Scrapping FA Cup Replays is not the Answer

Spread the love

Amidst the drama of Adam Johnson’s court case and Liverpool scrapping their new ticketing structure, English football has an another new dramatic story: Changing the FA Cup. FA officials’ discussing measures such as scrapping replays and changing the cup competition into a mid-week affair sound quite drastic, but all in the reasoning that it will help ease fixture congestion, allow teams in Europe to prepare better and aid the English national team. Such reasoning makes sense, unless you also want to lose the competition’s heritage, character and global image English football proudly boasts.

The beauty of the FA Cup’s format is the various scenarios that occur. A lower league side having another shot at beating a Premier League side at Old Trafford with millions watching worldwide, last minute winners deep into injury time, Premier League sides struggling to play on muddy pitches and the pay days for struggling non-league sides.

Such events are why “the magic of the cup” is commonly used to describe the competition and moments like Ryan Giggs’ late winner against Arsenal or Ronnie Radford’s screamer against Newcastle would never occur again if the tournament was changed. Not to mention the problems it would cause: Plymouth fans struggling to get home from an evening away tie in Carlisle, fans having to book a hotel at the last minute because their side played extra time and leaving a gaping void on Saturday afternoons.

But if altering the FA Cup is not the answer, what is?

If the FA wish to look at alternative avenues to trim the fixture list then the League Cup should be their main target. The League Cup, as it stands, is a competition that to Premier League teams in Europe is an inconvenience, adding unnecessary pressure upon these sides in the build up to their group fixtures. Manchester City and Liverpool, on the route to this month’s Capital One Cup final, have both played five games along with their respective Champions League and Europa League commitments and Premier League fixtures.

In between those ties, both sides have had notable players missing through injury and rearranged league fixtures to accommodate their League Cup matches, making the cup more of a chore than a respectable tournament. Even to Football League teams it is a hassle; extra games while playing in a 46 game league with some targeting Johnstone Paint trophy glory, it Cup seems like something you have to “get out of the way”.

Abandoning the Capital One Cup would be a better idea than giving the FA Cup a face lift. The League Cup holds no significance in the modern English game, does not boast a heritage that the FA Cup proudly proclaims or offer any advantage over the far superior trophy. If you were ask to ask fans which cup is more valuable and rewarding, few will mention the former.

Or perhaps the FA could reconsider the debate for a smaller Premier League, an issue previously discussed. A smaller Premier League would reduce top flight teams’ fixture list by four games, thus opening up multiple opportunities;  a winter break, fewer midweek matches and the ability to give teams in Europe more time to prepare for key games. While an 18-team Premier League would damage the league’s commercial value and have a knock-on effect for the lower leagues, the adjustment gives the same benefits that an altered FA Cup would but also give the Premier League a more competitive and refreshed feel.

When the FA Cup is sold to consumers and fans as a historic competition with giant killings, shocking moments and wonder goals, all famously branded as “the magic of the cup”, you have to question why turning the cup into a DFB-Pokal style tournament has any merits. If you change a competition full of history, character and social significance into a generic competition for the sake of improving English football, you have to question if the discussed reforms will actually improve anything.

The fact that a majority of the 92 Football League teams are involved in four competitions a season suggests that rather than change the existing format of one competition, maybe it is worthwhile to scrap one.