THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

9 May ~ "That's the first time I haven't bothered watching the Cup final," said a Tottenham-supporting mate to me last weekend, to which I repeated the same sentiment back to him. My team Arsenal were playing Norwich on the same day as the Cup final and although I didn't go to the Emirates, I was in Arsenal Land for the traditional end of season party, which tends to get messy. I went to a pub where bands were playing, people were dancing and at one point fists were flying; very little attention was being paid to Liverpool's match against Chelsea on the TV screen.

Had Arsenal not been playing that day, I would have stayed at home and watched the final, which is something I have always done up to now. But if the FA does not respect their own competition, why should anyone else.

A lot of anger was expressed about the 5.15pm kick-off and, yes, it should have been played at the traditional 3pm. However, the main devaluing factor in this case is that the match should have been on a day of its own.

Last season was the first time Premier League games were played on the same day as the Cup final. Manchester City's win was accompanied by Manchester United clinching a record 19th League title earlier in the day. That spelled the end for the majesty of the competition, which had already been so sanitised by the semi-finals being played at Wembley.

Two clubs playing at a neutral league ground was a unique and wonderful highlight of a season, which has been sacrificed because the FA need to maximise profits to pay for Wembley. There does not appear to be a cut-off point for this, as the FA have not given a deadline by which the stadium debt will be complete and the semi-finals can return to league grounds.

My bet is that there will never be a cut-off point and arguments will always be made to make as much money as possible. Yet it's not as if Wembley Stadium has no other ways of generating income through concerts, NFL games or England internationals.

Football fans are not asking for these self-defeating changes from the governing body. We want the Cup final to be valued and respected, yet the FA continues to cheapen their biggest prize. The oldest cup competition in world football is being destroyed from within by people whose job it is to maintain its prestige.

That the Premier League has representatives on the FA board, including the vice chairman, David Richards, surely contributes to the prevailing attitude that nothing can stand in the way of the league season.

A Cup final played in Dubai – or held in March, so not to distract the Premier League run-in – sounds laughable now, but it could be a reality in 20 years. Not so long ago, the things that have now devalued football's cultural spirit would have sounded too extreme to be plausible.

Until fans voice more of a protest, the football authorities will continue to put money ahead of every other principle and tradition. Matthew Bazell

Matthew is the author of Theatre of Silence: The Lost Soul of Football

Comments (9)
Comment by Coral 2012-05-09 11:09:21

20 years before the cup final is abroad? I think that it will come sooner than that. What else can they do to make it less significant for us? Evening kick off, same day as other games, and not the last game of the season.

The only way to save it is either offer £25m prize money for the winner or give the winner a Champion's league final spot. No one really cares for it anymore because there is simply no value in it. Modern English football is about money, not glory. However the latest FA measures appear to be rapid euthanasia as opposed to decent palliative care. The Championship playoff is becoming what the FA Cup Final was before and I can name you the winners of the last 10 playoff finals more easily than I can the FA Cup.

Comment by Clare 2012-05-09 11:30:34

I have grown up watching the FA Cup Final with my dad ............. One of the days i really look forward to .........
So really felt like i had won the lottery to get a ticket in the ballot ..... and being in the crowd - especially in the last 30minutes with all of us trying to get our team to score was what the Cup was about

The cup should not be about ........... all the prematch entertainment being sub standard and setup for the corporate seats - which were even emptier than i had believed - i could go on ..........

Happy for things to change ............. but for who?

Comment by spino11 2012-05-09 11:56:58

Since live football at all levels is constantly around us now the allure of a Chelsea V Liverpool match is dimmed for the neutral. Off the top of my head I think that for the neutral (and allowing that I'm a West Ham fan I'm ignoring the 2006 final) I think that the last cup final you felt involved with was when Southampton reached it.

Comment by geobra 2012-05-09 15:37:37

It's ridiculous, isn't it, that while the play off finals have the whole stage to themselves, the final of the world's oldest and still (but for how much longer?) most prestigious cup competition doesn't. And to anyone who says that it did, kicking off as it did at 5.15, I'd ask how many of those fans who attended 3 p.m. kick off games in Leagues 1 and 2 got home in time to see all or any of it.

