Has the FA Cup lost its romance?

Often labelled as the greatest cup competition on the planet, the FA Cup started in 1871 and is loved for its ‘all or nothing’ match pace, giant-killings and its illustrious cup final day out to Wembley. The competition has been held in high prestige amongst clubs and its fans from all tiers since its creation.

But in recent years the tournament has come under scrutiny, in particular from some of the Premier League’s so-called ‘bigger clubs’. So do we still love the electricity generated by the FA Cup or has the competition seen its romance and excitement well and truly fizz out?

Romance is Dead

So is the ‘most prestigious cup in the world’ even that good anymore? I have a few arguments to suggest that, no, it’s not.

One of the best things about the cup weekend was knowing exactly who was playing who in the next round by the time all of the current round’s ties had finished. It used to be that scores were coming in from all over the place and creating a buzz having all started at 3pm on a Saturday.

Now we have to deal with games on a Friday night, Saturday lunchtime, Saturday evening as well as a number on Sunday. There are even FA Cup fixtures on a Monday nowadays. Do we really want that? It doesn’t really spread the magic of the cup over the weekend but sucks the interest and importance out of the tie.

Another way that TV coverage has changed the way we watch is by shortening its coverage. Last season’s final between Manchester City and Stoke provided build-up to the game just half an hour before kick-off whereas a few years back you could sit in front of the TV from about 10am and start to look forward to the campaign’s finale. The fact that the final took place on the same weekend as other Premier League games as well didn’t help although with the Champions League final also being hosted at Wembley in 2011, it wasn’t a massive surprise.

The teams at the top haven’t seemed too bothered about the competition in recent times either. With all due respect, smaller sides such as Stoke, Cardiff and Portsmouth have all made it to the final in recent years. Whilst this could be proof that anyone on their day can strive to success in the competition, it’s more likely that the bigger teams such as Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea have sent out their reserves and focussed their interests elsewhere.

Wembley is another reason for the tournaments decline. The New Wembley itself is an outstanding arena to host any cup final but that’s just the point. Since when has it been acceptable to have the semi-finals in the same place as the final? It makes getting to the final look that bit less special.

The Love is Alive

However, despite all these reasons for its recent downturn, we all still love the FA Cup. There’s nothing quite like progressing to the next round and then being captivated by the live draw as we all wait on tenterhooks to see who will upset who in the next stage.

If you support one of the underdogs then there’s no better feeling than knowing that you’re on an FA Cup adventure to Old Trafford or Anfield. If you support one of the big boys then you worry about travelling to a 5,000 capacity stadium and hoping that your team doesn’t get turned over and suffer from a giant-killing.

And whilst we’re on the topic of high-flyers in the Premier League, now perhaps more than ever is a time where they mean business in the FA Cup. With the English top flight becoming more and more competitive every season, the FA Cup provides a great opportunity for someone like Spurs or Manchester City to try and force their way into a European place. Arsenal and Liverpool have a chance to grab some much-needed silverware and moneybags Chelsea and Manchester United are expected to win it to try and assert their dominance. And with the rivalry between these six teams intensifying all the time, you can no longer say that the Premier League giants don’t take the FA Cup seriously.

These seasons FA Cup has already seen the exit of both Manchester clubs, proving a tremendous opportunity for one of the other top teams to pick up the cup and rub it in their rivals face. Or it could be an extra incentive for a lower league minnow to write their name in the history books.

Matt Cotton @FindingCotton

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