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FA must pay more than lip-service to heritage of the Cup

FA Cup third Round day, once a much-anticipated staple of the English footballing calendar, has been torn apart by the FA’s international TV deal, leaving fixtures spread out across the weekend and causing extra travel problems for fans.

This weekend sees only nine of the third round’s 32 games kicking-off at the traditional 15:01 on Saturday*. In fact, there are as many fixtures getting underway at 14:01 on Sunday as at football’s traditional time slot, meaning thousands of travelling fans have been inconvenienced.

Despite only one game being shown on UK TV on Saturday lunchtime (Rochdale v Newcastle United on BT Sport at 12:31) five other fixtures have been moved into the early kick-off slot for the benefit of overseas viewers.

Tom Greatrex, deputy chair of the FSA and supporter representative on the FA Council, said: “FA Cup third round Saturday, with the potential for giant killings, has long been an integral part of the tradition, romance and history of the world’s oldest cup competition.

“On the weekend when there is most attention on the Cup, and the FA and broadcasters’ marketing messages highlighting the heritage of the FA Cup, to have less than a third of ties taking place at 3pm on Saturday – mostly to satisfy overseas broadcasters – risks undermining what makes the competition so special.

“The FA is the custodian of the Cup, and quite apart from the detrimental impact on supporters, players and clubs of such a fragmented round of fixtures, in its drive for short term revenue the FA may find it is making the competition less attractive to sponsors, broadcasters and commercial partners than they realise.

“If the 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.”

Of the five games moved to Saturday tea-time, only one has been done to accommodate domestic TV scheduling (Wolves v Manchester United at 17:31).

In all, there are seven different kick-off times across the weekend, ranging from 12:31 on Saturday through to one game at 19:56 on Monday, as Arsenal and Leeds United round off the set of fixtures (live on BBC).

* The extra minute added on to all kick-off times this weekend is due to the FA’s ‘Heads Up’ campaign to raise awareness of mental health – more details on that can be found here.

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