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Debate - Is cup football dying a death?
Published : 19 Jan 2010 11:09:57
Roberto Mancini has stoked controversy ahead of Manchester City's Carling Cup semi-final with fierce rivals Manchester United by suggesting finishing in the top-four is City's priority this season.
While Mancini is far from the only manager to admit the Premier League takes precedence, his comments are a sad reflection of the death of domestic cup competitions.
Top-flight clubs continue to utilise the Carling Cup in particular as a chance to give their second string players a run out and as a breeding ground for their talented youngsters, but when a competition edges ever closer towards becoming uncompetitive it begs the question - is it still worthwhile?
Mancini's comments could simply be mind games and if both sides do in fact field full strength sides tonight rest assured it will be reflective of the bitter nature of their rivalry and not the lure of winning the cup.
It is no longer just the established top-four who usually field weakened sides in the competition either, but the majority of teams throughout the Premier League. There is the danger that the competition is even becoming an unofficial FA Youth Cup.
Admittedly an increasingly congested fixture list has contributed heavily to the decision of many managers to rest their stars, but such decisions have also changed the psyche of fans. The competition has this season experienced a widespread fall in attendances with fans well aware that the matches are increasingly passionless contests.
The problem isn't only restricted to English football though, with cup competitions treated in a similar vain in both Spain and Italy. That considered, perhaps the death of cup football is simply further evidence of both the financial nature of the game and the win-at-all-costs mentality that has become so readily associated with it.
League and Champions League football are the fundamental source of TV revenue for top-flight clubs and so that is what is prioritised. Football continues to embody an ever-augmented business interest and while this remains the case financial gain will always outweigh the pursuit of relatively unprofitable short-term success.
The major worry is that this theme continues to spread and the FA Cup follows suit, deteriorating in a similar manner. In years gone by success in the competition was the most highly sought after in the country, with players longing to realise the dream of playing at Wembley in the final.
An influx of foreign players, combined with the previously mentioned financial factors, have already nullified the importance of the competition to an extent, but unlike its deceased counterpart let's hope the magic of the FA Cup lives on.
- Gareth Burton