It has been well documented that the domestic cups in England are gradually becoming less and less important to the larger Premier league sides, leading to a decrease of general interest across the nation.
The greater amount of money that comes from finishing higher up the league tables has led to teams playing their reserve and youth players within the cups, generally only leading to first team players coming into the fold later in the competitions, providing to teams such as Swansea and Wigan to excel, both of who won the F.A Cup and the Capitol One Cup respectively last season.
The F.A Cup particularly has significantly decreased in reputation in recent years and one main reason being the decreased crowd sizes in the earlier rounds of the competitions. But how do we draw in the audience? It’s simple, remove the silly rule of should the match end in a draw, the match ends at 90 minutes, and then a replay is played. This leads to fans going to matches and expecting the side from the lower league to play ten men behind the ball, playing for a bore draw to get a reply and generate money from having a big side visit there grounds. So completely scrap the replays, fans will go to matches knowing that the least they’ll see is a goal in normal time. If not, they’ll get to watch extra time and potentially even penalties.
I, personally, am fed up of looking forward to an F.A cup weekend, expecting to see some really interesting obscure fixtures, for then the channels to show Premier league vs. Premier league teams play one another. For example, in the replays of the recent third round, Fulham vs. Norwich will be televised over Preston vs. Ipswich or Sheffield Wednesday vs. Macclesfield. If the television companies decided to televise the smaller teams, they’re more likely to field their better players, so that their clubs look better when given the limelight, therefore drawing in larger crowds.
Why do we see Semi Finals played at Wembley? The ultimate dream of any football, to play at the national ground of English football, causing a Semi-final place to be as good as the final for many sides, as well as taking the shine off the final itself. Reserve Wembley just for the final, play the semi’s at a mutual stadium, as we have a massive reserve of large enough stadiums in this country, for smaller sides the chance the play at the Etihad, Old Trafford or Anfield will surely suffice.
Finally, one quite controversial point, which I’m not 100% behind myself, but thought I’d put it out there nonetheless. Give the winner of the competition, a champion’s league place for the following year. Currently, the winners qualify for the following years Europa League, but many consider this a far lesser cup and an inadequate prize. Therefore, as England can only have four teams playing in the Champions league, have the top three in the Premier league automatically qualify for the Champions league, then the winner of the F.A Cup will be provided with the chance of going through the qualification stages of the Champions League. This will undoubtedly provide a far larger incentive to doing well in the competition, as well as providing an opportunity for smaller clubs to show their worth on the European stage.
Whatever happens, something does need to change as the magic of the F.A cup is dimming and its one footballing tradition which we cannot let die.