Parish Cup

“When mention is made of the Parish Cup, it is generally agreed that, since its inception in 1952, this competition has probably aroused more interest, excitement and controversy than all the others put together.” (Peterson, J. P., 1988)

The Shetland Inter-Parish Cup, more commonly known as ‘The Parish Cup’, is an annual knockout competition contested among the rural parishes of Shetland. Initially contested in 1952, the fundamental aim of the competition was to further the playing of football in Shetland’s rural areas by local resident players meaning that Lerwick and Scalloway were excluded from entering from the outset, a ruling which has remained in effect up until the present day.

The competition is run by the Parish Cup Association Committee which comprises a President, Secretary and Treasurer appointed at an Annual General Meeting (AGM) plus a representative from each member parish. The current office bearers are Iain Smith (President), John Rosie (Secretary) and Kevin Rennie (Treasurer). The Association is governed by a constitution that amongst other things clarifies the boundaries of competing parishes and rules on player eligibility including the requirement for the annual submission of a register of eligible players for each competing parish.

The current rules on player eligibility are:

(a) A player who is born or registered in a parish or who has accumulated five or more year’s residence in a parish shall be eligible to play for that parish for all time.

(b) Where (a) does not apply, in order to be eligible to play for a parish a player must:

(i) have been resident for a minimum of three consecutive months at 30th April for the season ahead; and

(ii) be named on the most recent register of eligible players for that parish; and

(iii) be in permanent residence in that parish on the date of the fixture.

The Parish Cup draw is made at the AGM which is usually held in March. Ties are played as single legs over three rounds of matches, followed by the final which takes place in Lerwick traditionally on the Saturday afternoon of the Inter-club sailing regatta week during August. The final is a big day out for the teams who manage to get there and likewise for their supporters. Large crowds are commonplace and the Parish Cup final is without question the most eagerly anticipated and most watched cup final of any in the Shetland football calendar with spectator numbers often rivalling those of the Shetland v Orkney senior inter-county fixture. In recent years, the Committee has introduced new initiatives including the finalists being led on to the pitch by the Lerwick Pipe Band, pitch side segregation, match programmes and a post-match reception for both teams and sets of supporters, all of which adds to the whole match day experience.

Parish representation has fluctuated at times with teams emerging and then disappearing just as quickly and the competition has had its fair share of controversy especially during the first half of its 60 year history. Constitutional and rule changes, bending and breaking of those rules, boundary movements, protests and accusations, requirement for replays, and even disqualification are just some examples. And the fact that the final is played in Lerwick, when the parish is not eligible to take part in the competition, has also been a contentious point over the years. In recent decades however, things have run much more smoothly and with more stability and today the Parish Cup Association has eleven member clubs – Bressay, Burra, Cunningsburgh, Delting, Sandwick, Southend United, Unst, Westside United, Whalsay, Whitedale and Yell.

Characterised by fast and fully committed action-packed matches watched by vociferous support, the Parish Cup is a passionate competition that is steeped in history and tradition. The social aspect of the Parish Cup is also legendary and is at the very heart of the competition with tradition demanding that the home team are model hosts for their opponents and their supporters whatever the result. The much coveted Parish Cup is always special for those fortunate enough to participate, in part because the matches don’t come around all that often but mostly because its participants feel a real sense of loyalty and pride in representing their home or adopted parish. The spirit of the Parish Cup and what it means to the teams and communities involved was well portrayed by former Delting captain David Clubb in his contribution to the programme for the 2002 final between Delting and Southend United to mark the 50th anniversary of the tournament:

“The Parish goes on runs – I’ve been lucky enough to be part of one. It was a long time coming for Delting but the first time (1993) was momentous. The game against Westside wasn’t a classic but they helped us make the first celebration a classic. The Westside boys got to Bixter and then decided to come over to Brae. We had an unforgettable night that summed up the spirit of the Parish Cup.

Every time we have won it was special and important to the team and the community. The classic game was the year (1996) we narrowly beat Unst (5-4) after extra time. It was one of the most dramatic matches I’ve played in. It was a great day and there was a huge crowd.

Winning the Parish Cup is always huge for those of us who have had the experience.”


Current Champions

The current senior champions are Westside United who, having finished runners up on five previous occasions, won the trophy in 2013 for the first time in their history following their defeat of Unst in the final.

Past Winners and Results

Shetland Inter-Parish Cup (senior competition)

Parish Team Total cup wins Winning years
Whalsay 19 1961, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1984, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1999, 2006, 2010, 2011
Delting 13 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009
Whitedale 9 1975, 1979, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1995
Quendale 5 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959
Unst 5 1964, 1965, 1967, 2000, 2012
Sandwick 4 1952, 1960, 1962, 1963
Cunningsburgh 2 1971, 1976
Queen of the South (Virkie) 2 1953, 1954
Burra 1 1981
Southend United 1 1982
Westside United 1 2013
Bressay 0
Yell 0
Bigton 0
Northmavine 0
Southern Aces 0

Scores in Parish Cup finals to follow.