FA Cup replay changes ‘a total lack of respect for football pyramid’

Manchester City celebrate winning FA Cup
Manchester City won the men’s FA Cup final in 2023

The Football Association and Premier League have been accused of “a total lack of respect for the football pyramid” over changes to the FA Cup.

Emirates FA Cup replays will be scrapped from the first round onwards in 2024-25 and all rounds of the competition will be played on weekends.

League Two side Tranmere Rovers said they “condemn the disgraceful” changes.

Peterborough chairman Darragh MacAnthony warned it could lead to a “fallout within English Football”.

“There was no consultation with Football League clubs, National League clubs or grassroots clubs to whom the competition represents not only their best opportunity to create life-long memories for supporters but also a hugely important source of income,” said a statement from Tranmere.external-link

“The decision, and the way it was taken, demonstrate a total lack of respect for the football pyramid and its fans.

“We condemn the changes wholeheartedly and urge the FA to suspend them immediately until all stakeholders in the game are properly consulted.”

In its current format, the FA Cup has no replays from the fifth round onwards, but the FA says the move to eliminate them from an earlier stage has been made “in light of changes to the calendar driven by the expanded Uefa competitions”.

Uefa launched the Europa Conference League in 2021 and the number of teams in the Champions League group stage will rise from 32 to 36 next season, while Fifa has announced an expanded 32-team Club World Cup for 2025.

The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) said it recognised the strain the football calendar was placing on top clubs but that the announcement “has not gone down well with a lot of fans up and down the country”.

The FSA said fans were concerned the decision would diminish “the magic of the competition” and that it had “shared those concerns with the FA”.

English Football League (EFL) chief executive Trevor Birch called the announcement “frustrating and disappointing” and that “ultimately this represents another lost traditional revenue stream for EFL clubs at a time when the financial gap between the biggest clubs and those further down the pyramid is growing bigger”.

He added: “We will now be discussing the implications for EFL clubs and seeking appropriate compensation arrangements.”

The changes come as part of a new six-year agreement between the FA and the Premier League.

The FA said the deal would see the Premier League “providing up to an additional £33m for grassroots football on top of the £100m it currently gives to good causes each season”.

However, Peterborough chairman MacAnthony said he had “no idea what the Premier League or the FA are even thinking pulling this move”.

“We are now at the stage where the big boys don’t even bother to notify us/talk through proper changes,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.external-link

“If this is a sign of things to come then expect a full on fallout within English football coming soon all caused by one faction of our game,” he added, saying the situation was “not healthy for our industry”.

Phil Wallace, chairman of League One side Stevenage, said the scrapping of replays would be a “big financial disadvantage for National League and EFL clubs”.

“If you’re coming from an angle of the Premier League and players and protecting them, the England game and everything else, then you can see the logic,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“But football’s not about just that, the Premier League, it’s about the whole country and the 72 EFL [clubs] and the National League.

“Imagine when a National League club draws a Premier League club and gets a draw at home. That is the magic of the FA Cup and that won’t happen any more.”

‘Guardians of game treating FA Cup with disdain’

BBC pundit Pat Nevin, who played for Chelsea, Everton and Tranmere in England, said a cup replay for a lower league club “can make enough money to keep yourself going for another two, three, four years”.

National League side Truro City’s head of communications Gareth Davies echoed that sentiment speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live.

“The FA Cup is the jewel in the crown of English knockout football. The FA, the supposed guardians of our game, seem to be treating it with disdain,” Davies said.

“I don’t think it will change even if there’s public outcry, which there has been.

“For a club like ours, if we drew Exeter City at home in the FA Cup and we managed to get a draw then that replay would be so lucrative. That is going to be taken away from next season and that is a real, real shame.”

Frank May, chairman of eighth-tier Cray Valley Paper Mills, who earnt a first-round replay against League One side Charlton Athletic in this season’s competition, said the tie had “put us on the map”.

“We were getting offers to buy replica shirts from all over the world, it was something we could only dream about,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“This isn’t the way to go, the FA Cup is the world famous FA Cup and there are so many memorable moments that would not have been seen if this rule was announced years ago.”

What are the FA Cup changes?

The FA Cup qualifying rounds – where teams from the fifth to the 10th tiers of English football compete for 32 spots in the first round – will still have replays when ties are level after 90 minutes.

The first round of the FA Cup sees professional teams from League One and League Two enter, with Championship and Premier League teams joining from the third round.

Apart from scrapping replays, other changes will see the fourth and fifth rounds, and the quarter-finals, played without clashing with any Premier League fixtures for the first time.

The fourth round will be played in an extended window from Friday to Wednesday.

The FA Cup final has also been moved to the penultimate weekend of the Premier League season.

It will be played on a Saturday, and will also be independent of any Premier League matches, as will the Friday before the final “to allow focus on the build-up to the showpiece event”.

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