Years won||Years runners-up|
|Liverpool||6||3||1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2005, 2019||1985, 2007, 2018|
|Manchester United||3||2||1968, 1999, 2008||2009, 2011|
|Nottingham Forest||2||0||1979, 1980|
Premier League rise to European dominance and subsequent decline
For details, see entries for the 1992-93 season (abbreviated here as 1993) and subsequent seasons in this table.
Premier League teams gradually improved their performance in the Champions League until a peak centred on the 2008 season, followed by a significant decline thereafter. They had no semi-finalists for the first four seasons (1993 to 1996). They then had four semi-finalists (Manchester United in 1997, 1999, and 2002, and Leeds United in 2001) over the next seven seasons (1997 to 2003), one of whom went on to become champions (Manchester United in 1999). They then had four semi-finalists (Chelsea in 2004 and 2005, Liverpool in 2005, and Arsenal in 2006) in the next three seasons (2004 to 2006), with Arsenal going on to be runners-up in 2006 and Liverpool winning in 2005.
They then peaked with nine semi-finalists (Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool in both 2007 and 2008, and Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal in 2009) in the next three seasons (2007 to 2009), with Liverpool (2007), Chelsea (2008), and Manchester United (2009) going on to be runners-up, and Manchester United going on to win an all-English final against Chelsea in 2008, a year in which none of the four English teams were eliminated by anybody except another English team. Around this time, then-UEFA president Michel Platini began to make statements which resulted in a widespread perception that he was anti-English, which some attributed to his alleged fear of English domination in European club competition.
However, this dominance did not produce a corresponding number of titles. At its most dominant, from 2007 to 2009, the Premier League had 75% (9 out of 12) of the semi-finalists, 67% (4 out of 6) of the finalists, 100% (3 out of 3) of the runners-up, but only 33% (1 out of 3) of the winners (Manchester United in 2008), with the other two titles going to Milan in 2007 and Barcelona in 2009. And English dominance did not last, with the Premier League managing only two semi-finalists (Manchester United in 2011, and Chelsea in 2012) over the next four seasons (2010 to 2013), although Manchester United went on to be runners-up in 2011, and Chelsea won in 2012. In 2013, no Premier League side reached the last eight for the first time since 1996 (in a time when England were only entitled to one Champions League place compared to 2013's four), only two (Manchester United and Arsenal) made it to the last 16, and Chelsea became the first defending champions to fail to make it past the group stage of the Champions League, although by finishing third in their group they did manage to qualify for the UEFA Europa League, which they went on to win.
At that time, it was noted that if the decline continued for long enough, it could in theory eventually deprive the Premier League of its entitlement to have four teams in the Champions League each year, which it has had since 2005, but the coefficient tables gave little cause for concern from an English perspective, as all England's relevant coefficients were ahead of fourth-placed Italy's, and this did not change until 2018, when the quotas were adjusted by UEFA to guarantee four Champions League places to each of the top four nations, with those clubs going into the Group stage directly rather than having to navigate qualifying rounds.
The downward trend was reversed in 2018–19, when all four Premier League entrants (including Liverpool, who had reached the 2018 final) progressed to the quarter-finals. Despite the general decline in the levels of success from what English clubs had enjoyed a decade earlier, and the consistent high levels for other nations, particularly Spain, England remains the only nation to have four of the last eight participants in the competition, with 2018–19 joining 2007–08 and 2008–09 in that regard (Liverpool and Manchester United were involved in all three campaigns). In addition, English sides sealed all of the final places in both UEFA competitions in that season.
FIFA Club World Cup
The FIFA Club World Cup (or the FIFA Club World Championship, as it was originally called) has been won by Premier league clubs once (Manchester United in 2008), and they have also been runners-up twice, behind Spain's La Liga with seven wins, Brazil's Série A with four wins, and Italy's Serie A with two wins.
Premier League Club World Cup finalists
Manchester United lead this table, having defeated LDU Quito of Ecuador 1–0 in Yokohama, Japan, in 2008. Liverpool lost to São Paulo of Brazil 1–0 in the same stadium in 2005. Chelsea lost to Corinthians of Brazil 1–0 in the same stadium in 2012. Manchester United also took part in the first FIFA Club World Championship in 2000, but were eliminated at the group stage after finishing third in their group.
|Club||Won||Runner-up||Years won||Years runners-up|
Before being supplanted by the FIFA Club World Cup, the now defunct Intercontinental Cup served as an de facto annual world club championship contested by the European South American club champions. Manchester United won it in 1999, the only time a Premier League club took part in the cup. This was a marked improvement on the performance of English teams before the Premier League era, when English clubs contested the cup on five occasions (1968, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984), losing each time, and allowing South America to finish with 22 wins, one ahead of Europe's 21 (see table here).
Additionally, English clubs have initially qualified for the Intercontinental Cup but withdrew from participation, namely Liverpool in 1977 and Nottingham Forest in 1979. Both berths were eventually taken by the respective European Cup losing finalists. Liverpool also qualified for the 1978 edition but they and opponents Boca Juniors declined to play each other, making it a no contest.
Premier League clubs in the Intercontinental Cup
|1999||Manchester United||1–0||Palmeiras||National Stadium, Tokyo|
English clubs in the Intercontinental Cup before the Premier League era
|Year||Country||Home team||Score||Away team||Country||Venue||Location||Refs|
|1968||Estudiantes de La Plata||1–0||Manchester United||Estadio Boca Juniors||Buenos Aires, Argentina|
|Manchester United||1–1||Estudiantes de La Plata||Old Trafford||Manchester, England|
|Estudiantes won 2–1 on aggregate.|
Single match finals
|1980||Nacional||1–0||Nottingham Forest||National Stadium, Tokyo|
Intercontinental Cup and FIFA Club World Cup combined
In the Premier League era, Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson have a 67% success rate, having participated in 3 (Intercontinental Cup in 1999, FIFA Club World Cups in 2000 and 2008), and won 2 (Intercontinental Cup 1999, FIFA Club World Cup 2008).
This 67% success rate compares favourably with the all-time European average of 53.6% success - having participated in 57, and won 31 (having won 21 out of 43 Intercontinental Cups - see table here, and 10 out of 14 FIFA Club World Cups - see table here). It also compares favourably with the European average in the Premier League era (1993 onwards) of 69.2% success - having participated in 26 (12 Intercontinental Cups from 1993 to 2004 - full details here, 14 FIFA Club World Cups - full details here), and won 18 (8 Intercontinental Cups in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 10 FIFA Club World Cups in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013). 2014). 2015). 2016, 2017).
In marked contrast, all other English clubs, including Manchester United in 1968 (before the Premier League and Alex Ferguson eras) have a record of 0% success - participating in 7, winning none, losing 5 Intercontinental Cups before the Premier League era (Manchester United in 1968, Nottingham Forest in 1980, Liverpool in 1981, Aston Villa in 1982, Liverpool in 1984), and losing two FIFA Club World Cups in the Premier League era (Liverpool in 2005, Chelsea in 2012).
The above data means that when one includes Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United, English clubs have success rates of 40% (2 out of 5) in the Premier League era, 0% (0 out of 5) before the Premier League era, and 20% (2 out of 10) overall.
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