19 April 2024

FA vows concerned clubs will not ‘lose out’ over scrapping of FA Cup replays

19 April 2024

The Football Association insists it “understands the concerns” of EFL clubs over the scrapping of FA Cup replays and will be sharing details with them on how new revenue will be generated.

The FA announced on Thursday that replays would be abolished from the first round onwards, sparking criticism from the EFL and its clubs over a lack of consultation.

However, football’s national governing body has moved to allay some of the fears clubs have expressed over the move.

“We understand the concerns expressed over the last 24 hours, and we will be sharing more details with clubs very shortly to explain the additional revenue opportunities in the early rounds,” the FA statement said.

“We will keep this under review as the new calendar begins to ensure that EFL and National League clubs do not lose out.”

The scrapping of replays has been driven to a large extent by a need to reduce calendar congestion, with UEFA’s expanded club competitions beginning next season.

Mark Robins, whose Coventry team face Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley on Sunday, said: “You look at the grassroots and the EFL, below, they’re all part of the pyramid that needs to feed each other and eventually feeds the Premier League. We’ve all played our part in developing them and that should never be underestimated or forgotten about.

“I think there are other things that may have happened – like replays up until the third round, which doesn’t impact the bigger clubs that have made this decision.

“At the end of the day it does kick everybody in the teeth below that level, there’s no doubt about it, but there’s nothing we can do about that apart from voice concerns. Maybe there’s a rethink for those clubs, but it’s really difficult for them to come to terms with.”

On Friday morning Bradford joined a group of EFL clubs condemning the move, which also includes Accrington, Crawley, Grimsby, Peterborough, Tranmere and AFC Wimbledon. The Bantams statement said that although retrospective consultation from the FA was still necessary, it would now be “nothing more than an insult”.

The FA statement set out further detail on how the changes had been approved.

“We have been discussing the calendar for the 2024-25 season with the Premier League and EFL for well over a year,” the FA said.

“Removing Emirates FA Cup replays was discussed in the early meetings and all parties accepted that they could not continue. The discussions then focused on how to make all of our competitions stronger, despite having fewer dates available and wanting to maintain player welfare.

“The changes to the Emirates FA Cup achieve this by returning it to a weekend competition on every round, and ensuring that we have exclusive broadcast slots in an increasingly congested calendar.

“To clarify, we have also increased the number of Emirates FA Cup matches that will be broadcast in the early rounds, which will lead to additional guaranteed broadcast revenue for EFL and National League teams.

“Additionally, we review the prize money annually for the competition, together with representatives from the EFL and PL and will do the same for the 2024-25 season.

“The calendar for next season was approved by the Professional Game Board, which consists of four EFL representatives and four Premier League representatives, last month, and then by the FA Board, which includes Premier League, EFL, National Game and grassroots representation. This is the process we undergo every year to approve the calendar.”

Sources close to the EFL say that although approval was given at Professional Game Board level, the changes were presented there as a fait accompli. Sources add that the EFL was sidelined from discussions about how its clubs would be compensated for the loss of replays, and that Thursday’s announcement containing details of extra funding for the grassroots game came out of the blue.

West Ham manager David Moyes was asked about the changes at his press conference on Friday and said: “I think the football schedule is too full, I think there are too many games. Something has to give in football somewhere or you may find it’s going to be very difficult.

“I’m not saying that this was the thing that had to give, but somewhere along the line, I think something will have to loosen up a little bit to give the players a little bit more room.”

Moyes’ Manchester United counterpart Erik ten Hag said the scrapping of replays was “sad” but “inevitable”.

“It’s very sad for the British football culture but I think it is also inevitable, no one can do anything about it, it’s due to the overload in the schedule (and) that’s dictated by FIFA and UEFA,” the Dutchman said.

“There is so much overload on the players, we talk about this issue so often and it has to stop. As I said, I feel really sad for the clubs in English football but for top players this can make some space in the schedule.”

A Downing Street spokeswoman gave the Government view on the issue.

“David and Goliath fixtures are a part of the magic of the cup. And we know that replays have been a welcomed source of income for smaller clubs throughout the years,” the spokeswoman said.

“These are however decisions for the footballing authorities, but clearly it’s incumbent on the FA and Premier League to explain this decision and why it is in the interests of fans.”

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