This past weekend’s FA Cup Third Round saw most Premier League and some Championship sides play with watered down teams. Not quite a “B” team in most cases, but teams where the principle of squad rotation was maximized.
The FA Cup is a special competition and is in my mind the most unique and compelling cup competitions (including continental ones) on the planet. But unfortunately, the growing cash incentive of the Premier League, promotion to the Premier League and European qualification have made the cup less critical for the management of many clubs. For example, Manchester United last won the FA Cup in 2004 but has either won the Premier League title or come within a point of the title in each of the last seven seasons.
Supporters of many of the top clubs in England have become less enamored with the competition. This leads to the need for the FA to take steps to ensure the continued vitality of the competition.
Here are my suggested remedies to make the FA Cup more meaningful again:
1. Change the date of the FA Cup 3rd Round to one week later to give the sides throughout the Premier League and Football League time to recover after a difficult and busy Christmas and New Year period.
2. Continue replays only until the 4th Round before European competitions begin again. Beginning in Round 5, the team that hosts in the draw also gets the right to host a 30 minute extra-time period and penalty kicks if the match is level after 90 and 120 minutes respectively.
3. Move the semi-finals from Wembley if teams from the north are in the competition to a venue such as Hillsborough, Elland Road, Villa Park, Old Trafford, etc. It was ridiculous when four northern teams were in the semifinals in 2011 that both matches were in London.
4. Ensure the FA Cup Final is held at a time that allows working class fans the ability to get home that night. Last season Wigan and Manchester City fans were forced to spend a night in London thanks to the scheduling of the match later in the day.
5. Increase the prize for the FA Cup winner to £5,000,000.
Hopefully one of more of these ideas will be considered going forward to help maintain the magic and vitality of the FA Cup.
Editor’s note: Read more FA Cup news, analysis and opinion.