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Sprinkle some more fairy dust - the FA Cup needs it.

Monday 9th January 2012
At the moment, it's the evening of the big FA Cup 3rd Round Saturday. The sad thing is I've watched more Celebrity Big Brother than football today, on account of both Cup games being on ESPN. The sadder thing is that I've been more interested, on the whole, in CBB as well.

For many clubs, league revenue and simply survival are much higher up on their list of priorities, and the FA Cup comes, woefully, low down. Nowadays, the only clubs for who the Cup offers a significant financial or footballing reward are the clubs on the periphery, or lower, of the leagues and generally only one of five or six teams have a chance of reaching the final, let alone winning.

In the last decade, or within my living football memory, the best Cup Final of recent times was the 2006 West Ham-Liverpool epic. And in the five Finals since (all at the New Wembley Stadium coincidentally) the match has either been fairly boring or predictable. The stats say it all; four of those five finals ended 1-0.
So what will become of the FA Cup. Hopefully, it won't go the way of the Carling Cup which has ended up as the whim of the big boys in the Premier League. The final of that competition last year proved to be the beginning of an extraordinarily poor run for both finalists; eventually leading to the relegation of Birmingham City and calls for the sacking of Arsene Wenger.

It seems that the big money teams will still win and dominate the FA Cup with the stories of non-league sides reaching the 3rd round papering over the cracks. It's for this reason I think that the FA Cup won't be changed until it may be too late.

Because the Carling Cup is exclusively for league sides the David and Goliath stories aren't anywhere near as inspiring as in the FA Cup. You don't get plumbers, builders and trainee accountants turning out in the Carling Cup.

This is generally why the FA Cup, nowadays, is such a major competition. While, in the ‘olden days', proper Cup runs, where lower league sides could make it to serious stages in the competition, nowadays it has become similar to the Premier League, where it is only won by the Top Four or so.

Excluding Manchester City (who are rapidly becoming a ‘Top Four' club) and Portsmouth (who beat Cardiff in a strange year), the competition has been won by the traditional Top Four all the way back to 1991 when Spurs beat Nottingham Forest. It is probably not a coincidence that the FA Cup has been dominated by the same clubs since the Premier League's inception in 1992.

Many people have suggested improvements: bringing back Final Replays, doing away with replays and/or extra-time and even seeded draws. Perhaps the Carling Cup should act as an experiment centre for the future of the FA Cup, with changes being implemented and the results observed there first.

In my opinion, without the non-league, the FA Cup would have gone the way of the Carling Cup long ago but it is only a matter of time before even the effect of the part-timers wears off. As the Premier League grows stronger, it seems the counter-effect of the non-league gets weaker. What change will help is still unsure but change is needed to counteract the pull of the PL while still maintaining the competitions integrity.
It's Round And It's White

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