Is The Romance of the Cup Dead?

The FA Cup was always seen as the end of the season showdown on another exciting season of English domestic football. The cup final day was an occasion much bigger than the match itself and right back at round 1 clubs dare to dream of playing at Wembley in the May.

In more recent years however, the FA Cup has been almost disregarded by the big teams. From recent memory, the tournament has been seen as a nuisance by many of England’s top clubs. This stems back to the 1999-2000 season in which defending champions, Manchester United opted to play in the FIFA World Club Cup instead of defending the crown. A complete lack of respect from the FA for they’re own tournament and United complied. What does that say for the competition when the organisation would rather see the biggest club jet off to Brazil for four weeks and completely hamper the scheduling of fixtures. The tournament was a disaster for United as they came home empty handed. They did however win the league by 18 point.

The FA Cup is the traditional trophy that remains in England and teams are now opting to field significantly weaker sides in order to keep their players fresh for important fixtures. It comes down to money at the end of the day. An FA Cup win will bag a club roughly £2m, which to any top flight side is seen as “chump change”, due to the extravagant money offered for Premier League participation. It is sad to see clubs use the FA Cup as a hindrance to the season. I write this less than a week after Manchester City fielded one of their weakest sides in recent memory against a Chelsea X1 fresh off Champions League duty. The score line: 5-1 to Chelsea. City were playing their own last 16 tie in Europe’s elite competition a few days later and although that is the clubs number one target, due to the increased revenue attached, there was a total disregard for a trophy that was realistically more achievable.

Wigan Athletic are a prime example that the “magic of the cup” still exists. In 2012 the club were in their customary relegation “scrap”, yet still found the time to reach the FA Cup final. They did not see the tournament as a distraction and beat Manchester City 1-0. The cliché “fairy-tale” was etched to the Cup that season, but as each year passes the significant changes show.

One final “attack” on the tournament is the scheduling of the competitions big day. Recent years has seen the final played at the awkward time of 5.30pm, going against the traditional 3pm kick off. Recent finals have also been played before the Premier League campaign has reached its conclusion. The “globalisation” of football has gone mad and the FA Cup is very much a part of it.

Matt Findlay