Founded in 1871, the FA Cup is the oldest association #Football competition in the world. Historic through age but also through the memorable moments that it has given football, from Wimbledon’s “crazy gang” beating Liverpool in the 1988 final to more recently Ben Watson’s last-minute final winner for Wigan against Manchester City. Many generations grew up considering the FA Cup as the most prestigious trophy their club played in.

Fast forward to 2017 and the FA Cup paints a completely different picture. The FA Cup, now known as the Emirates FA Cup seems to have lost its magic and there are many reasons for this, and it is not just down to the FA selling the name rights for another additional income.

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The 3rd round of the 2017 Emirates FA Cup highlighted all the issues that have helped devalue this prestigious knock-out tournament, and it is not just fans who feel this.

Managers

Bournemouth is one of the Premier League fairytale clubs having catapulted through the Football League in a short period of time. Mid-table in the Premier League and having recently beaten Liverpool, you would think that they would love to treat their fans to a cup run. Wrong. Eddie Howe made 11 changes to his team, who had just achieved a remarkable 3-3 draw against Arsenal as they had a run of winnable matches in the League coming up. This showed a clear picture of how the league is their priority over the Fa Cup. It’s not just Bournemouth, most Premier League clubs play reserve squads until the latter stages now as the Premier League is more important these days due to the revenue it brings in to stay in the league or to challenge for a European place.

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Plymouth fans travelling to Anfield want to see their players against the best players, not their youth team.

Declining crowds

Recently Fulham travelled to Cardiff for their FA Cup 3rd round, which was watched by a dismal 5,000 fans (Cardiff average 22,000 per game). These low attendances were fixture-wide. But why? The FA Cup games are not included in Season Tickets largely and due to high ticket prices a lot of fans stay away, football is expensive these days. Television coverage also does not help attendances and with the 3rd round being so close after Christmas and New Years, it is easier and cheaper to watch games on TV. Due to television, the Cardiff game was on a Sunday at 11:30 AM, which is absurd for a professional football match.

Semifinals

As a Watford fan it was great to reach the Semi-Finals of last year's FA Cup and for a day out at Wembley, but playing the Semi-Finals at Wembley takes away from the gloss and the glamour of the final, as well as creating 6 am starts for many fans (ask Wigan fans).

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It was just as great a day out going to Villa Park for a Semi-Final. Wembley should be for National games and Domestic finals. Not semi-finals.

Schedule

The 3rd round comes at the worst time possible for fans as mentioned, but also for clubs. The Christmas period for clubs is a hectic schedule with some clubs playing 3 games in a week on average over the festive period. Then add another FA Cup game and you can see why some clubs also don't prioritise it. However, it doesn’t help that if you then draw, you have to play that team again in a replay, adding to this already congested fixture list. Bring back Extra Time and penalties to add excitement to the games.

There have been many other questionable elements that the FA have added or contributed to, to take away the magic of the cup such as; Pink footballs, Manchester United not defending their title in 2000, not picking the best games for terrestrial television and more. How do we revive the magic of the cup? The issues above all need to be addressed by the FA to get more fans involved, with cheaper tickets, matches finishing within 120 minutes, the 4th Champions League spot for the winner etc - Until the FA address these issues, the FA Cup will continue to lose interest by fans and managers alike. #England #sport