Is The Romance Dead?

Whilst watching the draw for the F.A. Cup 4th round last sunday, I couldn’t help but think that the competition has finally lost its unique selling point.

Romance of this beloved tournament appeared well and truly dead and buried.

Why is this?

For many years it has been one of the highlights of the sporting calendar let alone the footballing calendar. But this year the 3rd round failed to deliver on many aspects that it regularly excels in.

The game at Old Trafford which saw Leeds United defeat their old enemy, Manchester United was the only real shock along side a couple of Championship teams earning so-called lucrative replays against Premier League opposition.

It was also revealed despite the 3rd round having a 30 year high on average attendances, it has since been reported, that 33% of clubs had lower attendances than they usually attract for a league fixture, with 10 if the 11 Premier League teams at home, having lower attendances.

People may look to reasons like snow, recession or the time of the year but these are almost yearly occurences and now they will be widely used as excuses.

Have a look at the top ten lower the average attendances below;

Position      Team Cup Att Season Ave Difference
         
1 Wigan Ath 5,335 18,646 -71.1
         
2 Sheff Wed 8.69 22,374 -61.2
         
3 Sheff Utd 11,461 26,133 -56.1
         
4 Leicester 12,307 23,792 -48.3
         
5 Bolton W 11,193 21,439 -47.8
         
6 Stoke C 15,586 27,217 -42.7
         
7 Portsmouth 11,214 18,929 -40.8
         
8 Middlesbrough 12,474 20,238 -38.4
         
9 Sunderland 25,190 40,552 -37.9
         
10 Aston Villa 25,453 37,780 -32.7

The offerings of live fixtures also indicated that the competition had not lived up to the earlier offerings in the competition and this looks the same for the coming round in my opinion.

As I mentioned, the offerings of live games were predictable but the network providers say a lot about the competition and its value. BBC, Sky and ESPN all seem to have washed their hands with the competition and the offerings from ITV are poor, very poor indeed.

The cup final, deemed for many a years the pinnacle of the football season, an illustrious occasion (as shown in the picture above, with Billy Bremner lifting the trophy afer receiving it from HRH Queen back in 1972), is now a thing of the past.

Recent finals have been extremely dull affairs and the glamour of the occasion lies only with the two participating teams and not with the masses of football fans nationwide.

With the current trend of football being based on squad rotation, and as this seems the future of the game, many fans will not want to watch a reserve team, it says it all when sides like Stoke City and Hull City are playing squad players in the competition.

The draw for the fourth round offered very little to improve this current predicament, as the draw shows below;

Southampton v Ipswich

Reading/Liverpool v Burnley

Millwall/Derby v Brentford/Doncaster

Bristol City/Cardiff v Leicester

Stoke v Arsenal

Notts County/Forest Green v Wigan

Scunthorpe v Man City

West Brom v Plymouth/Newcastle

Everton v Nottm Forest/Birmingham

Accrington/Gillingham v Fulham

Bolton v Sheff Utd/QPR

Portsmouth/Coventry v Sunderland

Preston v Chelsea

Aston Villa v Brighton

Wolves v Crystal Palace

Tottenham v Leeds

Do many of those ties stand out to you? They don’t to me, maybe apart from Spurs versus Leeds that is.

So what for the future of this beloved competition? It doesn’t look optimistic at this current time and this will only be harmful to the game.

Monies been funded through the game to the grass-roots and small clubs will diminish and the chance for players to make a name for themselves and more importantly a career, grows less likely by the rounds played.

This needs a solution to this major problem, first the rights for the game must be owed (I know they’ll have to bid for them) by the BBC, they do sporting events justice in this country and give a fantastic service.

Secondly, Sky have to be involved as their money is essential to the game especially at the lower levels and finally I feel ITV have to be moved away from the F.A. Cup, as they offer a very poor service indeed.

The romance is dead, but hopefully it will return to our hearts one day. As with all true loves, we will always have a soft spot for them and accept them back into our lives eventually!!

Thanks very much for reading.

Cheers.

Gaffers

P.s. A huge well done to Leeds United on beating Manchester United at Old Trafford last Sunday. They played fantastically well from back through to the front two.

Hopefully they can do the same against Tottenham Hotspur, because this cup needs bringing back to life, quickly!!

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