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Time to Reform the FA Cup?

Is it time for change?

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The People have reported on rumours of a transformation to the FA Cup. With revenues from the oldest club competition falling, weakened sides and attendances dropping. They suggested that the FA have bowed to Television chiefs and are to change the dates and format of the FA Cup.

The first proposal is to move the FA Cup Final itself to 5.30pm – Giving a greater opportunity for television revenue. This would be a break with traditional Premier Division and Football League kick-off times. Rumours from other sources have suggested that the FA Cup final will be moved to a Wednesday evening, imitating the Champions League Final.

A second proposal is the abolition of FA Cup Replays. With teams going further more often in European competitions, some sides can play in excess of seventy games a season. FA Cup replays are unwanted by the big clubs and the Premier League may force the FA into this change.

A third idea is to seed the Premier League sides. The result of this is that the “bigger-sides” will not meet until the Sixth Round at the earliest. Thus, increasing revenue for the FA when the Cup gets into its final stages.
In my opinion, moving the FA Cup Final to the Saturday evening would be a mistake. Saturday football should be at 3 o’clock, most people who want to watch the FA Cup Final make the time to watch the final; they have done so for over eighty years. Whilst I oppose any movement of the kick-off time and date, if it is to move to the Wednesday evening I could grow to this idea. The buzz that surrounds the build-up of the Champions League on a Wednesday evening is superb (why they’re moving it to Saturday I don’t understand), so whilst this may be controversial, it could one of those ideas that grow.

Abolishing replays is something that the FA may just have to accept. Over the last few seasons at least one English team has been competing on all three major fronts come the end of February. Replays are outdated (hence only England and Scotland do them, and only as far as the last eight) and the FA will need to adapt to this.

Seeding the FA Cup however, that is a tragedy. Just because Liverpool v Manchester United was in the Third Round rather than the semi-finals did that diminish the tie? No, it did not. In 2002 Arsenal and Liverpool played in the third round, repeating the previous year’s final. That tie still had the buzz of an FA Cup tie. If seeding was introduced and we found the semi-finals containing Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City every year the competition would be diminished. The best team wins the FA Cup because they have beaten every team they faced. When Portsmouth beat Cardiff and West Brom at Wembley to win the FA Cup in 2008, did their victory mean less than Chelsea’s win in 2007 when they beat Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham en-route?

The FA Cup needs reforming, but traditions and the romance need to be maintained. Some aspects of the history may have to bite the dust in order to preserve the FA Cup as the best Cup competition in the world. The examples of the Coppa Italia and the KNVB are examples of what the FA Cup should never become.

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