The Football Association (FA) and the Premier League have agreed to cancel FA Cup replays from the first round onwards. An announcement regarding the tournament changes happened on Thursday as part of a new six-year deal between the two sides. The change will launch ahead of the 2024/25 season.

The FA Cup currently has no replays in place beginning in the fifth round. Historically, the FA schedules replays if the competing clubs finish a match with a level scoreline. Instead of going to extra time, and potentially penalty kicks, the teams face off again at a later date. Whichever club hosted the previous matchup would then travel to the opposing side in the second leg.

The joint decision, according to the FA, ultimately comes down to FIFA and UEFA increasing their schedules. FIFA previously announced that they are expanding both the World Cup and the Club World Cup competitions. UEFA also recently launched the third-tiered Europa Conference League in 2021.

Big teams have scheduling headaches, but smaller clubs rely on current FA Cup format

The decision to end FA Cup replays from the start of the competition has certainly divided fans of the sport. On one hand, many soccer supporters believe that FIFA and UEFA are creating player burnout and additional injuries by expanding their competitions. Players also regularly criticize the governing bodies for putting revenue over the safety of the ones actually on the pitch.

The seemingly best-case scenario to combat fixture congestion, while keeping the FA Cup intact, would have been to scrap pointless international fixtures. FIFA, however, has no current plans to do this and protect their players.

A majority of these players to feature in FIFA and UEFA tournaments generally come from big clubs. As a result, these major teams will benefit from completely axing replays in the FA Cup. Nevertheless, smaller clubs will suffer due to the deal.

The FA Cup is a massive way for lower-level teams to make extra money. Being able to host a club like Arsenal or Liverpool at home after drawing away at Emirates Stadium or Anfield is a huge payday for these teams. Just hosting one big Premier League side could financially boost a smaller club for multiple years.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder did not hold back his criticism of the deal on Thursday. “As always, the game is dictated and dominated by the big boys and the big boys don’t want FA Cup replays, do they?” Wilder told reporters during a press conference.

“There will be an argument that they’re bringing all the money into the game. Being a traditionalist, what does that do to non-league clubs that get into the fairy tale of round three and get a draw at home and the financial implications of that?”

Lower-level clubs to ‘seek compensation’ for alteration

As a result of the decision to scrap FA Cup replays, the English Football League (EFL) is seeking compensation for its clubs. EFL chief executive Trevor Birch issued a harsh statement on Thursday towards the FA and Premier League regarding the issue.

“Whilst the league had previously been involved in discussions over the future of the calendar, these were predicated on the agreement of a new financial deal with the Premier League for EFL clubs which has not progressed,” Birch stated.

The two sides have been locked in negotiations on a new financial agreement for some time now. Although a $1.1 billion deal has been on the table, there has not been any movement regarding a potential agreement. As a result, government officials have threatened to get involved in the negotiations. The EFL consists of levels two through four, which include the Championship, League One, and League Two.

Along with scrapping FA Cup replays, the governing body of soccer in England also revealed additional changes to the competition’s format. All FA Cup matches from the 2024/25 season onward will take place on weekends. The FA Cup Final weekend is also going to happen without any Premier League fixtures that weekend. The top-flight division will increase its funding by around $41 million to the grassroots soccer pyramid.