The Football Association have written to clubs and leagues to explain their decision to start next season’s FA Cup earlier then usual on the weekend of 6th August. The statement in full is at the end of this blog.
Here’s why all the reasons given by the FA for this decision can be debunked.
“no other feasible alternative option for next season while the Competition remains under its current format with the existing number of entries”
Last season the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round started on 15th August (well 14th as some matches were brought forward to the Friday night) and there was no trouble at all completing the matches to enable all other rounds to take place when they were scheduled to do so.
“The August Bank Holiday was also taken into account, as we try to avoid using/disrupting that weekend whenever it is possible.”
Last season, and in seasons before, the Preliminary Round has happened on the August Bank Holiday weekend. Some clubs have understandably complained because they have had to cancel potentially lucrative local derbies on Bank Holiday Monday should they need to replay their FA Cup match. However, as much as a nuisance as this is, the FA Cup actually often generates more income than any League game can do. A recent survey I conducted on Twitter suggested clubs would rather have Bank Holiday FA Cup matches with the risk of replays than starting the season with an FA Cup match.
“it was necessary to increase the gap between the 4th Rd Qualifying and 1st Rd Proper from two weeks to three”
There is no need for a three week gap between the Fourth Qualifying Round and the First Round Proper especially as this is cited for time needed to arrange for broadcasting reasons. Fourth Qualifying Round replays happen in the week immediately after the original game (a week and a half before the First Round) whereas replays in First Round and beyond happen a week later on (also a week and a half before the next round). So if Second Round and beyond TV matches can be organised in a week and a half then so can First Round matches.
“Qualifying Rounds are dictated by when the Competition Proper Rounds are scheduled, which in turn have to fit around FIFA and UEFA dates, and also with other domestic Competitions.”
Finally, given the absurd scrapping of replays for Quarter Finals, the whole competition could have been pushed back two weeks as that extra week to allow for replays is no longer needed (especially if FA Cup final is to be played on 27th May).
Therefore, there is absolutely no reason at all as to why the FA Cup has to start so early, and absolutely no reason at all to cause so much infuriating logistical issues to Step 5 and Step 6 leagues. And definitely absolutely no reason to treat Step 5 and Step clubs with such disdain, clubs who eagerly anticipate the FA Cup for both financial and (to them) major glory reasons, clubs who embody what the FA Cup is all about.
That FA statement in full
“I can only apologise for the information being delayed, and also without any rationale as to why The FA Cup will commence on Saturday 6 August.
“The delay with announcing the schedule is largely due to not having certain key dates at the end of the season in May confirmed, and we wanted to be safe in the knowledge that the rest of the schedule would not be affected before it was announced.
“There are a number of factors which have to be taken into account when scheduling the round dates for each competition. The FA Cup round dates are scheduled ahead of The FA Trophy and FA Vase, but ultimately The FA Cup Preliminary and Qualifying Rounds are dictated by when the Competition Proper Rounds are scheduled, which in turn have to fit around FIFA and UEFA dates, and also with other domestic Competitions.
“There is usually a minimum of three weeks between rounds in the Competition Proper, which is to accommodate the length of time between a first match and replay, and also for the planning/organization of matches that are moved for broadcasting or other reasons.
“In previous seasons there has been a two week gap between the 1st Rd Proper and each round of the Qualifying Competition however; due to the increasing number of matches that are now being moved in the 1st Rd Proper, it was necessary to increase the gap between the 4th Rd Qualifying and 1st Rd Proper from two weeks to three for similar reasons to those set out above.
“Therefore, as the 1st Rd Proper is dated for Saturday 5 November, the 4th Rd Qualifying has been scheduled for Saturday 15 October with the remaining rounds being scheduled two weeks apart thereafter.
“The August Bank Holiday was also taken into account, as we try to avoid using/disrupting that weekend whenever it is possible.
“Whilst it is appreciated that it may not be ideal or desirable to some for The FA Cup to commence on the first weekend in August, there is actually no other feasible alternative option for next season while the Competition remains under its current format with the existing number of entries.”
“Thus one week is accounted for because the FA now want a three week break between the 4th Qualifying Round and the 1st Round Proper and the other because they do not want any replays disrupting league matches on the August Bank Holiday Monday.
“The League will make a final announcement on 14 June about when league fixtures will commence but it is looking increasingly likely that it will stick to the intended date of 13 August for the first full league programme, but with the proviso that those clubs involved in the Extra-Preliminary Round of the FA Cup who wish to play a league match in midweek w/c 1 and/or 8 August will be allocated matches as far as it is possible to do so”