The FA Cup has lost some of its magic; it’s not longer the competition every fan looks forward to and it is treated with contempt by managers who have other priorities – saving their team from relegation, or fighting for the league. It’s a crying shame that this cup, bathed in glory and defining moments, has fallen into such indifference. The competition needs some upheaval: here are 5 ways it could generate the love it once witnessed.
Champions League Spot
The big teams are often criticised for fielding weaker teams, devaluing the competition and illustrating the club’s indifference towards the cup. One way to wake up the big boys in the Premier League is to hand out a Champions League spot to the winners – that would certainly get their tails wagging. It would be mean stripping the Premier League of its 4th spot, making the league even more competitive as teams increase their intensity to reach the top three. With a spot in Europe’s biggest competition on offer, we would no longer see the giants of English football field a weakened side; it may also mean that the likes of Stoke and Everton, who both crashed out last weekend, would have a chance of obtaining a European status that would be unachievable through the league.
Greater Prize Money
The allure of a Champions League spot is somewhat diminished as one travels down the leagues – although it would be a monumental area in a club’s history, the demands of Champions League football would wreak havoc within Football League clubs and would be an unfeasible option. Thus, to add incentive for football league clubs to take the competition seriously, the FA should increase the prize money rewarded for each round. For example, Cardiff City put out a dismal performance in their clash against Fulham, with their focus on retaining Championship status. Neil Warnock, Cardiff manager, told the press that the club simply can’t afford to be relegated so he rested his senior players; if the FA were to increase the money allocated to each team for progressing to each round, then clubs like Cardiff who are financially burdened, would have greater motivation to play at a competitive level.
Round Three entrance wiped out
League Two Plymouth holding Liverpool at Anfield is what the cup is all about; non-league teams standing three feet taller against the biggest and best in English football is what the cup is all about – that is the magic the fans crave. Everyone loves an underdog story. If the FA were to demand Premier League and Championship clubs enter at the second round, rather than the third, then these glorious mismatches would become more frequent: television figures would soar if Manchester United were playing Eastleigh in the second round.
Premier League teams to all play away in first round
Imagine the scene, it’s the third round of the cup and every single Premier League team is away. Every team is greeted with hostility, shabby changing rooms and a beaten pitch (League One, onwards, perhaps). Those fairytale tales of League Two and Non-League teams slaying a Goliath would double, if not treble, in number and would see a return of the love for what the cup can do: embarrass and make humble the greats.
Semi-Finals not at Wembley
Going to Wembley with your team is a fantastic occassion – I’ve been lucky enough to go three times with mine. But, it ensures that the Cup is exclusive to the elite London circle; without devling into socio-economic philosophies, the hosting of Semi-Finals at Wembley needs to be scrapped if we are to re-ignite the fervour of the cup. England and Wales host some magnificient stadiums: stadiums that deserve to entertain great cup-ties. Not only would fans relish the opportunity to travel to different and unexplored grounds, but the complete division of a well-known Premier League stadium into two different colours is a peculiarly fascinating spectacle. It would also mean the reverence and holy status that Wembley seeks to attain in English football is closer to realisation if it is only played on for the final.