Much of the debate this week has been the fallout from Liverpool’s draw at Shrewsbury in last weekend FA Cup tie and the decision by Reds boss Jurgen Klopp deciding to forgo the replay himself and his first team due to the game falling during the pre-arranged Premier League midweek break.
But, its not the cup itself that is causing the problem and it’s a little more complicated further down the pyramid. It’s almost a case of where do you start with it all? It’s clearly not the fault of the players nor the managers, but the owners who want more and more whilst flogging the product and it’s assets to the extreme maximum for financial gain.
As we all know the FA Cup has a long tradition not only here but across the world and while you and I both know things change and evolve you can’t help but feel that there is only a percentage that benefit from this change. As per it has been pretty much since the inception of the Premier League money has flowed into the top end of the game from all angles and a very small amount of that filters right the way down to the bottom tiers of the game.
We all know how different our structure is to the rest of Europe and in the face of change it still maintains its part in the game especially in the FA Cup where over 700 odd teams start off in August dreaming of winning a couple of rounds and the prize money it brings. That money is pocket change for the big boys but so vital for Step 4, 5 and 6 clubs to improve facilities, market their club better, working in the community or clearing some debts that naturally occur over time at those levels.
And as mentioned the issue is not the cup itself, its the lack of space in an already crowded football calendar brought on by increased Champions League matches and energy sapping pre-season tours to far flung corners of the world all in the name of money, money and yet more money.
There are many fans out there who have never experienced relegation or worse, dropping out of the entire Football League. Going one step more than that, clubs going out of business over a few thousand pounds, debts occurred when gates were low or games were postponed and no income was forthcoming, thats a million miles away from the Premier League and European competition, so why should the FA Cup and smaller clubs suffer?
In all honesty there is very little reason why either the Carabao Cup or Checkatrade Trophy should continue in their current format, after all the former only provides a route to Europe if you’re a Premier League club and the EFL is now 72 clubs not 92, why are the Premier League still involved? The latter now has invitations extended to the elite clubs for their Under 21’s to participate, has it raised the profile or those attending the games? Absolutely not and nor will it, this one has run its course. If anything lose the trophy and make the League cup the only competition, either lose the Premier League clubs or invite those who don’t make Europe.
Back to the FA Cup though because thats the competition non-league players get a chance to play in year in year out, locally you only have to looks at the likes of Arundel and Chichester City, the former winning their way through a few qualifying rounds and banking some precious cash, the latter starting in August and reaching the Second Round Proper and setting themselves up for at least two years budget-wise with the money they’ve banked, thats how much difference it can make to the clubs we follow, something fans or indeed boards of bigger clubs just can’t comprehend and never will, it’s almost like two games in one these days.
You can see replays disappearing from the 4th and 3rd rounds in the next couple of years as the bigger boys tighten their grip, it has been mentioned that the smaller clubs could not lose out by choosing if they want a home tie or to travel to the bigger club to earn a bigger gate receipt, but does that not take away the fun of a live draw too? Barnet come out at home to Arsenal, no wait we’ll switch to The Emirates for a bigger pay cheque instead of trying our luck at The Hive in a smaller more compact arena, that to me wouldn’t feel right, thats the job of a replay, but the football calendar dictated by 20 clubs and those desperate for more money across Europe says there’s no room for that, either way it’s a big worry for the smaller clubs whose very existence across all levels is being dictated to by so few.