The FA Cup needs to become a bigger spectacle

Last year I wrote an article on how the FA Cup Final needs to be more like the Super Bowl. I still stand by those thoughts and believe that yet again the FA have failed to do enough to recover the spectacle that the FA Cup once was.

The oldest trophy in the world, one that used to mean so much to teams to win has, in the last 10 years, become a second thought to finishing in the top four of the Premier League.

For anyone that is interested in reading my original article, written for GiveMeSport from last year you can do HERE

The whole aura of the FA Cup has declined somewhat over the past ten or so years. Other trophies now take precedence as teams begin to concentrate more on the lucrative finances of the Premier League and Champions League. By winning the FA Cup you get instant qualification to the over-inflated Europa League, another tournament that has lost the cherish it once had. UEFA have attempted to rectify this by giving the winner a place in the Champions League the season after. A great idea as clubs that won’t make the UCL through the league will fight harder to win the formally named UEFA Cup.

So where do we lay the blame for the FA Cup’s decline? The FA? UEFA? The clubs? Well all three can be attributed to its downfall.

The FA

Scheduling the kick off times at 5:15 helps no one. Especially teams that travel from the north to play a Sunday game at Wembley meaning it is ever so difficult for the fans to get home. The semi finals being at Wembley is a farce as the home of football should be kept for the final only. It is a great money spinner and that’s why the FA have done it.

Actions needed to be taken

1. Move the final kick off time back to 3pm on a Saturday

2. Move the semi finals to other club neutral grounds, aka, Villa Park and Old Trafford, or even the Emirates.

UEFA

By expanding the Champions League, closing down the Cup Winners Cup and making the UEFA Cup the Europa League, it has created a ripple affect across the English domestic scene. When only the Champions qualified for the UCL or European Cup, the UEFA Cup was a much bigger and more prestigious tournament. The Cup Winners Cup was fought out by, would you believe it, all the domestic Cup winners, so more often than not teams that wouldn’t finish in the top two of the league, giving a much more varied group of teams. I’ve written in the past how I feel UEFA need to reinstate the Cup Winners Cup, (you can read that article HERE) and again I reiterate the need for this to happen. I believe it would make the FA Cup much more appealing.

1. Reduce the number of sides in the Champions League from the top 6 countries, to 2 (at the absolute max).

2. Reinstate the Cup Winners Cup

3. Redesign the Europa League and rebuild it as a prestigious trophy

The Clubs

Money rules, simple. The more money a club has the better players it can buy meaning the better trophies it participates in etc etc etc. In all fairness to the clubs they need to do what is “best for business” and if you have a choice between the money for winning the FA Cup and entry to Europa League of finishing 4th and Champions League football, you as a chairman would take the latter.

Whilst we can all wish for change the likeliness that this will happen is remote. The FA seem more intent on introducing new leagues than fixing their current ones.

Do you feel the same way about the FA Cup? Comment below and let us know your thoughts and feelings.

FA Cup Fifth Round

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Saturday’s games

Let’s get down to business with the weekend’s Fa Cup action then. First up, Carling Cup Finalists, Sunderland, welcomed Southampton to the Stadium of Light, in an all Premier League ties. In what turned out to be a tight affair, Craig Gardner got the winner as Sunderland progressed to the Sixth Round.

With the Sheffield Wednesday vs. Charlton Athletic game being postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, there was only one 3pm kick off; this was the FA Cup Holders, Wigan, looking to beat Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Cardiff City. With all the goals coming in the first half, Wigan triumphed 2-1, to set up a repeat of last season’s final as they face Manchester City in the Sixth Round. Keeping with Man City, they faced Chelsea at the Etihad stadium in the late kick off on Saturday evening. City gained revenge for the defeat in the League just under 2 weeks ago, coming out on top thanks to goals from Stevan Jovetic and Samir Nasri.

Sunday’s games

Roberto Martinez, moves ever closer to being the first manager in history to win the FA Cup two years in succession with two different clubs. The last manager to win it 2 years in a row, but for the same club was Arsene Wenger with Arsenal in 2002 and 2003. An entertaining game at Goodison saw Everton overcome a much changed Swansea side, 3-1. Lacina Traore scored with a flick of the heel, before Jonathan de Guzman equalised with a well placed header. A change just after half time altered the outcome of the match as Steven Naismith was introduced and to great effect. A poacher’s goal (from Naismith) and a penalty, converted by Leighton Baines, saw Everton over the finishing line. They now head to North London to face Arsenal, who will face Merseyside opposition for the second round in a row.

Following on from Liverpool’s demolition of Arsenal last weekend, the Gunners were “gunning” for revenge. An embarrassing 5-1 score line was not on the cards this time, as Arsenal took the lead through Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Lukas Podolski doubled the lead soon after halftime and Arsenal had a two goal cushion. In a game marred with controversy, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard pulled one goal back from the penalty spot, but was perhaps lucky to stay on the field for the full 90. Luis Suarez should have had a penalty, from Oxlade-Chamberlain’s clumsy challenge but referee Howard Webb was having none of it.  In the end Arsenal held on to win 2-1.

In the other game of the day Sheffield United came back from one-goal down to beat promotion chasing Nottingham Forest 3-1. Two 90th minute goals proved to be the difference for the Blades and they will now face either, their fierce city rivals, Sheffield Wednesday, in the Steel City derby, or South East London club Charlton Athletic.

Monday Night game

An 86th minute equaliser from Hull City’s Sagbo denied Brighton and Hove Albion passage to the sixth round of the FA Cup and instead handed them a replay at the KC Stadium. The Seagulls will be disappointed now to have progressed to the next round where they could face Sunderland.

Below is the Sixth Round Draw, with some ties sure to delight.

Sixth Round Draw

to be played weekend of March 8th/9th

Arsenal v Everton

Brighton or Hull City v Sunderland

Sheffield United v Sheffield Wednesday or Charlton Athletic

Manchester City v Wigan Athletic

FA Cup trophy