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New sponsor for the undervalued League Cup

On Friday, it was announced by the Football League that UK credit card company Capital One will take over sponsorship of the League Cup in a four year deal.

The trophy has been sponsored by Carling since 2004 but this deal came to an end following the end of the last domestic season.

Capital One is one of the top 10 credit card issuers in the UK and has almost three million customers.

On the Football League’s official website, chief commercial officer Richard Heaselgrave said: “This is terrific news for clubs and a great way to conclude what has been a memorable domestic football season.

"I am absolutely delighted to welcome Capital One to working with the Football League, our clubs and those of the Premier League"

He added: "They're a hugely respected company that really impressed us with a passion and excitement for the competition so we can't wait to build a successful, innovative partnership over the next four seasons."

A proud history

The League Cup has been in existence since 1960, with the first final matches being played over two legs. Aston Villa won the inaugural trophy, overcoming Rotherham United 3-2 on aggregate.

The first final to be played at Wembley Stadium was in 1967, the first time that the showpiece event would take the form of one game, unless a replay was required. QPR came out on top against West Brom on this occasion, winning 3-2.

In 1982 the trophy was sponsored for the first time, called the Milk Cup. It was a period when Liverpool and Aston Villa forged a reputation of being difficult to beat in this trophy.

Overall, Liverpool won the League Cup for four consecutive years between 1981 and 1985, winning eight times in its history.  Villa had success in 1994 and 1996 and often made the latter stages of England's third domestic competition.

There have been plenty of sponsorship partnerships between the Football League and major companies, with the longest being Coca Cola over six years in the 1990s.

Pools giant Littlewoods, former electrical retailer Rumbelows and brewer Worthington have also had their brands associated with the trophy.

Famous scalps

When the Champions League got a full restructure in 1992, the League Cup began to lose some creditability as the big guns of English football compared a run in this competition as a hindrance rather than a delight.

Manchester United and Arsenal have commonly used this trophy as an exercise to give their kids and reserve team players a run out and although Sir Alex Ferguson’s stance on the merits of the League Cup have changed in recent times, the final prize money of £100,000 means that some of the richer clubs don’t see any significant benefits to winning a major piece of silverware anymore.

Unlike the FA Cup, famous scalps aren’t remembered so much, due to the quality of sides fielded by the Premier League teams. There have been some huge upsets down the years though.

Manchester United was embarrassed by lowly York City at Old Trafford in September 1995, losing 3-0 at home and the side were knocked out in a second leg return at Bootham Crescent, 4-3 on aggregate.

Southend United and Coventry City have also experienced shock wins in more recent times against the most successful club in English football history.

Liverpool were famously dumped out at home by both Grimsby Town and Northampton Town in the last decade, while Tottenham have lost also at Blundell Park in a second round tie, 1-0 in 2005.

Oxford United and Luton Town were amongst the surprising winners in the 1980s and Bolton Wanderers, Tranmere Rovers and Cardiff City have made the final from outside the top flight in the Premier League era.

The consequences of winning

The prize for winning the League Cup is a spot in the qualifying stages for the UEFA Europa League.

The last two winners have seen dire consequences of winning the first silverware on offer in the domestic season.

Liverpool ended a six-year silverware drought by beating Cardiff on penalties at Wembley in February.

Their league form after this was horrendous, only winning four matches and dropping to eighth, finishing with their lowest points tally in the 20 years of Premier League football.

Kenny Dalglish was sacked three days later and replaced by Brendan Rodgers.

In 2010-11, Birmingham City shocked Arsenal to win 2-1 in the final but the season ended in heartbreak as Alex McLeish’s side went on a run of just two wins in 11 and it cost them their top-flight status.

The fans would surely have traded cup success for Premier League survival and that exposes the fallibility of winning.

It won’t be long before the days of a non-Premier League winner emerge in this trophy and if recent history is anything to go by, a League Cup triumph seems to hinder a team’s run-in rather than help build momentum.

Perhaps Premier League teams should avoid winning the Capital One Cup when it heads to Wembley in February 2013, the consequences could be catastrophic.

By Simon Wright - Follow me on Twitter @Siwri88

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