Football Daily | Is a Swiss-style end for FA Cup replays worth trading the family silver for?

Estimated read time 6 min read


You’ve probably heard of the Swiss system. Come on, you know: “The Swiss system is used for competitions in which there are too many entrants for a full round-robin (all-play-all) to be feasible, and eliminating any competitors before the end of the tournament is undesirable. [1].” That’s the format next season’s Big Cup group stage will be played within. And thereafter, until a Uefa suit eventually clocks that 36 teams playing each other on a rota devised by a supercomputer until late January to cut down to the same 16 that usually fill the knockouts is few people’s idea of appointment viewing in an age of TV on demand and YouTube sensations.

Still, someone at the FA thought Uefa’s latest money-spinning wheeze was worth trading in the family silver for. The FA Cup, the magic of the Cup, the Cup of dreams, of Ronnie Radford, Blyth Spartans, Giggsy’s chest-wig, Dave Whelan’s leg, the Crazy Gang, Houchen taking to the skies, Elton John’s cousin Roy, Bruce Forsyth frugging across the hallowed Wembley turf, Michael Barrymore’s impressions, Matthew Hanlan, David James howlers, Chopper Harris, Brendan’s gleaming smile, Cray Valley Paper Mills, the other Neil Young, the Leatherhead Lip yes, the world’s oldest knockout competition, is being traded out to suit those who see Big Cup, rather than the Cup, as the place to be. “The FA and the Premier League have reached a new agreement which will strengthen the Emirates FA Cup format with new and exclusive calendar windows,” droned Thursday’s statement to announce a series of changes amounting to closing down a much-loved community asset boozer and replacing it with one of those low-cost, low-quality chain pubs run by that publicity-loving Brexity bloke who looks like he did a stint roadying for Yes.

“In light of changes to the calendar driven by the expanded Uefa competitions,” appears the key line in the screed. What the big boys want, the big boys get, just don’t mention their Big Cup and Big Vase performance this season. Replays: gone. Even for the opening rounds between those clubs for whom Big Cup, Big Vase and Tin Pot have zero relevance. “All rounds of the FA Cup will now be played on weekends,” roared the statement before confusingly continuing: “The fourth round will have an extended window from Friday to Wednesday to allow fans to watch consecutive days of Emirates FA Cup football.” Still, for the additional £33m for “grassroots football” the Premier League has thrown in – any news on its pending donation to Football League clubs? – at least the FA hasn’t downgraded the competition’s status as season-ending spectacle. Football Daily has memories of a previous time the FA messed around with its prized asset and players were being rested for the final because of imminent Premier League deciders. Sylvain Wiltord at Old Trafford? That came after “it’s only Ray Parlour”, as 2002-issue Gunners will recall.

“The FA Cup final will now take place on the penultimate weekend of the Premier League season. Additionally, there will be no Premier League games on the Friday night before the final, to allow focus on the buildup to the showpiece event.” Ah yes, FA Cup Eve, that integral part of more than 150 years of tradition. At least that survives. To augment the corporate double-speak, a reminder for UK viewers that the magic of the Cup will sit behind a TV paywall from 2024-25, just two matches played free-to-air. Surprisingly, all this received a less-than-positive reaction. Even a valiant effort from the “well actually” modern football community failed to shout it down. The FA was ready, and hit back with a further statement on Friday. “We understand the concerns expressed over the last 24 hours, and will be sharing more details with clubs very shortly to explain the additional revenue opportunities in the early rounds.” In short: lump it. We took the money, so should you.


“My assistant coach, who’s from Australia, showed me the video of the Australian short skater [Steven Bradbury] in the Winter Olympics that was last in the final, and then everybody slips and he’s going first over the line. The thing is, are you ready? If someone else slips, are you ready, or have you already given up because you didn’t think that was going to happen?” – in some press conference chat we didn’t see coming, Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall uses an example of a famous slip that doesn’t involve Steven Gerrard to gee up his players for the WSL run-in.

Steven BradburyView image in fullscreen


Re: yesterday’s Football Daily letters. Oh the decline! Alex Jackson’s packed pub with seven (seven!) hand pumps on show versus Olivier Bernard’s empty pub with only two hand pumps and lots of fizzy cr@p like C@rling! How we mourn the good old days” – Rob Worsfold (and no other possible members of Camra).

Nice to see Carlo Ancelotti taking to bed with Tin in yesterday’s missive. Weird Uncle Carlo, anybody?” – Gerry Rickard.

I cannot help but notice that one sure-fire way to get one’s letter published appears to be to include a link to a (somewhat) spectacular/hilarious/lesser-known clip on YouTube. Since, as a Gooner, I have nothing particularly funny to say, and since my country of adoption has the preposterously named Canadian Premier League (which is definitely not a step-up from MLS), I thought I would give it a try by linking to this spectacularly misguided goalline clearance from a couple of years ago involving my ‘home’ team, the Halifax Wanderers. (The visiting team, humbly named ‘Valour FC’, did actually score and won the game once they subbed the wandering player off)” – Pierre Igot.

Re: Football Daily Pro Evo names (letters passim). Surely Barry would be Gary Blendenning ” – Tim Jones.

Send letters to [email protected]. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Pierre Igot.


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