|Number of teams||12 (First edition)|
64 (Last edition)
|Related competitions||UEFA Cup (successor)|
|Last champions|| Leeds United|
|Most successful club(s)|| Barcelona|
The Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, sometimes referred to as the European Fairs Cup, Fairs Cities' Cup, or simply as the Fairs Cup, was a European football competition played between 1955 and 1971. The competition was the idea of FIFA vice-president and Executive Committee member Ernst Thommen, Italian Football Federation President and FIFA Executive Committee member Ottorino Barassi, and the English Football Association general secretary and president of FIFA from 1961 to 1974, Stanley Rous. As the name suggests, the competition was set up to promote international trade fairs. Friendly games were regularly held between teams from cities holding trade fairs and it was from these games that the competition evolved. The competition was initially only open to teams from cities that hosted trade fairs and where these teams finished in their national league had no relevance. Early competitions also featured a one city, one team rule. After 1968, it was sometimes referred to as the Runners-up Cup, with teams now qualifying based on league position.
The cup was organised by the Fairs Cup Committee which was led by senior FIFA officials. Stanley Rous served as the committee chairman, Ernst Thommen as committee secretary until his death in 1967 and Ottorino Barassi as a committee member. With the support of such individuals, there was no need for the approval of the international governing bodies until 1971, when after few years of negotiations, it came under the auspices of UEFA. With new ownership came a new name (UEFA Cup), new trophy and new regulations.
While the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup is recognised as the predecessor to the UEFA Cup, it was not organised by UEFA. Consequently, UEFA does not consider clubs' records in the Fairs Cup to be part of their European record. However, FIFA does view the competition as a major honour.
The first competition was to be held over two seasons to avoid clashes with national leagues fixtures. Because it was also intended to coincide with trade fairs, it ran over into a third year. It commenced in 1955 and finished in 1958. Cities that entered teams included Barcelona, Basel, Birmingham, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Vienna, Cologne, Lausanne, Leipzig, London, Milan, and Zagreb. The first competition included a group stage and also featured some city representative teams instead of clubs. The eventual finalists were the city of Barcelona and a London XI. While the latter side consisted of players from 11 clubs, the former was effectively FC Barcelona with one player from RCD Espanyol. After a 2–2 draw at Stamford Bridge, Barcelona emerged triumphant after winning the return 6–0. A second tournament took place between 1958 and 1960. This time, the group stage format was abandoned in favour of a knockout tournament. Barcelona retained the cup, beating Birmingham City 4–1 in the final.
The third tournament was held over the course of the 1960–61 season and all subsequent tournaments were completed over one season. The season also saw the holders, Barcelona, compete in both the Fairs Cup and European Cup. During the early days of European competition, these tournaments were effectively rivals and there was little or no co-ordination between the administrators running them. The European Cup quickly established itself as the premier club competition, largely because it had the advantage of featuring national league champions and was completed in a single season from the very start. The efforts of Barcelona ended in failure in both competitions. In the Fairs Cup quarter-finals, they lost 7–6 on aggregate to Hibernian, while in the European Cup, they were beaten in the final by Benfica. Roma took three games to beat Hibernian in the semi-finals before they progressed to the final. Birmingham City reached their second final in two years but once again they were defeated. After a 2–2 draw at home, they lost 2–0 to Roma in the return.
The 1961–62 season saw the rules amended to allow three teams from each country to enter. The "one city, one team" rule was temporarily abandoned and two teams represented each of Edinburgh, Milan, and Barcelona (respectively Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian, Internazionale and A.C. Milan, and FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol). This increase in teams resulted in Spanish teams continuing to dominate the competition. FC Barcelona were now regularly joined by Valencia CF and Real Zaragoza. These three clubs won the competition six times between them from 1958 to 1966. The Fairs Cup saw three all-Spanish finals in 1962, 1964, and 1966. The 1962 final saw Valencia CF beat FC Barcelona 7–3 on aggregate and in 1963 they retained the title after beating Dinamo Zagreb with a 4–1 aggregate score. They reached their third final in 1964 but lost 2–1 to Real Zaragoza in a single game at the Camp Nou.
The 1965 tournament saw a record entry of 48 teams, testimony to the growing status of the Fairs Cup. It also produced only the second final not to feature a Spanish team. Ferencvárosi TC of Hungary beat Juventus in another single-game final. The 1966 competition attracted attention for all the wrong reasons. Chelsea were pelted with rubbish at Roma and Leeds United fought a bruising encounter with Valencia CF which ended with three dismissals. Leeds also had Johnny Giles sent off in the semi-final against Real Zaragoza. The final saw FC Barcelona beat Real Zaragoza 4–3 on aggregate.
The 1967 tournament saw the emergence of English clubs with Leeds United reaching the final. Although they lost to Dinamo Zagreb, they returned the following season and defeated Ferencvárosi TC to become the first English club to win the competition. The subsequent victories of Newcastle United and Arsenal and a second win for Leeds United saw English clubs winning the last four Fairs Cup tournaments. The last final saw Leeds United declared winners on away goals after drawing with Juventus 3–3 on aggregate.
In the 1971–72 season the competition was taken over by UEFA and relaunched as the UEFA Cup. By replacing the trophy, renaming the competition, and revising the entry regulations, UEFA effectively ended the Fairs Cup. Among the changes was the abandonment of the "one city one team" rule, which had had a particularly bad effect on English entrants for 1969–70, when Liverpool (2nd), Arsenal (4th), Southampton (7th), and Newcastle United (9th-also holders) got the places, at the expense of Everton (3rd), Chelsea (5th), Tottenham Hotspur (6th), and West Ham United (8th). The Football League upheld the geographic rule until 1975, when UEFA pressured the League to drop it or face sanctions. Everton that year, having come 4th, would have been excluded from the competition due to Liverpool's 2nd-place finish.
Trophy play-off match
After the 1970-71 season the organisation of the Fairs Cup was taken over by UEFA. The competition was rebranded as UEFA Cup with a new trophy being introduced which is still in use today. The old trophy had not been won by any club permanently, so UEFA organised a play off match to decide who would gain permanent possession of the original Fairs Cup trophy. Before the match, FIFA President Sir Stanley Rous presented silver insignias to the members of the 1958 title winning side, FC Barcelona.
|Year||Home Team||Score||Away Team||Venue|
|2–1|| Leeds United
|Camp Nou, Barcelona|
|Single match play-off|
|Club||Winners||Runners-up||Winning years||Runner-up years|
|Barcelona||3||1||1958, 1960, 1966||1962|
|Leeds United||2||1||1968, 1971||1967|
|Birmingham City||0||2||1960, 1961|
All-time top scorers
|1||Waldo Machado da Silva||31||Valencia|
|2||Peter Lorimer||20||Leeds United|
|José Antonio Zaldúa||Barcelona|
|7||Evaristo de Macedo||17||Barcelona|
|9||Marcelino Martínez||15||Real Zaragoza|
Top scorers by season
- Source: rsssf.com
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