Top football pundit Gary Lineker, along with many other media commentators of our National game, wants FA Cup replays to be scrapped because otherwise the money obsessed Premier League clubs will continue to treat the competition with contempt and eventually it will die.
I’m completely opposed to the scrapping of FA Cup replays. They are an essential part of the competition, originally designed to give the opportunity to a team unluckily drawn away from home the chance to take the tie back to their place. It was a chance to overcome being on the wrong end of a random draw. Nowadays, however, they are more looked upon by lower league clubs as an opportunity to get a money-spinning trip to a Premier League giant, a trip that financially would secure their future (for the time being anyway).
So Premier League clubs (and Championship clubs) do not want replays and lower league clubs want a pay-day at a top tier stadium. Well, if the answer is to scrap replays then let’s not stop there, let’s introduce some real change to the competition. Here’s my two-step radical plan to change the way the FA Cup works.
It’s a plan that will appease the profit maximising focused Premier League Chairmen and women, a plan that will generate a financial windfall for those lower league and Non-League clubs who have battled their way through to the 3rd Round and beyond, a plan that will bring attacking excitement to every tie with a guaranteed outcome on the day, and a plan that will ‘save’ the FA Cup (as if it really needs saving!)
Step One – from the 3rd Round onward any tie that involves two clubs from different Divisions will be played at the higher league club’s ground thereby maximising the potential revenue for the lower level side. Ties involving clubs from the same Division will be played at the first drawn team.
Step Two – and this is the radical one – the away side in all FA Cup ties from the 3rd Round onward start with a one goal lead. Every time any team ‘scores’ during the game it will be worth two goals. That way no match can ever end in a draw (and gets rid of the lottery of the dreaded penalties) and at all times in the game one side is always behind the other, and therefore should create matches with much more attacking intent. Scoffing at the idea of goals counting double? Well it’s been a part of European football now for over 60 years.
Of course lower league clubs may ‘park the bus’ to try to defend the one goal advantage given to them, but because there is no threat of a replay the higher league side is more likely to play a near full-strength side, one more capable of breaking down any stubborn lower league obstacle.
So there you have it. My grand plan to change the FA Cup to please all parties if we have to get rid of replays. Lower league club plays away from home and all ties begin with the away side having a one goal lead with all future ‘goals’ worth double.
However, I’d much rather replays were maintained and top sides’ decision makers treated the competition as something worth winning. I can assure you, the majority of their fans wish they did.