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FSA view on FA Cup replays? Keep them!

The FA’s decision to scrap FA Cup replays in all rounds of the competition has been met with what can only be described as anger by many EFL and non-league clubs, football figures and supporters at all levels of the game. 

As well as replays there is real concern across football that many of the things which make the FA Cup special – its history, heritage and tradition – are also under threat.

The level of anger at the decision to scrap replays should not come as a surprise to anyone at the FA as we have consistently made clear, in a number of recent meetings, what supporter feeling is when it comes to this issue. 

In addition we outlined the problems that stretching a “weekend” from Friday to Monday causes travelling supporters but the FA are still pressing on with that scheduling and even extending it during the 4th Round which will run from Friday to Wednesday. More TV disruption for matchgoers.

Bottom line – the FSA supports FA Cup replays in all rounds of the competition.

We are not exactly new converts to this either, as it’s something we’ve warned about for decades right back to when we passed a motion supporting replays at our 2004 AGM.

In our submission to the Fan-led Review (July 2021, see p84) we also argued that the remit of an independent regulator should extend to the FA Cup in order to offer another layer of protection and supporter engagement. 

This was not included in the Football Governance Bill which is currently passing through Parliament but we’d certainly support any amendment which proposed it.

Wrecking ball to replays? UEFA also to blame

No football competition organiser exists in isolation and, while the FA are rightly being held to account and facing protests, neither UEFA nor the Premier League’s richest clubs should be allowed to dodge the bullet either. Their greed is the catalyst for this decision.

The start of this process can be traced back to UEFA’s capitulation to the demands of the richest Champions League clubs for whom nothing was ever enough. The competition format never satisfied them as they wanted more and more games (translation – more and more money).

This ultimately led to the expansion in European competition which we will see next season with an extra 4-6 Champions League games per club “thanks” to the Swiss Model – and it’s the FA Cup which has paid the price to free up those additional dates.

We raised awareness at a continental level and lobbied UEFA with our friends at Football Supporters Europe (FSE) for many, many years warning that this could be the outcome and that “the FA Cup would become primarily a midweek competition without replays” if European competitions were allowed to bloat.

Football fans across the continent backed an FSA motion at 2019’s European Football Fans’ Congress (EFFC) which opposed the increase in the number of European fixtures and established six key principles against which any reform should be measured. We were proud to lead that debate and establish something which supporters’ groups from a variety of countries could get behind.

In summer 2022 we were a co-signatory to FSE’s #WinItOnThePitch campaign which argued that “more European games will make the rich richer and undermine competition… the extra pressure on domestic calendars would also endanger domestic cup competitions.”

We predicted that this would happen if football executives were given the sole responsibility of determining the direction of the game. Supporters’ voices across the continent were ignored with greedy owners largely getting their own way on this one.

We have met with the FA a number of times and told them every time that replays were a critical part of the FA Cup’s heritage and the majority of fans would oppose any attempt to scrap them. We pointed to FSA policy and supporter surveys.

It’s yet another example of why an independent regulator is badly needed to rein in the power of clubs and give supporters a real voice in shaping our game and competitions.

While our biggest football institutions argue amongst one another, supporters are left on the sidelines with no voice in the room or votes to cast when these big decisions are taken.

How is FSA policy decided?

The FSA supports the retention of FA Cup replays in all rounds of the competition – this is an established policy which was set by members at the 2004 Annual General Meeting (by one of our predecessor organisations the Football Supporters’ Federation) where policies are proposed, debated and voted upon.

We test our headline policies against support opinion on a periodic basis and our National Supporters Survey (released August 2023) asked a range of questions relating to the FA Cup – they showed that support for replays still exists.

  • 69.5% of fans said replays were an important aspect of the FA Cup.
  • 26.1% were in favour of abolishing replays in the FA Cup.

Meanwhile 38.8% of respondents felt that if both clubs agree in advance then they should be allowed to avoid a replay and go straight to extra time and penalties.

Those stats are based on the responses of almost 10,000 individual supporters.

Following that we ran a consultation amongst our member supporters’ organisations to dig into the views of our supporter groups in a little more detail. That work was, by design, more detailed and contextualised the feelings of those groups.

Once again the majority supported the concept of replays with arguments often reiterating the importance of tradition, heritage and the magic of the Cup. Those who were agnostic or opposed replays tended to focus on practical matters – reducing fixture congestion and / or saving on tickets, travel and other matchday expenses.

FSA National Council update

On Tuesday 23rd April the FSA held a National Council meeting with our elected representatives discussing the latest developments. They reiterated that as an organisation we will continue to seek to protect the integrity, heritage and attractiveness of the FA Cup for supporters, participants and the game as a whole, “using all avenues and processes open to it to pursue that objective.”

Additionally, the FSA National Council asks the authorities to look specifically at FA Cup Rounds One and Two to consider reinstatement replays in these fixtures where, clearly, the congestion caused by the European calendar is not a consideration.

  • Want to influence FSA policy? Join the FSA for free here and come to our AGM

 

 

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