Has a non-Premier League team ever won the FA Cup?

The beauty of cup competitions such as the FA Cup and League Cup lies in the truth that pretty much anyone can win.

There is already little room for predictability in football, but unlike points-based competitions such as the Premier League, everything is left to play for during a single cup competition.

With “giant-killings” able to happen at any time during the course of the FA Cup, has any non-Premiership ever caused a huge upset and won the entire competition? Goal takes a look.

Has a non-Premier League side ever won the FA Cup?

A non-Premier League has never won the FA Cup, but teams from outside of the English top-flight have won the competition before the rebrand of the Premier League in 1992.

Notts County (1894); Tottenham Hotspur (1901); Wolverhampton Wanderers (1908); Barnsley (1912); West Bromwich Albion (1931); Sunderland (1973), Southampton (1976) and West Ham United (1980) have all lifted the FA Cup as non-First Division teams (every team except for Tottenham were playing in the Second Division, while Tottenham were playing in the Southern League as they were only elected to the Football League in 1908).

Tottenham, then, are the only non-League winners of the FA Cup since the inception of the League.

In the history of the FA Cup, just 24 teams in the final have hailed from outside the top-flight of English football.

When was the last time a team from outside of the top division won the FA Cup?

West Ham’s 1-0 FA Cup final win over Arsenal in 1980 is the last time a team from outside of the top division won the competition.

They beat the Gunners in a massive upset, as the north Londoners were the reigning cup holders and had placed fourth in the First Division. West Ham, meanwhile, finished the campaign seventh in the Second Division.

FA Cup West Ham 1980

Sunderland’s 1973 FA Cup final win over First Division side Leeds, who had finished third in the top-flight, was considered another upset.

Wigan are the only side to have won the FA Cup and relegated from the Premier League in the same season (after beating Manchester City in another “giant-killing” in 2013).

What is a giant-killing?

A “giant-killing” is what happens when a side pegged as the odds-on “favourite” is beaten by the team that, is on paper, seemingly weaker.

In a David and Goliath scenario, the underdogs are considered to be the David while the giants are the Goliath. And so, the “giant” in this analogy refers to the team most likely to win.

Upsets of underdog teams overcoming the on-paper ‘favourites’ are what makes cup competitions and knockout tournaments so special.

Full list of FA Cup winners from outside the top division

Team Division Year won
Notts County Second Division 1894
Tottenham Southern League* 1901
Wolves Second Division 1908
Barnsley Second Division 1912
West Brom Second Division 1931
Sunderland Second Division 1973
Southampton Second Division 1976
West Ham Second Division 1989

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