The FA’s main board is due to meet today for the first time post-World Cup and The Guardian is reporting that the idea of scrapping FA Cup replays will be floated. The proposal is one of a number of ideas being floated by the FA to revive the competition although how scrapping its unique selling point will achieve this isn’t clear. And it's a move that's likely to be unpopular with fans judging from discussions on the FSF's Facebook page.
One of the most popular theories for the failure of England in South Africa is that the lack of a winter break, which many European leagues have, leaves the Three Lions’ players in a poor physical state come the end of season. The last three England managers – Eriksson, McClaren and Capello – have all called for a winter break and some in the FA believe the Premier League will agree to that if cup replays are scrapped.
Fans however are likely to be less enthusiastic and a resolution was passed at the FSF’s 2004 conference opposing any further abolition of cup replays (register for Fans’ Parliament 2010, Wembley on Saturday July 24th here).
While there’s no doubt England’s so-called golden generation has failed and that we need a serious review of the reasons for its failure, there's no one quick fix. Winter breaks might be part of the solution but only alongside better youth development programmes, more home-grown talent being introduced to first-teams, better coaching of youngsters and pros, and a serious look at our football culture.
The prevalence of “heart and sprit” over technique surely has to be questioned along with the acceptance of children and young teenagers playing on full sized pitches in competitive games. It’s hardly conducive to improving youngsters’ skill and technique if they only get one touch every ten minutes. Is it any wonder physical strength then becomes more important to the game in Britain than other nations?
Let’s not forget though that FA Cup replays often bring in much-needed revenue to lower-league clubs. For example, both Burton Albion and Exeter City have earned much-needed money-spinning replays after holding Manchester United goalless in recent seasons.
Some of our most iconic cup moments have come in replays too. How many know Hereford’s amazing victory over Newcastle in 1972 followed a 2-2 draw at St James’ Park? Without replays we would have been deprived of Ronnie Radford's amazing strike which features on FA Cup montages year in, year out.
We have the world's most prestigious domestic cup tournament and one of the reasons is its replay structure, unique to Europe’s top cup competitions. Do we really want to sacrifice the FA Cup on the altar of the national team? The national team’s problems run deep and spoiling the FA Cup won’t solve them.
The Football Supporters' Federation on Facebook.