Three ways the FA Cup can be improved
The FA Cup, without question, has lost plenty of the gravitas it used to possess, but it certainly isn’t beyond redemption.
Dwindling attendances, second-string line ups, and general apathy has led the once historic competition to become seemingly nothing more than a nuisance to many clubs – and some fans – near the top of the football food chain.
For every AFC Fylde and Hartlepool who are in dreamland after progressing to the third round, there are many more teams who desperately avoid playing their superstars in these games to avoid injury and concentrate on the league – obviously that being the real money-spinner.
A trophy with such a rich history should not be continuously ignored but money talks and, for a growing number of clubs, ultimately it is sacrificed in the name of solid league progression and, therefore, financial stability.
Yet if some progressive changes were implemented, then the FA Cup could at least become something like its old self. Here are three ideas to modify and revive the competition.
1. Offer a Champions League place to the winner.
An oft-used argument for top teams not to play their strongest team in the FA Cup is that they are concentrating on the battle for Europe alongside their legue campaigns.
It is quite a sad indictment of modern football that teams would sacrifice a trophy win and a place in history in order to instead try to finish fourth (and not win a trophy), and qualify for the Champions League.
— The Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) January 6, 2020
Again, it is mainly down to the money involved in the 21st-century game – a place in the Champions League is simply far more lucrative.
The solution is simple – rather than reward the team who finishes fourth with a place in the Champions League, give it to the FA Cup winner.
Clubs would suddenly start taking the competition far more seriously and it would begin to restore some integrity.
And, it would have the knock-on effect of making the Premier League more exciting as well, with a top-three battle being consequently more competitive – a win for the fans all round.
2. Seed the third-round draw
The FA Cup is worth pennies to those at the top but for the likes of Fylde and Hartlepool, and even league teams such as Carlisle and Northampton, it is the lifeblood of their season.
Nothing captures the imagination more for supporters of those smaller clubs than when they draw a big team in the Cup – Look at Port Vale taking 8,000 fans to the Etihad for their 4-1 defeat to Manchester City.
— Port Vale FC (@OfficialPVFC) January 4, 2020
Vale were lucky to get such a draw, but Northampton had to settle for something more run-of-the-mill.
It is great for them to progress through to the fourth round, but a tie away at League One opposition will hardly have set the pulses racing and therefore not generated huge interest.
Seeding the third-round draw and making sure the lower clubs get the reward of a big tie – and the chance to cause a huge giant-killing in the process – could offer some much-needed magic to the competition.
3. Impose selection rules
This might not go down well with top teams, but this competition isn’t just about them.
Far too many teams make a raft of changes to their side meaning fans attending the games are shortchanged if they see a skeletal or youthful team.
It is obviously great that young players get an opportunity to star – the beaming interview with Sheffield Wednesday debutant Osaze Urhoghide was joyful to watch.
— Sheffield Wednesday (@swfc) January 4, 2020
But too many teams treat the FA Cup as if it is a reserve league.
A selection quota could be implemented whereby teams must not make more than five changes to their starting line-up for the FA Cup.
It would allow ample room to bring fringe and academy players into the side, while still retaining enough players to make the game seem like a regular first-team affair.