5 Changes To Make The FA Cup Viable Again

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.

18 thoughts on “5 Changes To Make The FA Cup Viable Again”

  1. I’ve been thinking a bit about this, too. I think the changes you suggest certainly could help, but I’d actually suggest too more radical changes.

    1. Take the Prem out of the FA Cup. Yes, I recognize that the “FA” stands for “Football Association,” but clearly, Prem clubs have loftier goals (UEFA) and more talent, thus giving them either disdain for the tournament (see Lambert, Paul) or the ability to run roughshod.

    2. If the competition was limited to non-Prem clubs, then the next step would lead to fierce competition: give the winner an automatic Prem berth. Think about it: what would you rather see–a club that has it all win it all or the potential for a club that has nothing suddenly strike it big? I know some may argue that a lower tiered club that got handed a wad of cash would likely be relegated all over again, but isn’t that always the case?

    I recognize the second idea is a bit radical and probably would be unpopular. There’s also a matter of logistics: would you then have to relegate the bottom 4 of the Prem in order to allow the FA Cup winner to join? Still, I would like for there to be some actual stakes for the cup; otherwise, why bother?

  2. I disagree to you point 3 &2. Every team in this country& every player dreams to play one day in wembely such a historic ground, because it makes the competition much more exciting that there is two seme finals that are taking place for wembely. The issue for replays its good because its gives the teams second chance if you played badly the first match and sneak a draw then the second match at your own stadium surely you have great chance. i.é man city this weekend were not their best but still managed draw if that match would have decided extra time blackburn right now will be in the 4 round but the return leg in city stadium there is no chance for blackburn to pull a shock that is why some times the replays is good for the teams it offered them a second live line chance..

    1. Agree that every team and every player dreams of playing in Wembley. That’s precisely why playing there should be the ultimate prize reserved for those who have earn it. By moving the semi-finals out of Wembley, the significance of both Wembley and the Final itself will increase.

    2. I’m not so sure every player dreams of playing at Wembley today. The old Wembley yes when the FA Cup was more prestigious and a club’s stadium didn’t approach Wembley for sheer size, relative comfort and the footballing history steeped in the twin towers. Going to Wembley then was a huge event for any player (and fan) and spoken about with such reverence. I’ve went there several times in crowds of a hundred thousand and the atmosphere with the “Wembley Roar” was like no other. Albeit watching England play Hungary one evening standing in the second tier at one end when Tony Currie scored a blinding 30 yarder and the crowd went mental and surged and I was swept down the terraces and ended up about a hundred yards from where I was originally standing without my feet touching the ground. The view was actually better so I didn’t mind and I surmised if England scored again I might end up right behind the goal.

      But today there’s not much to distinguish Wembley from the Emirates or the Etihad stadiums for instance. They look pretty much the same and have the same standard conveniences and comforts. Wembley doesn’t have any history and the atmosphere seems muted. I think a player may be more excited playing at say Old Trafford.

  3. 1. Get rid of replays

    2. Play all matches from 3rd round onwards on weeknights

    3. Play the final at 1245 London Time instead of 1500 or 1715

  4. Honestly, in the age of money, just make money the driving force. Make the prize money better.
    I agree with getting rid of replays, let them play it out then… although I hate the idea of penaltys, so I’d like to see similar to NHL hockey and have them keep playing until someone scores. Golden goal after 2nd overtime period

  5. 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.

    Scrap replays entirely. Decide on the night by way of extra time and pens. Replays are no good for anybody – players or supporters. It’s extra hassle for everybody concerned.

    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.

    Why just teams from the north? Southern teams should also play at a neutral venue roughly halfway between each home ground. Holding the semis at Wembley ruins the ‘magic’ of final day… but it won’t change because it brings in too much extra cash for the FA to recoup from the building of new Wembley.

    4. Ensure the FA Cup Final is held at a time that allows working class fans the ability to get home that night.

    Not when broadcasting fees are involved. The teatime kick-off rates far better on TV and means higher fees can be charged to advertisers – that’s the bottom line. We live in a time where broadcasting commitments come first and travelling supporters are a mere after thought.

    The only saving grace is that the FA Cup final is on a Saturday unlike the League Cup final which is on a Sunday. At least on Saturday nights you’ve got far more chance to catch a train or coach in London than on Sunday when everything closes earlier.

    1. Missed the last one

      5. Increase the prize for the FA Cup winner to £1,000,000

      The winner of this years competition will get £1,800,000…

      1. That’s my bad. I made an error when copyediting the piece, which has now been corrected. Thanks for pointing that out Paul.

