UEFA Cup Winners' Cup

The UEFA Cup Winners' Cup was a European football club competition contested annually by the winners of domestic cup competitions. The cup was, chronologically, the second seasonal inter-European club competitions organised by UEFA. The first competition was held in 1960–61, but it was organised by the Mitropa Cup's Organisating Committee and not recognised by the governing body of European football until 1963 on initiative of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC).[1] The tournament ran for 39 seasons until 1998–1999, when it was absorbed into the UEFA Cup.

UEFA Cup Winners' Cup
RegionEurope (UEFA)
Number of teams32 (first round)
Last champions Lazio
(1st title)
Most successful club(s) Barcelona
(4 titles)

The Cup Winners' Cup was regarded by UEFA as the second most prestigious European club competition, behind the European Cup and ahead of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (later the UEFA Cup). From 1972 onwards, the winner of the tournament progressed to play the winner of the European Cup (later the UEFA Champions League) in the UEFA Super Cup. Since the abolition of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, the UEFA Super Cup place previously reserved for the Cup Winners' Cup winner has been taken by the winner of the UEFA Cup, now the UEFA Europa League. The competition's official name was originally the European Cup Winners' Cup; it was renamed the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1994.


Throughout its 39-year history, the Cup Winners' Cup was always a straight knock-out tournament with two-legged home and away ties until the single match final staged at a neutral venue, the only exception to this being the two-legged final in the competition's first year. In common with other UEFA club tournaments, the away goals rule was applied when aggregate scores were tied. The format was identical to the original European Champions' Cup with 32 teams contesting four knock-out rounds prior to the showpiece final, with the tournament usually running from September to May each year. Following the influx of new UEFA member nations during the 1990s, a regular August preliminary round was added to reduce the number of entrants to 32.

Entry was restricted to one club from each UEFA member association, the only exception being to allow the current Cup Winners' Cup holders to enter alongside their nation's new domestic cup winners in order to allow them a chance to defend their Cup Winners' Cup title (although no club ever managed to do this). However, if this team also qualified for the European Champions' Cup then they would default on their place in the Cup Winners' Cup and no other team would replace them.

On occasions when a club completed a domestic league and cup 'double' that club would enter the European Cup/UEFA Champions League and their place in the Cup Winners' Cup would be taken by the domestic cup runners-up. In 1998–99, the competition's final year, Heerenveen of the Netherlands entered the Cup Winners' Cup despite only reaching the semi-final of the previous season's KNVB Cup. This was due to both KNVB Cup finalists Ajax and PSV Eindhoven qualifying for the recently expanded Champions League.


Early tournaments

The earliest events where cup holders from different countries met were the friendly games nicknamed "world championships" at the end of the 19th century between English and Scottish cup holders. The respective leagues were yet established, and therefore, the first two editions involved meetings between cup holders – the fourth edition involved cup holders as well (won by Aston Villa, Renton, and the Heart of Midlothian, respectively) – exception being the 1895 edition, where English champions Sunderland beat Scottish champions Heart of Midlothian.[2][3]

Inauguration and prestige

Mirroring the circumstances behind the creation of the European Cup five years earlier, the idea for a pan-European cup competition contested by all of Europe's domestic cup winners came from prominent European sports journalists. The European Cup had proven to be a great success and the Fairs Cup had also proven popular – as a result, other ideas for new European football tournaments were being aired. One proposal was for a tournament based upon the format of the European Cup, but with national cup winners rather than league champions taking part, which could run alongside that competition.

The trophy awarded to Atlético Madrid in 1962.

The inaugural Cup Winners' Cup was held in the 1960–61 season and was basically a semi-official pilot tournament. However the initial reaction to the competition's creation was unenthusiastic on the part of many of Europe's top clubs – many European associations did not have domestic cup competitions at the time and in those countries that did, the cup competition was generally held in low esteem and often not taken seriously by the bigger clubs. It was essentially only in England, Scotland and to a lesser extent Germany and Spain that the domestic cup was considered especially prestigious. Many were sceptical about the viability of a European tournament for cup winners and many of the bigger clubs eligible to contest the first CWC turned down the chance to enter, such as Atlético Madrid of Spain and AS Monaco of France.

