With attendances having dropped around 30% and the tournament beginning to lose a little of its prestige The FA are now planning to tamper with the rules and structure of the World’s oldest and still most respected competition. However as per usual with The FA some of the changes might be aimed more at corporate sponsors rather than football fans. Possible changes to the FA Cup which could take effect from 2013 include moving the final to a 5.30pm kick off in order to attract a bigger global audience. This is not a bad idea and would benefit those who have a long way to travel as well as making it more of an occasion with more time for the build up al la the Super Bowl in America. However the other changes are much more sinister and include the seeding of the top clubs in order to avoid the likes of Manchester United playing Arsenal in the Third Round of the competition. The real Magic of the FA Cup was and still is the fact that nothing is staged and a big team clash on 3rd Round day is almost as exciting as when a non league club makes it there. Seeding would have the effect of sloping the playing field in favour of the big clubs again and would do nothing for the already skewed income distribution in football.
Also on the list of possible changes is the the scrapping of replays. Wonderful idea that! Many smaller clubs survive to fight another day on the revenue generated from a money spinning replay and with all the concern about declining attendances what’s the point of removing games which must have the effect of reducing gross attendances further.
Then there is the talk of playing more ties in midweek, another sure fire way to reduce attendances as people (outside the FA anyway) have work and travel considerations when planning a mid week match.
Other possibilities such as planning more regional ties looks good on paper, but again the attraction of the FA Cup is the unexpected and if regionalising means that the likes of Hartlepool will be playing Darlington nearly every year in the early stages then eventually this will become boring and attendances could decline further.
The FA Cup has ran fine since 1872 and it will be a crying shame for football fans everywhere if the tail gets the chance to wag the dog and corporate sponsorship dictates who plays who and when they play it.