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Joe Strange - Does anyone care about the FA Cup?

Published: 10 Jan 2011 - 14:42:51

I don't know about you, but I love the FA Cup.

The potential for upsets, lower league sides getting a chance to mix it with the big boys, raucous crowds and increased away allocations, the best players in the world forced to strut their stuff on small, muddy pitches - the list goes on and on.

Add them all together and you get a competition still packed-full of tradition, intrigue, passion and unpredictability - in my eyes the key components of what makes the FA Cup the most watchable and enjoyable football tournament on the planet.

But does anyone else feel the same? Judging by some of the attendances on third-round weekend, I suspect not.

Among the biggest culprits were Sunderland (17,582), Sheffield United (16,888), Bolton (13,120), Blackburn (10,284), Coventry (8,162) and Hull City (10,433). We all know that going to football is far from cheap, but with all of these attendances coming in at well below the clubs' average, is the Cup losing some of its appeal?

It's a difficult question to answer, particularly given the amount of variables many fans take into account when deciding whether to pay out for a ticket or not. The opponent, recent form, kick-off time, cost of ticket and upcoming fixtures can all play a part in deciding whether we see a full-house or half-empty ground come the highlights show on Saturday evening.

Despite the many issues going against the size of FA Cup crowds, it's clear to see that clubs playing an opponent from a lower division tend to experience a noticeable drop in attendance. Do fans simply assume an easy victory when faced with a tie against a smaller club? Or is the FA Cup just not that important when compared to their respective league?

Without conducting an in-depth study, it's another difficult question to answer. But as the competition progresses and a magical trip to Wembley starts to beckon, attendances are certain to rise to acceptable levels once more. Good or bad, that's the way it is.

All the talk both before Manchester United took on Liverpool focused on Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish and rivalry between the two sets of supporters. Post-match it was all about that dodgy penalty, Gerrard's sending-off and Ryan Babel's Twitter account. What about the fact that a giant club like Liverpool are out of the world's most famous domestic competition at the first hurdle?

Although it can't be said about all clubs, the prestige of competing in the FA Cup seems to have been lost by many. Managers rest key players, fans don't bother to attend and in some cases both would rather get knocked out than face a potentially damaging replay on a cold and wet Tuesday evening.

It's a sad state of affairs but one we'll have to get used to as the years go on and league success becomes even more important than it already is. Don't be surprised if the League Cup is eventually dumped and in its place falls its more illustrious predecessor.

I sincerely hope I'm wrong.

FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER @joe_strange

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:joe strange
A product of Brighton University's prolific youth system, Joe Strange has boundless energy and the enviable ability to cover every blade of grass in his Monday blog. Joe has written for a variety of football websites and fanzines and is also a regular contributor to golf.co.uk. Despite being born and raised in Kent, 'Stranger' is a diehard Everton fan and counts his team's penalty shoot-out victory against Manchester United last season as his most memorable football moment. Follow Joe on Twitter @joe_strange.

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