WorldNet is a two-day knockout tournament, played annually on a weekend in July, which marks the end of one IFA season and the start of another.
On the Friday night before competition starts, the IFA Challenge Cup final takes place, while teams competing later in the weekend meet up to share a few beers as the evening progresses.
All teams are drawn into groups and play round-robin matches on the Saturday, with the group winners and best runners-up progressing to the WorldNet Cup on the Sunday, while the remaining teams battle it out for the WorldNet Plate. Teams are also encouraged to play friendlies against each other in the breaks between both group and knockout games.
WorldNet & BigTamVets 2022 will be the 26th edition of the weekend. Dates and venue to be confirmed in due course.
Follow @IFAWorldNet on Twitter for the latest news on next year’s tournament.
The history behind WorldNet
At the time of Euro 96, Dave “Voice of Football” Walmsley wanted to show that football fans could come together in the spirit of the game, play football and build bridges between their respective teams. This was after Graham Kelly the then chief of the FA was publicly sceptical about the ability of English football supporters to behave themselves at Euro 96. Through the use of the email lists and other internet based discussion groups, Dave organised a tournament to be held on June 9th 1996 in Nottingham, one of the host cities for Euro 96 and EuroNET 96 was born.
In 1997 Dave Walmsley stepped down as tournament organiser and was replaced by Roger Goodair and John Boocock who had helped out with the first event. Dave is honoured by the Dave Walmsley Trophy which is presented to the man of the match in each annual tournament Final. EuroNET97 was run over two days 28/29 June 1997 and was held in Middlesbrough at the Wilf Mannion Sports Centre. A former Great Britain and Middlesbrough player, Wilf Mannion presented the trophy.
EuroNET98 was held at Reading RUFC 18/19 July. The first International internet organised game was held at Reading between England and Scotland, which finished 5-1 to the English. The fixture remained a regular part of the schedule until 2012.
With the expansion of the world wide web EuroNET continued to grow and soon began to include fans from all backgrounds and walks of life who communicated via message boards and email lists. To better represent the world wide interest the tournament now had, the name of EuroNET was changed to WorldNET and was held in Leicester 17/18 July 1999, at Victoria Park.
WorldNET then moved on to Bodington Hall in Leeds for the first time on July 22/23 2000, and the tournament made it’s home in Yorkshire for the next 12 years. The tournament went on to feature heavily on Sky Sports Television, in the print media and on UK Radio. We’ve hosted teams from Greece, Africa, Italy, Ireland and France and the weekend regularly sees over a thousand fans from sixty-four teams enjoy two days of football.
WorldNET 2008 saw the introduction of an 8 team veterans tournament. In 2009 the veterans tournament was re-named after one of the tournaments biggest characters passed away, The Big Tam veterans tournament still honours the former Airdrie defender to this day. The tournament doubled in size to 16 teams, which provided a chance for the over 35s to show off their silky skills and as a result, WorldNET 2009 saw our greatest number of teams ever, 80 playing in both the Cup and the Vets.
WorldNET 2012 was the last to take place in Leeds and after more than a decade, WorldNET was on the move again following the closure of Bodington Hall. To facilitate the move, the two tournaments went their separate ways. While the Big Tam veterans tournament stayed in Leeds and moved to the Weetwood Sports Ground, WorldNET 2013 was held in Preston, at the University of Central Lancashire’s Sports Arena. Both events were a huge success as the new organisational team headed up by Steve Grant and Steve Cowell took WorldNET forward, while John Boocock and Roger Goodair ensured the Vets continued to go from strength to strength.
Both tournaments continued to thrive and in 2017, WorldNET and the Big Tam Vets were re-united. Both tournaments took place back where it all started in Nottingham under the guidance of Andrew Kilduff, as a new chapter in the WorldNET story began. In 2018, Jimmy Atkinson and Dave Messenger took on the reins and Football Manager returned as headline sponsor of both tournaments, renewing links with the IFA that date back to the late 1990s.
Sadly, the 2020 tournaments had to be cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, breaking a run of 24 consecutive years but the tournaments came back and celebrated the 25th anniversary in July 2021.
WorldNET host venues
1996 – Riverside Sports Complex, Nottingham
1997 – Wilf Mannion Sports Centre, Middlesbrough
1998 – RUFC, Reading
1999 – Victoria Park, Leicester
2000 to 2012 – Bodington Hall, Leeds
2013 to 2016 – UCLan Sports Arena, Preston
2017 to date – Riverside Sports Complex, Nottingham
Big Tam Vets host venues
2008 to 2012 – Bodington Hall, Leeds
2013 to 2016 – Weetwood Hall, Leeds
2017 to date – Riverside Sports Complex, Nottingham