Is the FA Cup Dead?
The FA Cup has always been one of the greatest football competitions, especially of course for fans in England. Everybody knows anything can happen over the 90 minutes of a cup game and lifting the trophy, or watching your team lift it, is one of the greatest feelings.
But it’s not just the final that holds all the glory. The earlier rounds are some of the best games because non-league and lower-league clubs get a chance to play with the giants of English football. Watching David take on Goliath is always entertaining, and giant killings are maybe what make the FA Cup so special.
Some of these non-league players are firemen and plumbers during the week, and they are given this chance to be a football hero at the weekend. There are loads of famous FA Cup stories. Shrewsbury knocked out Everton in 2003, Wrexham knocked out Arsenal in 1992 and just this weekend we saw a handful of cupsets.
Lincoln City and Sutton United made it through to the 5th round after beating Brighton and Leeds respectively – the first time two non-league teams have made it to the last 16. Oxford also breezed past Newcastle, Fulham thrashed Hull and Wolves toppled Liverpool.
But all of these bigger sides that were knocked out fielded much-changed starting XI’s. it’s great to give young players and reserves a chance, but does playing them all at the same time show a lack of respect for the FA Cup?
Take a look at Newcastle for example. Their fan travelled down to Oxford expecting their side to progress to the next round, but Oxford walked past them with ease because they wanted to win so much more. For Oxford and their fans, there is a huge motivation to make it to the next round as it’s seen as a big achievement for the club and they want to see how far they can get. The money the club makes from staying in the competition and TV is also valuable to the smaller clubs.
But for Newcastle all the club wants is to be promoted to the Premier league. It’s estimated that promotion to the Premier League is worth £170 million, and even finishing in last place in the PL helps a club earn £97 million. Meanwhile the prize for lifting the FA Cup is £1.8 million, which is insignificant in comparison.
Financially there is nothing for the big teams to play for. And the main priority for the clubs is to make as much money as possible. The fans don’t care about the club’s balance sheet so much, they just want to cheer their team on and see them win some silverware.
To the fans, the oldest knockout competition in football certainly isn’t dead. The smaller clubs will always be more motivated to win because they go into the game like it’s a dream come true.
For the bigger clubs, it will help for sure if they can somehow increase the prize money or offer a Champions League spot for the winner. But then again I don’t mind seeing the smaller teams getting a good run because the big clubs rest their stars.
The culture of the FA Cup has to be protected because it’s the oldest and biggest domestic cup competition in the world.