Ultimately the inaugural CWC was contested by just 10 clubs (with Fiorentina of Italy winning the two-legged final against the Scottish team Rangers) but the games were generally well attended and the response from the public and the media to the new tournament was positive and enthusiastic. For the tournament's second season in 1961–62, UEFA took over the running of all aspects of the competition and this time all the clubs eligible to enter accepted the opportunity.

The trophy awarded to A.C. Milan in 1968.

By 1968, all UEFA member nations had set up domestic cup competitions due to the success of the Cup Winners' Cup. UEFA regarded it as the second most prestigious competition, behind the European Cup (later the UEFA Champions League) and ahead of the Fairs Cup (later the UEFA Cup). Therefore, a team qualified for both the European Cup and the Cup Winners' Cup would play in the European Cup, whereas a team qualified for both the UEFA Cup and the Cup Winners' Cup would play in the Cup Winners' Cup. Nevertheless, many commentators and fans regarded the Cup Winners' Cup as weaker than the UEFA Cup, which had more and better teams from the stronger European leagues.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

In the 1985–86 season, English clubs were banned from European competition as a result of Heysel Stadium disaster. Consequently, Manchester United, Everton, Coventry City, Wimbledon and Liverpool were prevented from competing in the Cup Winners' Cup until the beginning of the 1990–91 season.[10]

No club managed to retain the Cup Winners' Cup, although eight times a winning side followed up their victories with a losing appearance in the following season's final.


After the establishment of the UEFA Champions League (formerly called the European Champion Clubs' Cup) in the early 1990s, the standing and prestige of the Cup Winners' Cup began to decline. With the expansion of the Champions League in 1997 to allow more than one team from the highest-ranked member associations to enter, the Cup Winners' Cup began to look noticeably inferior. Many of the bigger teams who would previously have entered the Cup Winners' Cup were now gaining entry to the Champions League instead by finishing second in their domestic league – such as Cup Winners' Cup holders Barcelona in 1997–98 and Bayern Munich and PSV Eindhoven in 1998–99 – and this greatly weakened the Cup Winners' Cup.

At the time of the Champions League expansion, UEFA also considered expanding the Cup Winners' Cup from 32 teams to 64 by allowing a second team to enter from many countries, although by what qualification criteria the second entrants would be determined were never settled upon – ultimately UEFA did not make any of these changes to the Cup Winners' Cup.

By the late 1990s, the Cup Winners' Cup had come to be seen as a second-rate competition with only one or two big name teams available to enter each year and the interest in the tournament from both major clubs and the public dropped. Finally, with the further expansion of the UEFA Champions League to include as many as three or four teams from the top footballing nations, the decision was taken to abolish the competition after the end of the 1998–99 tournament and merge it into the UEFA Cup (now the UEFA Europa League). Since then, domestic cup winners who do not otherwise qualify for the Champions League are given a place in the Europa League.

The trophy awarded to Sporting CP in 1964.
The trophy awarded to Real Zaragoza in 1995.

The trophy

The Cup Winners' Cup trophy itself is a property of UEFA and it is not assigned to any club.[11] There were various versions of the trophy awarded throughout its history. The first was only awarded in its maiden season to Fiorentina. The appearance of the second trophy differed significantly from the successor versions. The third and the fourth trophy differed only in the type of base. The wooden-based trophy was awarded to the winners during the 1990s, with exception of 1993 when the special version with a metal base was awarded to Parma.

