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New FA Cup format: FSA speaks out over controversial changes

The FA and Premier League have announced a new FA Cup format that will come into effect from next season. A whole raft are changes are being made to the competition with sceptics claiming the changes are designed to help the biggest teams in the country at the expense of the smaller ones.

The biggest change to the FA Cup from next season is that replays will no longer be part of the competition from the first round. Replays were once part of the competition right through to the final but over the years, they have been stripped back.

New FA Cup format
The FA and Premier League have reached a new agreement on the FA Cup schedule – Photo by Icon Sport

As things currently stand, replays are active until the fourth round but from next season, all FA Cup ties from the first round onwards will be settled on the day of the game. This means that if a match is level after 90 minutes, then Extra Time and potentially penalties will be needed to find a winner.

Other key changes include more exclusivity for the competition. The fourth round, fifth round and quarter-finals will all take place on weekends where no Premier League fixtures will be played for the first time. The fifth round will be moved back to a weekend slot after being played in midweek over the past five seasons.

The FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium will now be played on the penultimate weekend of the Premier League season. The match will be played on a Saturday and no Premier League games will be allowed to take place on the same day or on the Friday night to ensure full focus is on English football's oldest competition.

New FA Cup format: Premier League agree to provide more grassroots funding

As part of the new format, which has been agreed upon due to the expansion of European competitions next season, the Premier League has agreed to increase its funding to the football pyramid. At present, the Premier League give £100m each season to good causes but from next season, they will provide an additional £33m to grassroots football.

The Premier League's chief executive, Richard Masters, said:

“The Premier League is proud of the investment it provides to all levels of the game and this new agreement with the FA will see us enhance our support into grassroots football. This will improve facilities for communities and lower league clubs across the country, through the Football Foundation and Premier League Stadium Fund.

“Throughout our discussions, both parties have been committed to enhancing the scheduling of the Emirates FA Cup, a hugely important domestic competition with a storied history.

“The FA and the Premier League have worked in partnership to deliver more exclusive weekends without compromising the excitement of knockout football and this has been achieved at the same time as allowing us to ease fixture congestion generally.”

FSA concerned over ‘history, heritage and tradition' of the FA Cup

After fans of football clubs throughout the pyramid took to social media to protest the newly-announced changes to England's beloved cup competition, the Football Supporters' Association (FSA) also released a statment.

“It’s clear today’s announcement about the FA cup has not gone down well with a lot of fans up and down the country,” read the press release. “Supporters are concerned that the changes to the FA Cup will further diminish what makes the competition enduringly popular – namely its history, heritage and tradition.

“While we recognise the footballing calendar is coming under impossible strain – due to the increasing bloat of FIFA and UEFA competitions – recent surveys of both our members and National Council revealed serious concerns about loss of replays and the impact that could have on the magic of the competition.

“The FA Cup is the oldest domestic cup competition in the world, an asset of national importance, and we have shared those concerns with the FA as its primary custodians.”

Others speak out over proposed changes

League Two side Tranmere Rovers were quick to respond to the FA announcement on Thursday, issuing a strongly worded statement that indicated that EFL clubs were not consulted over the decision to scrap replays.

“There was no consultation with Football League clubs, National League clubs or grassroots clubs to whom the competition represents not only their best opportunity to create life-long memories for supporters but also a hugely important source of income,” wrote the North West based club on their official website. “We also understand that FA Council members were not consulted about the changes.

“The decision, and the way it was taken, demonstrate a total lack of respect for the football pyramid and its fans. Football belongs to all of us and decisions should not be taken in back room deals in which only the very wealthiest clubs are allowed to participate. It is yet another eloquent example of the 19th-century governance that means that football simply cannot regulate itself and needs the Independent Football Regulator to have real teeth.

“We condemn the changes wholeheartedly and urge The FA to suspend them immediately until all stakeholders in the game are properly consulted.”

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder also lent his voice to the protests, stating that the game is ‘as always dominated and dictated by the big boys.'

He expressed concern for the non-league clubs who dream of getting a draw at home and a replay at one of English football's big grounds in the ‘fairytale world of Round Three.'

 

Whatever happens next, the weight of feeling against these proposals suggests that this issue is going to rumble on for a good while yet.


Andy Delaney

Andy is a freelance sports writer with ten years of experience covering major sporting events across Europe. He has also been a season ticket holder at Old Trafford since 2008 and has visited over 40 football stadiums in the United Kingdom and abroad following the Reds.

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