APPARENTLY the FA Cup needs a revamp.
A think-tank in the Football Association have been looking at ways to glam up the competition in a bid to boost attendances.
But is the cup really dying on its knees as some would have us believe?
Yes attendances have dropped slightly, but on average the great competition is still drawing in the crowds, and this season there seems to have been no shortage of headline-grabbing ties.
None more so than the one in the next round which pits non-league Crawley with 11-time winners Manchester United.
Last season’s average gate in the competition was 12,480, down by around 500 on the year before. But in a time when jobs are being slashed and wages cut is it any surprise the attendances are dropped?
Perhaps if clubs offered more incentives and cheaper prices for FA cup matches they would entice those extra people in through the turnstiles.
Rumours have emerged this week of a few ideas that have been bounced around in the FA H.Q, some which tear into the heart of what many believe to be the greatest cup competition in the world.
The seeding of teams would increase the likelihood of a big team vs. little team match-up, replays could be scrapped (taking away what for some clubs can be money-spinning ties), matches could be played midweek and the final moved to an early-evening kick-off, instead of the traditional 3pm.
If the FA think these plans will increase the excitement of the FA Cup they are living in cloud cookoo land.
For the smaller clubs the FA Cup can be a financial lifeline, just ask Kent League side Hythe Town what is means to them to make it into the first round proper. They have enough cash in the bank now to really push on as a club.
Crawley Town, who aren’t short of a few quid anyway, will travel to Old Trafford for a match that encapsulates the whole idea of the competition.
What gets me is what is so wrong with the competition anyway?
Yes, perhaps there were a few absent fans at Wolves and Bolton in the last round (not helped by less-than-glamorous opposition in Doncaster and Wigan respectively), but on the flip side look at Arsenal.
There was a full house at Highbury as there has been across many grounds in the country.
The biggest problem is keeping Arsene Wenger and co interested in the competition when they are chasing League and Champions League honours. The competition’s integrity can only be kept if they are made to field competitive teams. We don’t want to see the competition devalued to the extent of the League Cup, which is treated by many top teams as a reserve outing.
Fans will fall away if they are expected to pay top prices for watching the club’s second string players.
Gillingham may have had an FA Cup campaign to forget this season, but the Blues fans certainly won’t want to see this competition devalued by any quick-fix ideas from those in power.
Over 10,000 crammed into Priestfield to watch them give Aston Villa a scare recently and the club’s record attendance of 23,002 against QPR in 1948 was in the FA Cup.
The FA should consider the current financial woes of the average football fan and encourage more teams to offer incentives to fill up their grounds in the short-term, and when we all have a few more quid in our pocket, we will then have a decent competition to keep supporting, instead of one with could be turned into a second-rate event.
Clubs also need to play their part and listen to the fans. The FA Cup is cherished by the majority and the top clubs have a big responsibility to keep it alive. It’s in their hands as much as the FA’s.