City Blogger: The Magic of the FA Cup
- 06 March 2014 12:21
- Posted by @Vic_Bird
City Blogger Victoria Gregory on why the oldest club competition in the world still holds allure to City supporters...
After knocking Chelsea out of the FA Cup, I had a conversation with a Chelsea fan at the pub who was insistent on telling me that the FA Cup wasn’t an important competition.
Clearly if the scoreline had been in reverse then I am sure his views would have been a polar opposite, but it got me thinking about how non-British football fans view the FA Cup and whether some of the magic we grew up with has been lost.
Let’s begin with some background about the competition.
The FA Cup (short for the Football Association Challenge Cup) is the oldest football competition in the world with the first one held in the 1871-72 season.
Entry is open to all teams who compete in the Premier League, the Football League Championship, League One and League Two, together with Steps 1 to 5 of the National League System plus selected teams in Step 6.
This year 737 clubs from England and Wales entered the competition. Clubs from the National League System have to compete in qualifying rounds which determine which 32 teams will play in the aptly named “First Round Proper”.
Teams in the Premier League and Championship join the competition in the Third Round Proper when 64 teams compete, 20 of which have made it from the earlier qualifying rounds.
Are you still with me? Ok, let’s continue.
The knockout style nature of the FA Cup is a key element to its magic, as clubs from the lower divisions have the opportunity to be “giant killers” and knock out a club from a higher league.
The lower league teams also benefit financially from the opportunity to play teams from the higher leagues, particularly if they get an away draw – for example Kidderminster Harriers are in the fifth-tier but drew Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
"To put this into perspective, Kidderminster’s Aggborough ground’s capacity is 6,250, compared to Sunderland’s of 48,700!"
This weekend will be the Sixth Round Proper, and winners of this round move through to the semi-finals. The semis are now played at Wembley, which I believe should be reserved only for the final, and the semis should be played at a neutral ground equidistant from the clubs playing.
This would reinforce the importance of the final, as well as give more football fans the opportunity to see an FA Cup match without the expensive trip to Wembley.
On Saturday we’ll face Wigan Athletic. Wigan who beat us in the final last year. The final that I flew from Chicago to watch. Yes, it still smarts. A lot.
It will be nice to see the legendary Uwe Rösler at the Etihad but once all the pre-match niceties are done and dusted, we need revenge!
So is the magic still present?
Some could argue that it has been lost due to television scheduling. The FA Cup was always on a Saturday afternoon, after the league had finished, and with several hours of build-up shown before the match even kicked off.
"Growing up in the Gregory household meant that we watched the FA Cup Final regardless of who was playing in it (hearing Abide With Me will always choke me up)."
However, the television scheduling overlords now get to tinker with match dates and times at their will. Whilst this may benefit in increasing the overall global viewing audience, for me it takes some of the important and unique magic away from what was always “FA Cup Day”.
As part of the television rights, the FA should insist that the build-up pre-kickoff and the trophy presentation is shown on the channels that have purchased the rights - and this should be the case globally.
During the boring years of "The Top Four" some of the magic was lost owing to the blatant disrespect for the competition by said Four fielding a weaker team against a lower league opponent.
Now that things are back on the right track and the Premiership is more open, trophies are at a premium and teams are, rightly so, fielding their best sides.
An idea to reinvigorate the magic would be to give the winner a Champions League spot instead of the team that finishes 4th in the Premier League. After all, they’ve won a domestic competition so why shouldn’t they be included in the Champions League?
I’ve spoken to a lot of football fans about the FA Cup in order to write this blog, and the general consensus is that the magic is still there but it has diminished. It’s now the responsibility of the FA, the competing clubs, and the fans (in that order) to make sure the magic is never totally lost.
RIght now, let’s turn Wigan over on Sunday and get to the semis, and then the final.
I know you’ll all agree with me that the FA Cup looks a lot better when adorned with sky blue ribbons.
CITY v WIGAN: Tickets still remain for this weekend’s FA Cup quarter-final with Wigan Athletic – can the Blues return to Wembley by beating former City idol Uwe Rosler's side and press on towards a third FA Cup final in four years?
Don’t miss the chance to welcome back the 2014 League Cup winners and cheer on Manuel Pellegrini’s side in the battle between England’s two current domestic cup holders.