Has the FA Cup lost its magic?

Wembley stadium, prior to the FA Cup final in 2017.

The FA Cup – the oldest cup competition in world football. 147 years of history, a competition steeped in tradition with so many magnificent moments. The Sir Stanley Matthews Final of 1953. Wimbledon’s crazy gang defeating European giants Liverpool in 1989. Gerrard’s thunderbolt v West Ham in 2006…

It was the one they all wanted to win. The showpiece finale of every season, one of the only televised matches. Young boys pretended to score the cup final winner in school playgrounds up and down the land. But football has evolved, and the FA Cup is now the Premier League’s poor relation.

With the ever-increasing prominence put on European football and the money involved in league football nowadays, it begs the question: Is the FA cup still relevant?

Some see the glamour of European football and the money at stake in the Premier League as rendering the domestic cup competitions obsolete. Mid-table teams often sacrifice a chance of cup glory in the hope of finishing a place or two higher in the league table.

In the latter stages of the season, top teams prioritise European and league games over those in the FA cup. Championship clubs tend to rest players for the early rounds of the cup. Even with an early round cup exit, league form is what keep coaches in their jobs.

Wigan won the trophy in 2013, in what should have been the greatest day in the club’s history, but it was quickly forgotten about due to their failure to avoid Premier League relegation that season. Securing survival or a sacred spot among the top 4 provides financial benefits that the cup does not.

Team’s only receive £1.8 million for winning the cup, but £2 million per place they finish in the Premier League. It is no wonder clubs put such an emphasis on picking up three points, rather than picking up prestigious trophies. But for the fans, football is about winning trophies, and creating moments that fans reminisce over years later.

The future of the FA cup has been a hot-topic of debate in recently, but the excitement generated from giant killings is something fans revel in. For teams in the upper echelons of the game, football clubs are run as a business, so the lure of riches on offer from television deals will obviously detract from the FA cup.

But for the fans, an FA cup run can provide a roller-coaster ride full of all emotions, and those are the moments that money cannot buy. Football is not only about the top 20 teams in the country, but about all teams in all divisions in the country, from Premiership down to the Sunday league. After all, it is the game of the people.


St James Park stadium, Newcastle.

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