In this the FA Cup fourth round weekend, this column from the current New Statesman writer Jon Bernstein looks into the parlous state of cup football competitions.
“So reviled and diminished have most football cup competitions become UEFA (Europe’s football governing body) should launch a knockout competition to discover which is the least loved”.
Read the rest by clicking on the article.
It was clear he was referring to the fact that, in England at least, professional sides are putting out weakened sides for the cups, as if they were less important than the leagues. It’s become a worrying trend for many fans who wish one day to see their team win some silverware. It’s not the likes of the bigger teams like Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal who do this, but even some lesser-known ones have done the same, unless they involved in the later stages.
Some may argue this has happened as a result of the split in the top league when the Premiership was created, as well as the changes to the European club competitions since 1992, when the Champions’ League was created to replace the European Cup, and the Europa League which replaced the UEFA Cup (The Cup-Winners’ Cup was abolished). In that, the two competitions attracted a lot of TV and sponsorship money, sometimes at the expense of the domestic cups.
Unlike many fans, I believe the cup competitions need to be given back the status they deserve. For example, teams who put out weakened line-ups should be heavily punished financially, and FA Cup games should be given priority over all else, at least in the third to fifth rounds. The much-reviled Carling League Cup games should be switched to weekends in the early rounds in order to generate more interest in the competition, and clubs should also consider reducing ticket prices to get fans coming to games.
Above all, despite the cynicism of many football writers, it has to be reminded, that winning a cup competition of any sort gives clubs a sense of achievement. That cannot be felt if the only thing they care about is finishing mid-table in the league at the end of the season.