James Beeson looks at five reasons why the oldest competition in football, the FA Cup, simply doesn’t hold the same appeal it used to.
The FA Cup, once the pinnacle of English football, the stage where dreams were fulfilled and hearts broken, appears to be on the wane. Low attendances, weakened sides and a general lack of interest have seen this once glorious competition become nothing more than a mere distraction for many English clubs. Here are five reasons for the FA Cup’s fall from grace.
1) Poor Coverage
Increased commercialisation in football has already lead to the League Cup being renamed the Capital One Cup, and since the 2008/09 season, the ‘FA Cup with Budweiser’ has been shown almost exclusively on ITV (with BT Sport gaining partial rights this season). Whilst this is not necessarily an issue in itself, with ITV being available for public consumption at no extra cost to viewers, the coverage of this once magnificent competition has deteriorated significantly during this period. Constant advert breaks, coupled with meagre highlights and shoddy punditry have deterred viewers and taken the sheen off the FA Cup to such an extent that many football fans now avoid watching the competition entirely.
2) Resurgence of the League Cup
Traditionally seen as the lesser of the two domestic cups available to English teams, the League Cup, or ‘Capital One Cup’, has seen something of a resurgence in recent years, with some thrilling ties and big upsets. Just last season, Bradford City of League Two defeated the likes of Wigan, Aston Villa and Arsenal to reach the final of the competition. Despite being beaten 5-0 by Swansea in the final, Bradford’s plucky spirit and hard-working attitude inspired football fans across the nation and rejuvenated the reputation of the League Cup, perhaps to the detriment of England’s supposedly more prestigious Cup competition.
3) Foreign imports
Increasing numbers of foreign players and managers on our shores could be causing a shift in attitude towards England’s cup competitions. It has been argued by some experts that many foreign players and managers do not ‘understand’ the true significance of the FA Cup – partly because, in many foreign nations, the domestic cups are not treated with the same respect as their league counterparts. This disdain was exemplified by then-Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, who in 2001 refused to allow his players to celebrate following their FA Cup triumph over Arsenal because of an important upcoming UEFA cup match.
4) Premier League revenue
While many Premier League sides in recent years have been criticized for fielding weakened teams in the FA Cup, it is perfectly understandable that they do so when you consider that the growth of the Premier League as a global brand has seen revenue streams to clubs increase exponentially. As a result of this, many top-flight clubs tend to prioritize their league objectives and thus do not take the FA Cup as seriously, playing a mixture of squad players and youth team prospects. It could be argued that this has caused some of the magic of the Cup to disappear in recent years; after all, giant-killing performances are rendered less impressive when the favourites don’t start many of their star players, as was the case with Manchester City’s recent game against Watford.
Even considering the fact that many Premier League clubs do field increasingly weaker sides in FA Cup games, there appears to have been a decline in the number of ‘giant-killings’ in the competition in recent years. The gulf in revenue streams between top-flight and lower division teams means that, in the majority of cases, Premier League sides can afford to rest key players and still come out on top in cup ties. This predictability has made the FA Cup less exciting to watch, with Premier League teams tending to dominate; Chelsea have won four of the last seven FA Cups, whilst the Cup hasn’t been won by a non-Premier League side this century!bookmark me