The Copa del Rey-Spanish Kings Cup is an annual football cup competition for Spanish football teams. Its full name is Campeonato de España – Copa de Su Majestad el Rey (Championship of Spain – Cup of His Majesty the King), and is commonly known as La Copa.
The competition was founded in 1903, thus making it the oldest Spanish football competition. Typically, the winner of Copa del Rey goes to the UEFA Europa League; but if the winner also qualifies for UEFA Champions League, then the losing finalist goes into the Europa League.
Barcelona are the current holders, who won their 27th Copa del Rey against Athletic Bilbao at the 2015 Copa del Rey Final held at the Camp Nou, being with 27 tittles, the most successful club in the competition.
In 1902, a competition under the name Copa de la Coronación, was played after Carlos Padrós, later president of Real Madrid, suggested a football tournament to celebrate the coronation of King Alfonso XIII.
Four other teams joined Madrid FC for the competition: FC Barcelona, Club Español de Foot-Ball, New Foot-Ball de Madrid and Club Bizcaya (a team made up of players from Athletic Club and Bilbao FC) which eventually defeated Barcelona in the final. That cup is on display in the Athletic Bilbao museum and the club includes the victory in its honours list.
Nevertheless, it is considered only the forerunner of the Copa del Rey and the Royal Spanish Football Federation officially doesn’t recognise it.
Copa del Rey was Spain’s football National Championship from 1903 until the foundation of the Campeonato de Liga — League Championship — in 1928. It was initially known as the Copa del Ayuntamiento de Madrid (Madrid City Council’s Cup). Between 1905 and 1932, it was known as the Copa de Su Majestad El Rey Alfonso XIII (His Majesty King Alfonso XIII’s Cup).
During the Second Spanish Republic, it was known as the Copa del Presidente de la República (President of the Republic Cup) or Copa de España (Spanish Cup) and during the years of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, it was known as the Copa de Su Excelencia El Generalísimo or Copa del Generalísimo ((His Excellency) The Supreme General’s Cup).
Athletic Bilbao were declared winners in 1904 after their opponents Español de Madrid failed to show up. In both 1910 and 1913, there was a split among the clubs and two rival associations, the Unión Española de Clubs de Fútbol and the Federación Española de Fútbol, organised rival competitions, the Copa UECF and the Copa FEF. In 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, clubs in the Republican area of Spain entered the Copa de la España Libre, with Levante FC beating their city rivals Valencia CF 1–0 in the final. (Although in 2007 the Congress of Deputies urged Royal Spanish Football Federation to recognise it as a Copa del Rey win for Levante, the governing body of Spanish football has not made a decision yet.)
Because of the dispute regarding the 1902 competition, the statistics regarding the leading winners are also disputed. Barcelona have won the Copa 27 times; Athletic Bilbao are just behind, with either 24 or 23 titles, depending on the source.
Throughout the history of the competition, there have been 12 actual trophies. Trophies have been permanently awarded to clubs for winning the competition either three times in a row or on five separate occasions and for other special reasons.
Thus, four trophies have been permanently awarded to Barcelona, three to Bilbao and one to Real Madrid. Athletic Bilbao kept the first trophy as inaugural winners, Sevilla FC were awarded the Trofeo del Generalísimo in 1939 and Atlético Madrid, winners the previous year, were awarded the 11th trophy following the death of Francisco Franco.
In December 2010, the cup was given to Sevilla, the 2010 winners, to keep in honour of Spain’s World Cup victory.
Before the formation of La Liga in 1929, the competition was effectively a national championship. Teams qualified to enter via their regional leagues. Over the years, various formats, including group stages have been used.
Unlike the English FA Cup, entry is limited. Only teams from the Primera División, Segunda A, about 23 teams from the Segunda B and the Tercera División champions (or runners-up if the champion is a reserve team) are invited to enter. The early rounds are one-off games with teams from the lower divisions given home advantage.
The round of 32, the round of 16, the quarter-finals, and semi-finals are played over two legs. The final is a one-off game played at a neutral venue. The winners qualify for both the Supercopa de España and the UEFA Europa League the following season.
22 December 2010, at an extraordinary general meeting of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, Sevilla FC requested permission from the Federation to keep the trophy they had won in the 2010 final to commemorate the victory of the Spanish national team at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
There had been a precedent for this; Real Madrid were allowed to keep the last Copa de la República (1936), Sevilla, the first Copa del Generalísimo (1939) and, Atlético Madrid, the last Copa del Generalísimo (1976).
A new trophy was made by Madrid jeweller Federico Alegre. The trophy, made of silver, weighs 15 kg (33 lb) and is 75 cm (30 in) tall. On 21 April 2011, Real Madrid became the first recipients of the trophy.
During the post-game celebrations, the trophy was accidentally dropped at Plaza de Cibeles by the Real Madrid player Sergio Ramos from the top of a double-decker bus, which then ran over it. Ten pieces were found by civil servicemen when they recovered it from the ground. The club received a copy which is displayed at Santiago Bernabéu.