FA Cup traditions take a backseat to fixture congestion
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