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It’s that time of year again where as fans we either sit wiping our brow in relief, gesticulate furiously at anyone who will allow or wildly party as if it were 1999.

That’s right, FA Cup 3rd round weekend.

FA Cup 3rd Round WeekendA time of year in which we are bludgeoned from all sides with clips of Mickey Thomas and Ronnie Radford followed by, in a style akin to A Clockwork Orange, informed that this is the greatest competition in the world!!

So why doesn’t it feel like it?

My memories growing up with the FA Cup are wonderful, possibly rose tinted as most things are in hindsight, but wonderful nonetheless. The joys of watching the stars of the day duke it out on cow fields with the crowds on top of the pitch, sometimes literally, you know proper football! None of this pass and move pleasing to the eye style no, hoofs and sliding tackles that start 20 yards from the ball, proper ‘Hot Shot Hamish and Mighty Mouse’ style (remember that?). The notion that any team from the lowest levels of the footballing ladder has the chance of striding out on the Wembley turf come May.

Cup Final day gave us a glimpse of Wembley and a TV schedule dominated by football to the annoyance of Mum’s everywhere. As a Liverpool fan myself, memories of 1986 and 1989 finals with Everton and a non-segregated stadium with mixes of red and blue all over are truly magical. You had the sense and feeling that this really mattered, this was the last game of the season and truly the pinnacle in the calendar.

BBC Archive: Fans head to Wembley in ’86

Cup Final Grandstand

What’s gone wrong? Lets discuss.

Manchester United

Now let me make this clear, this is nothing against the club or its fan base who have brought a lot to the competition over the years, it is entirely to do with the FA (thinking their name may appear over and over). Pains me to say it, but what United achieved in 1999 was remarkable, qualifying them for the World Club Championship, which in truth is meaningless, bragging rights at best, yet the FA decided that this should take priority and agreed to withdraw United from the FA Cup. In an instant demeaning the competition all for the prestige of saying the best club side in the world was English.

Waste of a Semi

One of the reasons as to why the FA Cup was special was for that opportunity to tread the hallowed Wembley (or Millennium Stadium) turf in the Final. The decision to host both semi-finals away from a Villa Park or an Old Trafford has removed both history and excitement for the sake of paying off the large bill for the stadium overspend. It takes away from the uniqueness of the final itself.

Life on Mars

This weekend might as well have been 1974 rather than 2014, as you huddle round the wireless or frantically searching the town centre for a Rumbelows to watch Teletext updates in the window… Arrrrrrrgh its only on page 3/14!

Ceefax Football Results

In 2014 where you can peruse TV on your phone, have a watch with more storage than a desktop computer from the 1990’s (seriously I couldn’t believe my first computer had 1GB of space… Wowzers I’ll never fill it!) and a games console you can speak to, the FA only made available rights for 8 games to be shown. Eight! Two of which were all Premier League affairs that happen twice a season whatever so hold no unique value or specific FA Cup history.

I get why they showed the North London derby, but Man United v Swansea?? Really? The magic of the FA Cup lies in a David v Goliath story, so why not have cameras at Spotland? Moss Rose? Or even at Anfield where there is actually a story related to the FA Cup? Surely in the modern age it would be financially better to have the ability to broadcast, pay-per-view, games? How many Leeds fans would have (albeit at the start of the game) paid say £3 to watch their team? Or even Owls fans, allowing cash strapped clubs like Macclesfield to maximise the occasion.

Football is now, more than ever, a global sport and yet backwards thinking is robbing the FA, and clubs of the opportunity of taking advantage of such a famous event. How can any discussion be held on having a 39th game of the Premier League season if we cant even let fans at home or abroad access games?

When a draw isn’t good

How is that the draw was made for the 4th round of the Cup before 3 scheduled 3rd Round matches were even contested? Why not wait until after the Man United v Swansea game?? Unless the ball machine is solar powered I cant think of any reason outside of what the TV stations want.

FA Cup 4th Round Draw was made before three 3rd Round matches were even contested

4th Round draw made before three 3rd Round matches were even contested?

Premier League Blues

Such is the importance of the Premier League, both financially and as a spectacle its influence is continually demeaning the FA Cup. As a Liverpool fan I watched as my club had away games at Manchester City and Chelsea within a couple of days of each other followed quickly by a home match against Cardiff. What was the need to cram all these fixtures in? All it results in is squads being stretched and as a consequence you get the sound bites we have heard from Lambert and the result we saw at the City Ground. All boils down to money.

When a Final isn’t Final

The final nail in the coffin surely has to have been the shifting of the Cup Final. This has always been traditionally the final game of the season, a huge reason as to why it was so special. Yet the final has been moved to within the Premier League season making it just another game albeit with something shiny at the end!

How is this resolved? First and foremost the problems, like many in modern football, lie squarely at the feet of the FA and without a simple measure being available, as with the root of many of the problems with the FA modernisation is required. Keep the game up to date with the times, make it accessible to the global audience, return the final to a stand alone special date, stand up to the Premier League over fixtures, we are not talking about anything radical here.

Any ways, would love your thoughts.

Post written by Tim Williams
Twitter: @timdibs

Note: The views expressed within this blog post are those of the contributing author, and may not necessarily reflect those of MatchDayApp Limited, its representatives or associated partners.

Image Credits
FA Cup and FA Cup Draw Velvet Bag © TheFA.com

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