News slid by me yesterday that FA Cup Third and Fourth Round replays have been scrapped for this season.
It won’t bother us, and there’s no indication the plans are permanent, but it is a worrying precedent that I think some clubs could clamour for in the future. The thinking this season is this; we’ve lost games to Covid already and that will likely continue. It’s a bit harsh in my eyes; we’ve had years where we lost a month of football in December to the weather. In 2010/11, we didn’t play between November 27th and the New Year, and our second-round replay with Hereford went ahead in January. We’d been looking forward to that plum tie with Wycombe (away) for a month before we finally got beat.
Anyway, it’s primarily affecting the Premier League, let’s be honest. The handful of smaller clubs that are through to the next stages of the competitions wouldn’t mind a replay, especially not those with big ties. Also, what grates on me like nails on a blackboard, is the European competitions don’t actually start until February 15 again, so why would a replay in mid-January, or early February, be a problem for Liverpool or Man Utd, who’d send the stiffs anyway? I might get shot down here, but I don’t really get it. If scheduling was more sensible (more games at a weekend and not Monday nights), then a replay wouldn’t be an issue, would it?
I get we need to alleviate fixture congestion for bigger clubs, but why not cut out replays after round four, the ones that are likely to clash with European fixtures? I suppose it’s because they’re likely to be Man Utd v Liverpool, not Swindon v Man City. Which is most likely to be televised and therefore make more money for clubs competing. The cynic in me wonders if that’s why only the earlier rounds are affected because the powers that be don’t actually care about the smaller clubs, only the money-spinning matches.
There’s no indication this will be the norm from now on, but last year all FA Cup replays were cancelled because of Covid, and this year we’ve lost rounds three and four. There will be losers from this, there will be a club that potentially loses out on a big replay (Newcastle and Cambridge looks tasty), and I feel for those supporters. I think what is more galling is that we’re losing games fan could go to. There’s no magic in playing a replay (or cup game) in an empty stadium; our Liverpool Carabao Cup tie last season proved that. But as things stand, Cambridge could draw with Newcastle, then lose in extra time because of the depth of Newcastle’s bench, and their fans miss out on a huge replay under the lights. That doesn’t seem entirely fair, especially as it’s not like Newcastle have any other commitments.
I can’t help but think that for a round of matches that includes 64 teams, this decision has been made with five in mind (not you, Spurs).