First-class games and matches
Games from matches & tournaments recognised by the Football Association (FA), involving teams from member and affiliate clubs.
Matches & tournaments are recognised when the FA (either National or Local) played a part in the organisation of them, or selection of the teams to participate. The status of the match at the conclusion of the season determines its inclusion, therefore games which were abandoned, or later expunged are not included.
For the avoidance of doubt, after the close of the 1914-15 season and for the remainder of World War One, all games were arranged on a friendly basis, and are not included as first-class games.
Southport Central did not enter a league competition during their initial season 1888-89, therefore any games arranged on an exhibition or friendly basis during this season are not included as first-class games.
The recent events in relation to the 2020-21 season also allow for a practical illustration of the above principles, and are worth re-confirming to ensure clarity: all games originally designated as League fixtures were later expunged when the National League competition was declared null and void in the 2020-21 season, and are therefore not included as first-class games. The FA Trophy and FA Cup competitions were however played to their conclusion and therefore these are included as first-class games.
Why are there differences between statistics promoted by different entities?
Southport Football Club took the decision that some, but not all, games that were declared void, would be included within statistics they publish. Specifically this relates to games within the 2020/21 season that were initially played as League games, which they have chosen to include. They do not include the opening three games of the 1939/40 Football League season, nor any games against opponents who later withdrew from the league that they were in, for example Farsley Celtic in 2010.
What about County Cup games?
Whether or not a county cup game should be included within first team statistics varies from club to club, and is usually dependent upon the level at which the club operates within the football pyramid.
For example, Liverpool Football Club do not consider Liverpool Senior Cup games as qualifying first team games, regardless of whether a recognised first team player takes part. This is usually an indication of how important the club considers the competition, however the same principal also applies at Carlisle United who do usually field a strong team in the Cumberland Cup.
Southport are no longer an EFL team so are entered into the Lancs “Challenge Trophy” rather than their “Senior” competition (this is the name of one of their two Senior competitions) and therefore have to play their “best available” team as per the rules.
Whilst a club’s view of a competition might naturally change if there is a significant change in the pyramid level at which they operate, Southport Football Club have always fielded strong sides in County Cup competitions throughout their history. Therefore the club itself considers them first team games. For the avoidance of doubt they are currently included in the statistics on this site too.
However, the FA themselves don’t appear to class them as first team fixtures, certainly not in relation to discipline anyway. In their “important information for players” guidance that they issue each season they confirm that “The Senior County Cup Fixture will not be treated as a first team fixture and can not be used to serve suspensions for first team matches. Any misconduct for the Senior County Cup will be dealt with by the County FA as Non First Team misconduct”. That seems pretty clear.
On that basis, I can see a valid argument for their exclusion and may canvas opinion in wider circles as to whether this decision should be changed. Geoff Wilde was never one to include them, perhaps he was right all along.
Further information on the approach taken to statistics on this website can be found here: Statistics and Records
Club Heritage Numbers
In the last decade or so a number of clubs (and national teams) have awarded ‘Heritage Numbers’ to players on the basis of when they made their debut for the team in question. A number of subtle variations in the methodology have been adopted, but the vast majority have awarded them only for first-class games, however they choose to define them.
We may consider allocating ‘Heritage Numbers’ to players in the future, once we are satisfied that all data is complete, and if we do so it will likely be based on the following principles:
- Any playing appearance for a player in any recognised first-class game (since the formation of the club) qualifies as a player for a ‘Heritage Number’
- Numbers will be awarded sequentially based on debut date
- Where more than one player debuts in the same match, the earlier number will be awarded on the basis of:
- Time of entry to the field (i.e. substitutes after starters, and for substitutes the order they enter the field of play, where known);
- The number of shirt worn (if numbered and known);
- Alphabetical order of surname;
- Alphabetical order of first & subsequent names;
- Random allocation
Once allocated, for practical purposes Heritage Numbers will not be dynamic, as the intention would be that players would be notified of their numbers, and they could if desirous be worn on jerseys. Consequently should an error be identified post allocation, numbers would not be re-stated to correct the earlier omission, but would instead be decimalised to indicate where they would have been. For example 950.1 which would sit between players 950 and 951.