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Make English cup football relevant again

Wednesday 2nd August 2017
  These days, with the mass amount of football available to English top flight sides, with the financial and tropical lures of European adventures and the mass media attention on the Premier League, Cup Football and the supposed: “magic of the cup” has subsided, but how can we bring it back?

For me, football is about winning things. When I play five-a-side, I want to win. I don't want to finish in the top four of the league, or finish as the top midfielder for assists – I want the glory of getting my hands on a trophy. Sadly, I doubt this will ever happen for me. However, it happens for the cup I support; Arsenal.

Yet these days, you can win a cup and it's seemingly not that relevant to big clubs. Wenger won the FA Cup, yet fans still wanted him out and the media keep saying “the fans want the league”. David Moyes and Louis van Gaal both won silverware at Manchester United, but both were ousted from their roles at Old Trafford. If the competition isn't worth anything, then why have it? The history of cups and grandeur that comes with it should be enough. Yet sadly, it isn't. We need to make FA Cup, the League Cup and even the Community Shield relevant again.

The FA Cup

The oldest football competition the world. Yet, it's a bone of contention for lots of supporters. Smaller clubs are praised for progressing in it, i.e. Lincoln City and Sutton United, whether as Manchester United see a season where winning the trophy and nothing else as a failure and sacked Van Gaal. Why?

Well, the reward for winning it isn't terribly appealing and certainly does not compete with the Premier League. The winner gets £1.8million. Small change considering that relegated Sunderland received £93million despite exiting the league, as they finished 20th in the division last season.

Financially the FA might not be able to compete, (although considering the luxury airliner, Fly Emirates, now sponsor the cup they might be more money available) but an emphasis on the rewards needs to happen. Potentially offering a Champions League spot to the winner could be a real way to deal with two problems.
The “top four” culture would evaporate with one less space and place a real importance in the cup competition. Teams would set out thinking if they can't qualify via league route they still have a chance in the cup. Meaning, seemingly Champions League dreamers live Everton, West Ham and not so long ago, Newcastle would have credible in-roads to Europe.

The Football League Cup

The League Cup is… how do I put this, politically… unproductive. The whole thing needs to be revamped or scrapped. There's little that this tournament offers that the FA Cup doesn't, just with less appeal, less teams and less history. Unless you like rotated squads on a Tuesday night, all in the name of [insert current sponsor here, it changes every year] to make money by trying to force an unnatural amount of big name clubs to play each other. The whole thing just seems to be about making the big clubs meet again, all for the sake of a tiny trophy which gets handed out in February! February!

An ideal world would see the League Cup with some kind of theme, regional knockout rounds – i.e. pairing local clubs together in rounds, until you have eight clubs all from different regions of England – culminating in a big North versus South two-legged tie, one in London, one in Leeds, or somewhere else, whether the North sees its spiritual home.  This could even expand to a UK cup, which would see rare meetings between sides from Scotland, Wales, England and even the Northern Irish sides.
In terms of a reward for winning it, well the fact it's in February could really add something to it. Clubs will roughly know where they are in for the season. Whether they are in for a relegation dogfight to the end, middle of the road or in the playoff picture. How about, if you win the cup – you get an extra 15 points?! 10 for the final… 5 for the semis… 3 for the quarters and 1 for the round of sixteen. It'd just be an extra incentive for clubs to play for. The Premier League might not observe these rules, given its broken away from the FL, but imagine the nights where Leeds United play Manchester City in the Semi-Final at Elland Road. The city isn't bothered about this trophy, but Leeds are 6 points adrift of automatic promotion. It'd set it up for an appealing game, and yes the options are endless. The cup needs a facelift and this could really shake it up and make it worth playing in.

The cup just needs something to make it different from the FA Cup, because right now it's just an insignificant duplicate. Unless my team win it, then it's the best trophy in England! (I jest).

The Community Shield

Now before you snort in disgust, the Community Shield does hold a lot history in the English game. Originally contested between the best professionals and the best amateurs, as the Sheriff of London Charity Shield.

The contemporary format can be traced back to 1908 where Manchester United and Queens Park Rangers contested the first ever game in the competition. Although during the first 50-odd years the cup was contested between many sides of opposition. The England Professional team would often play the best amateur side. The 1950 edition saw the England World Cup side of the time play a selection of Canadian players who were touring at the time. Most recently in 1961, Tottenham Hotspur played a game against the best players at the FA's selection, much like the contemporary MLS All-Star game.

These days, however, the shield is relegated to be the “curtain raiser” for the new season. Whilst there's a certain appeal to a preview game of the Premier League. It pits the respective winners of the Premier League and the FA Cup in a single, winner take all game for a trophy. Given the one game status of the competition, it holds little value to football fans and upper management. David Moyes won it at Manchester United, but it didn't save him his job by any stretch.
The shield needs an appeal. It needs to offer something enthralling to get football fans excited for the upcoming season. The format is very dry and could be seen as another football league cup attempt just to force more meetings between the top clubs just for the sake of financial gain.

The French and Italian associations have changed their respective competitions and now host them internationally. The latest Trophée des Champions, which took place a few days ago took place in Morocco and the last Supercoppa Italiana was local to Doha, in Qatar. They are also one-game cups, but the international element adds some level of appeal to it. What it ideally needs though, is an end product – a prize worth putting a squad out for, because you want to win it.

This doesn't even have to be related to the overall season ahead, but given the history of the fixture should be something to commemorate the fixture and the winning team. An idea that springs to mind would be to dedicate a whole exhibition to the victorious side to the national football museum. Whilst the FA aren't directly involved with the museum, there's no doubt this could materialise with just a few handshakes. The shield needs something to get players and supporters passionate about it, something like this would surely materialise some energy for it.
Warren Smith

A British and J.League soccer enthusiast, now local to Yokohama, Japan. A keen Arsenal supporter. Has been known to play the game every once in awhile, once likened to Xherdan Shaqiri. 

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