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FA Cup: Supporter voices must be heard

It’s not often that the FA Cup leads the sports news headlines in July but it shows the depth of supporter knowledge nowadays that many have strong, informed opinions on who should (or should not) be allowed to bid for the competition’s media rights.

In May supporter representatives from across the country, led by the Football Supporters’ Association, met with the senior FA officials at Wembley in May as part of the supporter engagement commitments which include three meetings per season.

The meeting was attended by supporter groups from the Premier League, EFL, women’s game, non-league football and international football – all drawn from the FSA’s network of democratically affiliated and associated fan groups, fanzines and activists.

The FA Cup was on the agenda but the FA did not raise any possibility of the Premier League being involved in future FA Cup media rights bids. Following yesterday’s reports we are writing to the FA requesting a meeting to discuss the issue.

International rights aren’t just a theoretical issue either – they can have real world implications for supporters in England and Wales. Back in 2020 five FA Cup third round games were moved for overseas audiences meaning only nine of 32 fixtures kicked off at the traditional Saturday time slot.

Back then FSA vice chair and FA Council member Tom Greatrex said: “If the FA Cup is not to be irretrievably devalued, then the FA must pay more than lip service to protecting the heritage of the original Cup competition.” It’s a statement which was true then and it’s true now. 

Supporters are fundamental to the FA Cup’s future and a key stakeholder – consultation is absolutely vital. Fans have shown time and again that they make the right call when it comes to protecting the game’s traditions, competition integrity and standing up to the greed of our richest clubs.

When the football authorities have excluded or ignored those voices – think European Super League or Game 39 – things have not gone well. Fans have to be involved in any discussions which have the potential to fundamentally change our game.

National Supporters Survey and the FA Cup

There’s no doubt supporters like to see the FA Cup final in its traditional end of season slot with a Saturday 3pm kick-off – a time we saw this year for the first time since 2011.

Almost 10,000 fans took part in our National Supporters Survey 2023 and there were some interesting responses in relation to the FA Cup.

While it’s common to hear the media or supporters arguing that the FA Cup has lost its way, the majority of supporters disagree with that point of view, although opinions are divided.

In response to the statement – “the FA Cup has lost its relevance to fans”:

  • 8% strongly agree
  • 28% somewhat agree
  • 10% neither agree nor disagree
  • 26% somewhat disagree 
  • 28% strongly disagree.

One area where fans had a more coherent view is the issue of replays and opposition to the FA Cup becoming a midweek competition. 

Seven-out-of-ten fans agree that “replays are an important aspect of the FA Cup” while only two-in-ten disagree. Meanwhile eight-out-of-ten supporters disagree that the FA Cup should be completely midweek, with fewer than one-in-ten backing that idea.

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