The phrase ‘The Magic of the FA Cup’ is as old as the famous old trophy itself with Cup upsets and glory days etched in every fans memories. But has the magic died?
From Arsenal to Yeovil, Manchester United to Maidstone, up and down the land the FA Cup has thrown up some wonderful memories throughout the course of time. Whether it be the big boys claiming the rights to lift the trophy aloft on multiple occasions, to the minnows having their day in the spotlight and dumping one of the big boys out in usually unceremonious fashion. But in recent years, accusations have been fired that the magic of the FA Cup has died. So we ask, has it?
Well if you ask me, it’s simply a matter of perspective. The magic of the cup for most fans is the David v Goliath ties, the Haves v the Have Nots. To see the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal have to go to a traditional non-league style ground and and play on tight, poor pitches. Where in the build-up to the game, statistics are fired around like ‘the weekly wages of one player would sustain the entire football club for a whole year’. All playing together on a level field, this is where the magic still survives.
But these ties in general are few and far between. This weekend, the 3rd round of the FA Cup threw up a few decent fixtures, but not many.
Liverpool v Plymouth was the closest we got to such a tie, but on Anfield’s lush and expansive surface it was never going to be a blood and thunder Cup tie of old.
Fixture congestion is another problem for the big teams, especially after the busy festive season and the opportunity to rest players and give squad players their chance is often far too tempting for the bigger clubs.
This was highlighted as Jurgen Klopp played the youngest starting XI in Liverpool’s history, and they failed to break down the resolute defending of Plymouth, but the 0-0 was by no means an upset.
The atmosphere was flat and it didn’t feel like a magical tie. Why is this?
Ask yourself this question. Do the fans of such big clubs want to pay full price to see the reserves play a team full of milkmen, taxi drivers and postmen? Of course they don’t, and this is where part of the problem lies.
Another problem with the FA Cup is the Scheduling of live games on TV. I can totally see why the broadcasters choose the likes of West Ham v Man City and Manchester United v Reading, but why not show Ipswich v Lincoln too? 5,000 imps fans taking a trip to a Championship stadium and providing one of the results of the round. They need to take more responsibility to deliver these David v Goliath fixtures to the public, to inspire other teams and fans around the country to buy into the tournament.
However, on the flip side of the coin, how do Wycombe Wanderers feel knowing they are visiting Tottenham in the fourth round? Are Accrington Stanley fans gutted that their cup run could come to an end after being drawn away at Middlesbrough? Of course not, they are excited about seeing their teams pit themselves against some of the countries finest teams.
And then of course there is the financial aspect, to get to the fourth round of the FA Cup will have seen the lower ranked clubs earn over £100,000 in prize money alone. Then there is the money earned if the game is televised as well as a large slice of the gate admission fee’s which if you can draw one of the bigger clubs away from home, is hugely lucrative, and can help sustain a club financial security for a significant length of time.
But this is all in the luck of the draw.
Fulham v Cardiff this weekend attracted little over 5,000 fans? Why? Because fans pay week in week out to see their teams play against teams in the same league as them and to pay out again for the FA Cup provides little excitement.
So what can be done?
Some have suggested seeding the bigger teams in the FA Cup draw, therefore forcing the bigger teams to play the smaller teams, increasing the potential for the traditional cup upset as well as increasing the interest and excitement for the tournament around the country.
Another option would be to force the Premier League clubs to play away from home in the third and fourth rounds to give those smaller clubs a chance, as well as not forcing the likes of Liverpool to have to pay full price to see a game like they were at the weekend.
A third option, to incentivise progress in the cup is giving the winners a place in the Champions League. Despite this being a strong suggestion, it will never happen. You only need to look at the Premier League table right now to see that six teams into four places doesn’t go. Are those teams going to vote for rules that will see their chances of Champions League qualification cut? It would be like Turkeys voting for Christmas.
Manchester United fans will tell you that they loved getting their hands back on the famous trophy last May. They will also tell you that some of the best away days they have had in the last few season were games at the likes of Derby, Northampton and Yeovil, whilst the atmosphere at home against Reading was as expected, flat!
It is for these reasons why the accusation has been thrown around that the Magic of the FA Cup has died. But I argue it hasn’t, it lives on. But it is buried deep, and The FA NEED to give its flagship trophy give it life saving surgery to save it and to encourage the magic back out of hiding.
Do you agree with this piece? What suggestions do you have to save the cup? Or do you disagree and thing the magic lives on strong? Leave your comments below.
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