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OASF Statement - FA Cup

The board of OASF is disappointed to hear about plans which fundamentally change the nature the FA Cup. Most notably, our concerns lie in the removal of FA Cup replays from the first-round proper onwards.  


We ask clubs at all levels to call-out the FA on these ill-considered plans and ask the FA to restart a consultation which see the English Football League and National League have seats at the table. 

 

Oldham Athletic has a proud history in the competition as three-time semi finalists. During our years in the lower leagues, Latics have been well-regarded as successful ‘giant-killers' seeing off Premier League sides Fulham, Manchester City, Liverpool, and – perhaps most pertinent to this discussion – taking Everton to a fifth round replay thanks to a last gasp equaliser from Matt Smith at Boundary Park. The videos of these games show what this competition means to football supporters.

  

The FA's plans, which we note have been agreed with the Premier League (EPL), but not the Football League (EFL) or National League (NL) are:  


  1. All rounds will be played on weekends.

  2. Fourth, fifth, and quarter-final weekends will be exclusive of EPL games.   

  3. No replays from first round proper.  

  4. Cup final weekend exclusive of EPL games.

  5. Premier League to increase funding to the football pyramid.


We have concerns with three of these components (1,3,5), which we will lay out below. 


All rounds to be played on weekends: 


The premise of this change represents a positive for football fans; however, the FA contradict themselves in the third sentence of their press release by stating: ‘...the fourth round will have an extended window from Friday to Wednesday to allow fans to watch consecutive days of Emirates FA Cup football.’  


Whilst the FA have branded this as a positive for football fans, it appears to us to be a thinly-veiled attempt to increase the number of games chosen for TV, inconveniencing those fans that attend games through thick and thin, disproportionately for the benefit of EPL club shareholders, who will receive the benefit of the additional TV revenue for their clubs.  


No replays from the first round proper: 

The emotional argument for FA Cup replays is quite clear. Watch the highlights of the Oldham Athletic 2-2 Everton fixture from 2013. Look at the passion on the fans’ faces, particularly those younger fans, and tell me that drawing against a Premier League side, and winning a trip to a Premier League stadium (which is also big financial boost) isn't a positive for fans.  


In their press release, the FA do not acknowledge this argument, instead they cite that this change will help alleviate challenges from an ‘increasingly busy calendar'. We have seen the FA and other footballing bodies become increasingly distant from fans in recent years. As football has become increasingly commercial it has forgotten its roots, and the value that fans bring to the game.  

Perhaps saying the quiet part out loud, the statement states that this is due to ‘changes driven by the expanded UEFA competitions.’ The EPL argued for and supported those changes. They made this decision knowing about their domestic fixture obligations. Instead of being told to lie in the bed they have made themselves, the FA have pandered to their decision – this is a dereliction of duty for the entire football pyramid. 

 

Even with this new schedule, a team winning the Champions League would play a maximum of 19 games under the new format. Most teams will play substantially fewer. 6 games are required for an EPL team to win the FA Cup, 5 games to win the EFL Cup. For a side (38 league games) to win the quadruple, they would play a total of 68 games across a regular season.

  

Now let’s consider a team from League Two. Their basic fixture list is already larger than that of an EPL team's, with 46 league fixtures – so the majority of League Two side play more games than an EPL side. This League Two side would consider reaching the third round of the FA Cup and reaching the second round of the EFL Cup a success. To do so, they must win 3 games. This hypothetical side also want to win the EFL Trophy – the path to victory in this competition is 9 games. This is a sum total of 58 games. In the NL, success may come in the form of the FA Trophy, with 8 rounds ‘proper'.


For a team targeting the quadruple, they would indeed have to play 10 more games than a League Two side targeting an equivalent level of success for their stature. However, we struggle to have sympathy on this front: 


  1. Because EPL sides have actively sought more UEFA matches. That was their choice, not the EFL or NL's. 

  2. EPL sides are formed of elite athletes, with substantially greater squad depth than that of a League Two side. These players also earn substantially more than a League Two player (often 2 orders of magnitude greater) – it is not unreasonable to ask them to earn that salary. 


Premier League to increase funding to the football pyramid: 


The FA's statement states that much of the funding they are providing will be ‘maintaining existing commitments'. We are not clear as to how this represents an increase in funding to the football pyramid when this had already been agreed upon.  


Indeed the statement also points out that 16% of the EPL's total revenues are distributed to all levels of football (men’s and women’s). Given the EPL was formed to maximise profit for the leading teams in the country, we do not think this is something to celebrate.  


Summary 

OASF do not believe the changes made will be good for the future of English football, and we regret that the FA have signed off this changes.  


With all of this in mind, we call on clubs, in particular our own club, Oldham Athletic and those at all levels of the pyramid, to call out this ill-considered proposal by the FA. We ask that the FA reconsider their position and ask for them modify their proposals with input from the EFL and NL.  


We also call upon supporters of all clubs, to join their supporters trust or foundation, to come together to protect and preserve the heritage and integrity of our national game against the minority interests of global corporations and entitled billionaires. It will not stop with this competition. 


The FA cup involves 732 teams, not just those privileged few teams who compete in UEFA competitions.  

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