FA Cup tra­di­tions take a back­seat to fix­ture con­ges­tion

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

FA CUP third-round Satur­day, widely re­garded as the most ro­man­tic day in the foot­ball cal­en­dar, is set to be ru­ined this sea­son.

The tra­di­tions of the old­est cup com­pe­ti­tion in the world have been un­der at­tack for years. But now a raft of the most at­trac­tive ties on Jan­uary 3 will be switched to Sun­day or even Mon­day to ac­com­mo­date a full Bar­clays Premier League pro­gramme two days ear­lier on New Year’s Day.

Dis­cus­sions have al­ready been held at the FA and com­pe­ti­tion or­gan­is­ers are pre­pared to be flex­i­ble on who plays and when.

Much will hinge on how teams come out in the third-round draw, to be held next month, and which ties are se­lected for live tele­vi­sion, but it could be that more than half the 32 matches will be moved back.

All 20 teams in the top flight are in ac­tion on New Year’s Day, with Tot­ten­ham v Chelsea kick­ing off late for TV at 7.30pm (SA time).

Premier League man­agers, never slow to com­plain about fix­ture con­ges­tion, will not be happy at the prospect of play­ing twice in three days for the sec­ond time in lit­tle more than a week.

And that seems cer­tain to lead to many field­ing weak­ened sides in the FA Cup.

They al­ready face a full pro­gramme of fix­tures on Box­ing Day, fol­lowed by games on Sun­day De­cem­ber 28 for ev­ery­one bar Liver­pool and Swansea, who meet the next day.

The prob­lem does not ex­ist for clubs in the Foot­ball League be­cause there is no New Year’s Day pro­gramme for the Cham­pi­onship, League One or League Two.

It will come down to which Premier League clubs re­quest a change once the draw has been made and whether that can be agreed with the po­lice and safety ad­vi­sory groups.

Five games will be moved as usual for live tele­vi­sion – three for BT Sport and two for the BBC – although the BBC’s Fri­day night slot will have to be re­lo­cated if they want a tie fea­tur­ing a Premier League club.

The FA Cup is en­joy­ing a health­ier pro­file this sea­son, partly due to its re­turn to the BBC. At­ten­dances in the first round were up 11 per­cent on last year. Two non-League sides, Brom­ley and Dart­ford, drew more than 4 000 fans.

The Cup fi­nal is also back in its pres­ti­gious place as the last game of the do­mes­tic sea­son. – Daily Mail

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