Heads should be bowed in shame at the FA.

Comment by FCKarl 2012-05-10 10:45:00

Sorry to say it, but this is why you have a DVD recorder if a 5:15 afternoon kickoff isn't to your liking. I mean, the world does not stop because of a football kickoff time. This sounds like a lot of whining. It really does. And I'm not sure that those commenting so far (and the author) get it. Sure, there are things to be said for tradition, but not always inflexible, rigid tradition.

Lets' note a fact: Watching Arsenal-Norwich was far more entertaining. That was lively,energetic, pacy, unscripted football. The final in Wembley was rather dull (as most of them have been of recent years, with little scoring at all) except for maybe the last 12, 13 minutes. So how did you lose out by focusing your day on what occurred at the Emirates?

To the author: You made your choice, you chose the Arsenal game and the partying after. As all of us have to do, make choices. Your choice could have been to organize your whole day around tuning in to Wembley at quarter past five. Or maybe the choice is to ignore the big clubs in favor of real football played where financial corruption does not plague the game.

One of the burdens that you have now got to bear (along with all of the obvious benefits) of being the world's present number one league is that it is just that -- England is the world's league. You now share it with "friends" in India, China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Canada, the USA, and so many places in between. For better or perhaps, yes, worse, it is now less important what the little guy in your town where you live thinks or wants.

If you are going to have the top players in the world that cost the fortune that it now costs to field Manchester City, United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Spurs, well, you've asked for it and you've gotten it. But this comes with the associated massive price tag that cannot be paid by just the monies to be had in Britain alone. So, it is the inevitable. You and your wishes matter little. TV times, advertising, merchandising, and corporate media broadcasting rights for stations and languages around the globe are what matter.

Now, that said, if you don't like the evolving changes to the historical norms, make noise. Organize. Petition. Write well-written letters. Agitate. Keep it focused, keep it factual and on point. Perhaps the FA will listen. The very least you could do in a very practical way is publish right here exactly how you'd organize the calendar for April and May to squeeze in all these fixtures -- and preserving the FA Cup Final on a day all to its own.

An initial thought would be that if I am only the fifth person commenting on this issue/article, well, it does not have much traction.

We'll have to see.

Comment by Swedish Gaffer 2012-05-10 11:50:49

FCKarl, you say to the author that he "made his choice", but isn't his point that you shouldn't have to make a choice? I have to say that (even being a Swede) I was very surprised when I read that the FA Cup final was NOT going to be the last game of the season, and that it was being played at the same day as regular league fixtures were taking place. That to me is really giving up on a tradition.

I like the idea that Coral wrote regarding letting the winner get a place in the Champions League, imagine the focus on the Cup (and then Liverpool would get a chance to get back into Champions League again..)

Comment by fieryelephant 2012-05-10 11:53:30

Interestingly the KO change didn't actually help for a lot of the global market. I'm in Australia and the result was a 2.15am start which I couldn't face, whereas midnight I used to do (rather quaintly it is the equivalent of what the cup used to be - the only English domestic match televised on terrestrial TV). More importantly for the FA it would have started around midnight in a lot of Asia which I'm sure would have hit the viewing figures, particularly for kids.

Comment by jertzeeAFCW 2012-05-10 14:01:19

Agree with Swedish Gaffer, re FCKarl's post...we shouldn't have to make a choice!

Comment by geobra 2012-05-10 14:40:42

@ fckarl

You have summed up perfectly everything that I and I ssuspect many others hate about modern football. We, the fans who actually go to matches, didn't ask for all these changes. They crept up on us insidiously. Maybe action can be taken at local level (as with AFC Wimbledon) but to expect fans to take on satellite TV and win is to ask the impossible. Unless they cancel their subscriptions (I've never had one and never will) and stop going to matches in person. But people won't do that because despite hating what is being done to it, they love football.

As you know, I live in Italy, and much the same is happening here. The fans protest, but nobody listens to them.

As for recording the 5.15 kick off FA Cup final, even if I don't know the result there's something odd about watching a game that's already been played.

The FA Cup final should return to its traditional place in the calendar at least in non-World Cup / European Championship years.

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