Every season around this time, you can guarantee that some of the British journalists and members of The Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast will lament how the FA Cup is becoming increasingly boring and what needs to change to make it more relevant. While I love the concept and history of the FA Cup, I can’t disagree with these opinions. But I believe one of the major reasons why the FA Cup is losing its interest is not because of the soccer on the pitch, but the way (or lack of way) that it’s televised.
As the oldest soccer competition in the world, the FA Cup is stuck in the past. Every year we keep on hoping for an upset of Hereford proportions but it rarely if ever materializes. Not only is that a reflection of the gulf in talent between the Premier League and lower leagues in England, but it’s also testament to clubs lower down the league prioritizing their own league promotion chances over that of the FA Cup.
But the main issue with the FA Cup is not the decisions by managers to pick second-string teams. It’s the fact that the way the FA Cup is televised is stuck in the stone age.
Take, for example, this weekend’s matches in the FA Cup 3rd Round. On a busy weekend with 32 games, only 9 were televised live for a global audience. That means that 71% of the FA Cup 3rd Round games weren’t televised at all. Contrast that with what we’ve been accustomed to with coverage of the Premier League where every single match is televised live in most countries outside the UK. The last time when we were faced with the Premier League having anywhere near 71% of games not televised would have been a decade ago.
So for fans of club soccer, the FA Cup means that many soccer fans go without being able to watch their team live on television. For example, this weekend that meant that fans of the following teams would have seen zero live coverage — Everton, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Newcastle United, Stoke City, Middlesbrough, Fulham, Swansea, Sunderland, Burnley, West Brom and countless other clubs.
Imagine a typical soccer match day on television in 2017. Not only is every game televised for the global audience, but we’re also accustomed to whiparound shows such as Goal Rush (NBC Sports) and, for other competitions, MultiMatch 90 (FOX Sports) as well as Champion League Goals Show (BT Sport). If the FA Cup had a similar show where their cameras could switch to goals being scored around England as they went in, this would be a very captivating program.