Organised by the FA, proceeds from the game are distributed to community-based initiatives and charities around the country. Revenue from the gate receipts and match programme sales is distributed to the 124 clubs who competed in The FA Cup from the First Round onwards, for onward distribution to charities and projects of their choice, while the remainder is distributed to the FA's national charity partners. The fixture was first played in the 1908–09 season, replacing the Sheriff of London Charity Shield.
The Community Shield evolved from the Sheriff of London Charity Shield that had been introduced in 1898 as a professionals versus amateurs cup (the gentlemen and players tradition). The Football Association Charity Shield, as it was known at the time, was designed to replace the Sheriff of London Charity Shield after the leading amateur clubs fell out with the FA. The new format was to have the Football League First Division champions play the Southern League champions, and the first match was in 1908 between Manchester United (the First Division champions) and Queens Park Rangers (the Southern League champions). The match was drawn 1–1, so the game was replayed when Manchester United won 4–0. This is the only Charity Shield game to go to a replay. Both games were played at Stamford Bridge.
The competition format varied over the years: in 1913 the Shield was contested between Amateurs and Professionals XIs, while in 1921 the Shield was contested between the Football League and FA Cup winners for the first time. The format continued to vary in the 1920s, usually along the lines of Amateurs v. Professionals, including one year (1927) where the Professionals were represented by the FA Cup holders Cardiff City and the Amateurs by the Corinthians, echoing the format of the trophy's predecessor, the Sheriff of London Charity Shield.
In 1930 the Football League winner v. FA Cup winner returned, and with a few exceptions, this format has remained to the present day. Notable exceptions include the 1950 Shield, which involved the England World Cup team against an FA team that had toured Canada that summer, and the 1961 Shield, when Tottenham Hotspur became the first team of the 20th century to win the Double, and so played a Football Association XI.