Records and statistics


Performance in Finals by club
Club Titles Runners-up Years won Years runner-up
Barcelona 4 2 1979, 1982, 1989, 1997 1969, 1991
Anderlecht 2 2 1976, 1978 1977, 1990
Milan 2 1 1968, 1973 1974
Chelsea 2 0 1971, 1998
Dynamo Kyiv[B] 2 0 1975, 1986
Atlético Madrid 12 1962 1963, 1986
Rangers 1 2 1972 1961, 1967
Arsenal 1 2 1994 1980, 1995
Fiorentina 1 1 1961 1962
West Ham United 1 1 1965 1976
Hamburger SV[A] 1 1 1977 1968
Ajax 1 1 1987 1988
Sampdoria 1 1 1990 1989
Parma 1 1 1993 1994
Paris Saint-Germain 1 1 1996 1997
Tottenham Hotspur 1 0 1963
Sporting CP 1 0 1964
Borussia Dortmund[A] 1 0 1966
Bayern Munich[A] 1 0 1967
Slovan Bratislava[C] 1 0 1969
Manchester City 1 0 1970
1. FC Magdeburg[A] 1 0 1974
Valencia 1 0 1980
Dinamo Tbilisi[B] 1 0 1981
Aberdeen 1 0 1983
Juventus 1 0 1984
Everton 1 0 1985
Mechelen 1 0 1988
Manchester United 1 0 1991
Werder Bremen[A] 1 0 1992
Zaragoza 1 0 1995
Lazio 1 0 1999
Real Madrid 0 2 1971, 1983
Rapid Wien 0 2 1985, 1996
MTK Hungária 0 1 1964
1860 Munich[A] 0 1 1965
Liverpool 0 1 1966
Górnik Zabrze 0 1 1970
Dynamo Moscow[B] 0 1 1972
Leeds United 0 1 1973
Ferencváros 0 1 1975
Austria Wien 0 1 1978
Fortuna Düsseldorf[A] 0 1 1979
Carl Zeiss Jena[A] 0 1 1981
Standard Liège 0 1 1982
Porto 0 1 1984
Lokomotive Leipzig[A] 0 1 1987
Monaco 0 1 1992
Antwerp 0 1 1993
VfB Stuttgart[A] 0 1 1998
Mallorca 0 1 1999

By nation

Performance in finals by nation
Nation Titles Runners-up Total
 England 8 5 13
 Spain 7 7 14
 Italy 7 4 11
 West Germany/Germany[A] 4 4 8
 Belgium 3 4 7
 Soviet Union[B] 3 1 4
 Scotland 2 2 4
 East Germany[A] 1 2 3
 France 1 2 3
 Netherlands 1 1 2
 Portugal 1 1 2
 Czechoslovakia[C] 1 0 1
 Austria 0 3 3
 Hungary 0 2 2
 Poland 0 1 1

    By player

    • Most UEFA Cup Winners' Cup titles: Lobo Carrasco (3) (1978–79, 1981–82, 1988–89)[12]

    See also


    1. uefadirect, Issue 100: August 2010, Page 15 "European Cup Winners' Cup makes its debut".
    2. "World Champions!". roker-roar.com. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
    3. "The unique history of British Cup Competitions". 7 September 2020.
    4. Weaver, Graham (2012). Gunners' Glory: 14 Milestones in Arsenal's History. Mainstream Publishing. p. 159. ISBN 9781780575186. The Cup-Winners' Cup is traditionally the weakest of the three European competitions
    5. Hesse-Lichtenberger, Ulrich (2003). Tor!: The Story of German Football. WSC Books Limited. p. 222. ISBN 9780954013455. Only three East German clubs ever reached a European final ... and they were all in the Cup-Winners Cup, the weakest of the three European competitions
    6. Spurling, Jon (2014). Red Letter Days: Fourteen Dramatic Events That Shook Arsenal Football Club. Pitch Publishing. p. 189. ISBN 9781909626935. The European Cup Winners' Cup had always been regarded as the weakest of the three continental competitions
    7. Kassimeris, Christos (2008). European football in black and white: tackling racism in football. Lexington Books. p. 26. ISBN 9780739119600. Only three East German clubs ever reached a European final – all in the Cup-Winners' Cup, the weakest of the three European competitions
    8. Ridley, Ian (9 February 1997). "Football: Driven to distraction by the Cup". Independent on Sunday. Retrieved 2 October 2015. the Cup-winners' Cup ... is also the weakest and least regarded of the European competitions
    9. Donald, Stuart (2011). On Fire with Fergie. Headline. Chapter 12, footnote 2. ISBN 978-0755319817.
    10. "1985: English teams banned after Heysel". 31 May 1985 via news.bbc.co.uk.
    11. "UEFA Zone – National Football Museum, Manchester". Archived from the original on 17 September 2014.
    12. "Reyes's fifth win: top UEFA club cup winners". UEFA. 18 May 2016. Retrieved 19 May 2016.

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