Sunday, 20 February 2011

Is the Magic Fading?

Manchester United vs Leeds United, Stevenage Borough vs Newcastle United, hell, even Chelsea vs Everton. Much has been made about the magic of the cup in the last few years (well, if you watch ITV's coverage at least) but with attendances dwindling and the top sides putting out weaker and weaker teams, the question must be asked, is the magic still alive or is it simply a case of holding on to past glories for the FA Cup?

There have been calls of late for a complete overhaul of the FA Cup. For it to be revamped and changed beyond recognition in an attempt to bring back some of the spark that it has been missing during the Premier League years.

Many of these proposals, be they eliminating replays, changing the times of kickoffs or even handing a Champions League place to the winners, have come under fire from fans and journalists alike however the question must be asked, if there is so much love for the cup in its current incarnate why are fans not attending? For Wednesday's replay between Bolton and Wigan a frankly embarrassing attendance of 7,515 was recorded. This is a match between 2 of the (relatively speaking) best sides in the country and only 7500 decided to go along.

There are many possible reasons for this lack of support; recession, increase in ticket price, work commitments etc etc but the point remains that attendances for league matches (which are often more expensive) are continually considerably higher than in the cup leading to lower gate receipts and generally devaluing the competition.

Obviously there are the few exceptions, Portsmouth's cup win in 2008 was a truly magical day for the club (and provided the fans with one last hurrah before seeing it crumble) and the huge upsets that are seen every now and again do bring a smile to every football fan's face. But these small moments are few far between and are not enough to justify keeping up the facade.

In this reporters opinion, the traditionalists need to realise that the FA Cup is not what it was. Gone are the days of the Royal Family attending and “Its a Cup Final Knockout” on a sunny Saturday afternoon. What the FA Cup needs is a total overhaul. Give the teams something to play for, as no football fan wants to spend 20 of their hard earned pounds watching two reserve sides go at it. When the Football Association attempt to make a change, these need to be greeted with open arms and adulation and the realisation that unless they want the FA Cup to take the same path down in the realms of mockery as the League Cup, then something has got to give.

Richard Allum

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