  6. Here are my ideas:

    If The FA Cup Champion is in the Premier League, the said club will attain the playoff spot for the UCL. If the FA Cup Champion already qualified for the UCL by league position, then the Premier League fourth place club will enter the UCL playoff.

    If the FA Cup Champion is from any of the lower divisions, they attain automatic promotion to the next higher tier at the expense of the club that finishes fourth from bottom in its tier in question for that season.

    1. I suggested a similar suggestion above, but it seems to be meeting with great disdain. I can’t help but to wonder why this is? Perhaps an automatic Prem berth (as I suggested) is a bit much, but your suggestion seems downright reasonable.

  7. Yeah, I see it a bit simpler than what is being suggested thus far. I would go with the winner getting one of the automatic Champions League spots but you can’t do that without awarding league points for FA Cup matches; the spot alone would create a weird skew in the competition it you think it through. This suggestion is more along the line that the FA Cup does affect the league season and would treat it as part of a league season. Max two points a round; two for the win, one each for a draw with no further points awarded for the replay. The winning team would just advance with no further points for the round. The points Wigan could’ve accumulated points that would have saved their spot in the league alone. Now teams would have to treat the FA Cup fixtures league fixtures.

    1. But the problem with awarding an automatic CL spot to the winner is that you run the risk of having a side like Wigan in the CL… and that’s not good for anybody. How would it affect the UEFA coefficient? It’d be too costly.

      Using the points system would be fine if everybody played the same amount of matches but in a knockout competition it wouldn’t be fair for various reasons IMO.

      1. And leave it the way it currently is? Yeah you don’t play the same amount of matches, but you went further than most would and should be rewarded for like Wigan. And so what it Wigan won the automatic spot. It would force the top echelon to play in the Cup. Based on last year and the two teams body of work, which was better Wigan or Sunderland? Hint, one won the FA Cup and played more fixtures.

  8. The unpalletable truth is that the peoples game is now dominated by rampant commercialism ever since the inception of the Premier league in the early nineties – we as fans all know that. Trouble is, does the FA?

    The FA Cup should have changed and evolved when the Premier League was first formed. Its been in decline for 20 years now but there is a solution. What are the 2 fundamental priorities of the vast majority of clubs from Non- league up to Premier League? League status and financial stability/survival. All clubs aspire to climb the footballing pyramid right? The only way to incentivise every owner, chairman, chief executive, manager, player and supporter is to link the prize with this aspiration.
    The solution has been staring us in the face. The FA cup is the grand old lady of English Football and she must have some power and influence over the Premier League. I therefore propose a ‘points per game’ solution linked to the league and here are the basic rules/changes…

    1. Rather than abolish i propose to ‘merge’ the League cup and the FA Cup into a re-branded ‘FA League Cup’
    2. Round 1 entry for ALL clubs from Premier to non League therefore spread over 8 rounds.
    3. Victory against same league opposition or higher commands the following ‘compensationary’ league points….
    Same league… 2 points
    1 league higher… 3 points
    2 leagues higher… 4 points
    etc… HOWEVER
    4. Points per game only comes into force and only applies at the following stages for…
    Non-league – 3rd round
    League 2 – 4th round
    League 1 – 5th round
    Championship – Qtr Finals
    Premier league – Semi Finals
    5. Goal diiference (+) scored against same league opposition or higher at ANY stage counted in league.
    6. Goal difference (-) conceded against same league opposition or lower counted in league
    7. All rounds given designated Sat 3.00pm kick offs spread from Aug to May. All replays on same mid-week day.
    8. Draw for next round only takes place once all games concluded.
    9. Semis on neutral grounds. Wembley is an incentive

    I’ve been racking my brains for a practicle objection so i could say nice try to myself and move on but i just cant! I know some will say the league and FA Cup are 2 seperate entities and cannot reflect each other, why not? We’re beyond principled reasoning now, the FA Cup will die otherwise. What is the league anyway? Surely it should be a reflection of a clubs overall domestic performance not just in the league but both cups as well? I would love to carry on and list all the benefits this change would make but i would go on for too long and i seriously cannot think of any practicle objections. If anyone can think of any please put me out if my misery otherwise i might start a petition!!

  9. Forgot to mention…

    10. 10 points for the winner of the FA League cup and also direct entry into the UEFA Cup as it is now.

    This whole Champions League place idea is ridiculous. Thats what the European Cup Winners Cup ie the now Europa league is for. The Champions league is just a brand name for what could be termed the European Super league. The EPL is entitled to send our 4 best teams into the CL – these have to be the top 4 PL sides, however if the PL was a true refection of a clubs overall domestic performance then you would guarentee the top 4 really are the best 4 sides to compete with Europes finest.

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