Magic of the FA Cup?

Once again, Congratulations to Manchester City for winning the FA Cup and completing the Domestic treble for the first time in history. However this final seemed a lot different to the neutral. Many of us will have an opinion on the FA Cup, some love it but for me the spark is fading. Now that isn’t me being negative because my team weren’t in the final, a cup final occasion is always special and I was lucky enough to be a part of a winning one last season but that day at Wembley doesn’t paper over the cracks that are beginning to appear amongst the fans.

The fairy-tale stories from the FA Cup are what make it special. Every year something happens unexpectedly which can give memories for life to players and fans of teams who cause a shock. This is what makes it so special. I’m sure the players of Sutton Utd in 1989 thought the magic was alive and kicking after beating Coventry City or when Wigan Athletic scored a late winner in the cup final in 2012 via a Ben Watson header.

My only gripe is as mentioned in a previous blog, the standard between teams at the top and bottom of the football pyramid is now astronomical due to the money at the top of the game and not much filtering down. Apart from true magical stories such as Wigan in 2012 and Portsmouth in 2007, nobody outside of the monopoly of Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool have won the FA Cup since Everton in 1994/95. Alongside of that, these teams in my opinion aren’t respecting the competition or the magic of the FA cup due to other commitments such as winning leagues or competing in European competitions which are on at the same time as the FA Cup run in.

It’s the dream of so many lower league teams to draw the big clubs away from home. A once in a lifetime opportunity which nobody can take away from them.. but then they may turn up and play the oppositions kids or B team. Big teams are willing to risk the loss in the FA Cup to concentrate on other competitions which might be more advantageous in terms of revenue and playing European football.

Could the FA Cup go through a mix up? What would make teams take this seriously? Obviously I am not saying that every FA Cup game has to be full strength, there is such a thing as squad rotation which is done in the other competitions too but when Managers say ‘Ahh it’s the FA Cup and we’re only playing X’ let’s make 11 changes and we should still be fine.

I asked for people’s opinions on what may bring the ‘magic’ back. A lot of suggestions came from offering the Final Champions League spot to the winner or Runner up.. This could be a positive and would maybe be an ‘easier’ route for a team to go for the win and play their better teams to get in European football. It would also mean that with only 3 places available for the Champions League in the Premier League competition, it would arguably make that more competitive too. Take this season for example, Chelsea managed to grab 3rd on the last game of the season, Spurs and Arsenal who came 4th and 5th would’ve missed out.. Spurs lost in the 4th round to Crystal Palace with arguably only 4 first team regulars playing (Dier, Vertonghen, Trippier, Moura) and Arsenal went out to Manchester United but in all fairness both teams went nearly full strength and it wasn’t meant to be.

Another suggestion which cropped up would be to remove the Top 6 from the competition completely. This in turn would potentially make the possibility of advancing to the latter stages of the competition even better for lower league teams and in turn give teams more hope and desire to push for the win. I’m sure the big 6 would have a say in that and would not want to be missing out on this lucrative, traditional competition but they do get all the joy and money out of the Europa League and Champions League..

A simple change which surely everyone agrees on is that Wembley should NOT host the Semi-Finals. My personal opinion is that every year 2 stadiums should be selected for the Semi-Finals in advance and it gets rotated round a select number of stadiums all over England each year. Obvious choices would be the classic Villa Park and Old Trafford. These were the original choices for Semi-Finals before reaching the Old Wembley for the Final. This creates an amazing atmosphere, more fans get to visit different stadiums but also it makes the final a monumental occasion. If you’ve been to the Semi at Wembley, you then turn up to the final at Wembley and you kind of already know what it’s about and you don’t get the same buzz or wow factor that comes with a final.

Secondly, The cost of going to Wembley is an absolute disgrace, so having 2 trips there within a few weeks of each other is killing the modern day fan. The semi-final prices ranged from £30 to £80. The FA Cup final tickets, the exact same seats in the same stadium magically shoot up to £45 to £145. Incredible when you think a typical family of 4 who may want to go for the mid/good tickets because they don’t want to be sat in the gods at the poorly designed Wembley will be facing a cost of £410 (2 adults, 2 under 18s in Category 2) and that is on top of the semi-final cost of the same family of £240. Nice £650 for the average family to experience a trip to Wembley and that’s before you pay astronomical prices for a bottle of coke (£3.70 for the standard £1 bottle at your local shop) or a pint of beer for £6.50 and the list could go on..

Ultimately, The FA are leeching off of the fans who love their football club and would not want to miss out on a special occasion if it doesn’t happen very often. If this is being treated as a business which it clearly is, then they should be clear about this. However, they are getting millions and millions out of sponsorship such as Emirates to have their name at this iconic sporting event. They are getting millions from TV broadcasting across the whole world. They are getting millions from revenue up and down the country every Saturday in the club competitions but this money is not being used to subsidise loyal fans supporting their club or even as an alternative, it is not being used to support Grassroots football or lower/non-league clubs to improve facilities & Coaching to provide a future for the next generation.

This money is going towards the overspend on Wembley, the £1billion stadium that has since been trumped in so many ways by Tottenham Hotspur by designing a stadium that is arguably the best in the world. Something that Wembley most definitely isn’t. I have been, lots. I have done the stadium tour and seen most parts and although they have tried to replicate the tradition that was once there, it falls short and so just like the FA Cup at the moment, it has lost it’s magic.