We previously discussed how English cup football needs a reboot. Well, why not shake it up and honour the cultures of the home nations with a competitive cup football competition. Teams from England, Scotland, Wales and even Ireland/Northern Ireland could compete for an illustrious prize.
Picture the best teams in the UK. Now write them down, if you’re a well-rounded and diplomatic football fan it’s likely you’ve put a Scottish team in there within the top thirty. Ask a Scotsman, he’ll tell you that Rangers and Celtic (at least one of them) could hold their own in the Premier League. The debate goes on and on, with some even thinking that Scottish football is not even as a good as the second tier of English football. The debate rages on with little answer. Yet given the stale nature of English cup football; a UK cup could spawn in an attempt to settle such answers.
The proposed competition could come in as a direct replacement for the redundant Football League Cup in England.; and offer different competition for clubs across the home countries. Any other equivalent cups would also be abolished in favour of the new cross-country cup.
Similar scenes to ones proposed with this new competition.
The new cup should be as inclusive as possible and try to celebrate the diversity of the home nations by each nation’s association have a fair allocation of teams. An idea borrowed from the Japanese League Cup would see the initial round be a group stage where the best teams would qualify for the knock out round. The groups would follow suit with the new World Cup plan, to only have three teams within them and thusly only three games within the group.
The group stage would ideally be played in across 16 locations across all the home countries, across three days – with a game on each. Every group would a team from at least three of the four countries (given the limited number professional of clubs within Ireland and Northern Ireland, the two states would be treated as the same association). This would reduce the number of logistical challenges, as teams would only have to travel to one location.
Each association would field a total of 12 teams in the competition, and be distributed across the competition so that they don’t face fellow domestic teams (whilst still possible at least). It’s worth noting here that the Welsh teams playing within England would play for the Welsh allocation. The same rule would apply for any other club playing within another nation’s league, i.e. Berwick Rangers who are based geographically within England but play in Scottish Football League Two.
Associations would decide how best to allocate these spots to teams, given the logistical challenges already faced by Premier League teams playing in both European competitions they may simply choose to award participation to other clubs. I.e. other clubs making up the top half of the table, in addition to the fair play award winners or even all four clubs involved in the Championship playoffs from the prior season. Although really, at least for the primary season the tournament should feature very best from all four associations to stimulate attendance and viewership figures.
This big crowd at Ibrox saw Rangers nearly see off Manchester United, who needed a penalty to win in Scotland back in 2010.
16 groups would produce 16 group winners which advance to the primary knockout stage, and the rest of the ties would be played out until a winner is declared. Games could either be played home and away, or limited to a central location – or in the spirit of the game, or allow the lowest ranked side to choose the game’s location. Hypothetically should Shamrock Rovers be tied against Arsenal, they could either have an incredible evening in Dublin with a high turnout or benefit from an exceeding high gate at the Emirates.
The tournament would allow for competitive fixtures to take place between the UK and Irish teams, which very rarely meet without being prompted via the Champions or Europa League competitions. A recent pre-season friendly match between Sheffield Wednesday and Glasgow Rangers pulled out a bumper crowd of 20,000 – rather a lot for a non-competitive match. Imagine a similar game with an actual piece of silverware on the line.
Whilst the idea of this cup does come with some issues, i.e. England’s teams may run away with it, it would still be a more appealing prospect to the dry and lifeless EFL Cup which offers no more than the FA Cup, but with less history and more sponsorship.