The draw for the early rounds of the 2015/16 FA Cup takes place this Friday 3rd July, but you would never know about it given the complete lack of publicity coming out of The FA headquarters. The early round draws are so clouded in mystery that people are actually unclear as to whether the draws are made by people or by a computer.
The FA perpetually remind anyone who will listen how The FA Cup was THE first and is THE best cup competition in the world. You cannot argue with the first aspect of their claim (although knockout style competitions were being held in Public Schools during the mid-nineteenth century), but whether or not it is the best competition in the world there are many who will have a different viewpoint. However, I for one tend to agree wholeheartedly. There is no cup competition like the FA Cup. A competition that generates excitement for anyone involved with any of the 730 or so teams that enter the competition, no matter the likelihood of that team getting anywhere near to the final itself, or even going beyond a second match.
So why is The FA so silent about the impending draws for the Extra Preliminary, Preliminary and First Qualifying Rounds of this year’s competition? After all there is a brand new sponsor, even changing the name of the competition to The Emirates FA Cup. Given that company’s apparent purpose in life to sponsor anything possible, it is surprising that they haven’t insisted on maximum publicity at all times. It’s not as if there is no-one interested in knowing about the draws.
Over 560 clubs will be involved in the draw for these three early rounds. If you do the maths it’s possible to work out how many people are affiliated with those clubs who have a vested interest in the outcome of the draws. There’s the squad numbers, let’s say on average each club has 30 players on their books (to cover first and reserve sides). Then there’s the management and administration. Whilst some clubs are one-man bands it is fair to presume an average of 20 people involved in the running of the club if you include all the volunteers. Then there are the fans of each club. For some clubs at these levels they’d be fortunate to get into triple figures, but based upon a club’s average number of followers on Twitter I’d say that 500 would be a fair average of interested supporters.
So 30 players, 20 management and admin staff, and 500 fans per club multiplied by 560 clubs. That’s two hundred and eighty thousand people connected to the clubs, all interested in which team they will be pitted against in their first FA Cup match. Adding onto to this the tens of thousands of individuals with a keen interest in the competition per se, that makes over 300,000 people being kept in the dark by The FA with regards to these early round draws. In this day and age of on-line live technology there is no excuse for not broadcasting these draws in a similar way to how the ‘proper’ round draws are broadcast. And what great publicity for the competition, and for the sponsors, would it be for The FA to do so.
It’s a missed opportunity and I know I’m not alone in wishing The FA would recognise that fact and treat these early rounds of the competition with the same energy, effort and promotional vigour as they do the later rounds. It would be a real boost to grassroots football, really make the FA Cup stand out from other cup competitions, and make everyone involved in these early stages feel like an equally valued member of the competition.