Television rights for football continue to fetch quite astronomical figures, the money that flows into the game as a consequence not always used wisely, nor for the good of the game. A decision surrounding the FA Cup may help change things.
The Importance Of The FA Cup In Modern Football
By Dave Bowler
That venerable old beast, the Football Association’s Challenge Cup, has been deemed worthy of bringing in around $1billion for the overseas rights over the course of six seasons, beginning in 2018/19.
What makes this deal different, something very distinct from the beanfeasts enjoyed by the Premier League, is that the money is not already slated to go to the football clubs but to the wider game instead, into such unfashionable but vitally important areas as infrastructure, into pitches, facilities and participation programmes at the grassroots rather than elite level.
That is where it should be invested for after all, that is the beauty of the FA Cup, the competition that really kick started organised football back in 1871, which fostered its growth but which still connects the wealthiest with the lowliest – witnessing the still undoubted buzz that exists around the draw for the third round of the competition when Manchester United might end up playing a group of milkmen. And not at Old Trafford, but on a mudheap in Devon or Cumbria. Who wouldn’t want to be associated with a competition like that?
History & Tradition
The FA’s chief executive, Martin Glenn, said, “It is not overstating it to say that it could have a transformational impact on what we are able to achieve across the country.
“It also underlines the global popularity of the Emirates FA Cup. With its history and tradition, it has the remarkable ability to create fantastic stories and inspire fans, players and clubs to believe anything is possible.”
Absolutely, couldn’t have put it better myself. There is nothing like the FA Cup, it remains the trophy to which every club in the top flight can aspire, and with some degree of realism, while even those lower down the spectrum can use it as the medium by which they make their name, their history, their future.
The FA Cup has a spellbinding power that no other competition can get anywhere near, one born of nigh on 150 years of tradition, of a never ending cavalcade of extraordinary moments and days that trip off the tongue in one long stream of consciousness, whatever your age, whoever you support.
Year after year, even as some have tried to denigrate it, the FA Cup has fought back, providing us with the eternal moments that we take from season after season after season, Stanley Matthews to Charlie George, Jim Montgomery to Steven Gerrard, Ronnie Radford to Ben Watson. You know what? The FA Cup is the best of the best. So having got the big bag of money for it, here’s what the FA should decide to do with heir flagship competition – and it’s very simple. Don’t fuck with it.
Don’t allow the complaints about fixture lists turn it into a midweek competition. And don’t do away with replays altogether. Do ensure that it remains the final game of the season, the grand finale.
The plain fact is – and the money in this new deal makes it very readily apparent – the FA Cup is the world’s competition, the best loved and most watched domestic game on earth, the fixture that people all over the planet still do anything they can to catch. And if anything, that love is spreading further not that the earlier rounds are increasingly accessible to the world audience.
The FA Cup is a thing of wonder. It stands alone. It needs no modernising for that would destroy its ageless appeal. In some ways yes, perhaps it is an anachronism but that is why the world loves it, because it reeks of a simpler time when it was the game that mattered and when the purest format of all – simple knockout football – captured everyone’s imagination. Leave it alone, let that money foster the grassroots of the game and, in six years time when that deal comes up for renewal, I’ll lay odds the FA doubles its money.