Growing up in the nineties The FA Cup was still regarded as one of the finest cup competitions in the world. Turn the clock forward to 2016 we are left with many clubs complaining about fixture pile-up and few managers in the Premier League wanting to play a first team XI.
The most intriguing element to the Cup is the non-league sides going through a number of rounds in order to be drawn against a big club, hopefully to reach the last sixty four of the competition.
A rare David & Goliath scenario in major sport rarely seen and quite often we see a number of giant-killings. The FA Cup still remains the only competition that over 700 clubs participate in from the start.
Being a Chelsea fan through the good and bad times ( yes we had bad times in the early nineties) I would always look forward to the 3rd Round draw and the prospect of playing at Wembley for the finale of the season was something all fans wanted. We now see a branded format called The "Emirates" FA Cup with teams hardly taking the competition seriously and with games played after a busy Christmas set of fixtures.
So what has caused the demise?
First signs of the competition downgrade came in the 1999/2000 season when Manchester United hierarchy decided due to the inaugural Club World Championship they would drop out of The FA Cup as it would overload their fixture list. They wanted to concentrate on defending The Champions League and Premier League they had won the previous year.
We saw some semi-finals played at Wembley during the nineties, most notably Arsenal v Tottenham games, this was more simply adding coffers to the already rich FA. For a short period The FA Cup moved from Wembley to the Millennium Stadium and you could argue The FA Cup lost even more nostalgia during this time.
Long gone are the days when terrestrial TV used to spend the whole day covering The FA Cup final from interviews on team coaches, joining the teams on arrival and celebrities being all part of the build up.
Lets not forget there was also a time when the build up to the Final was as big as The World Cup. The start of the 70's saw Arsenal bring a out a tune called "Gold Old Arsenal" to the tune of Rule Brittania and even my team Chelsea brought out "Blue is the Colour" in 1972 which is still played now at Stamford Bridge. Over the years we have see people like Chas & Dave team up with Tottenham more than once! And their players at the time loved getting involved especially good old Ossie Ardiles. The whole family used to get involved my dad still sings Everton's ''Here we go'' much to my dismay, especially when Chelsea have just lost and he rubs it in I support the wrong ''Blues'' but many of the old traditions have gone, even the Queen doesn't turn up anymore, but good Old Prince William or Harry do.
Myself and Ossie at a press day
The Premier League is now so lucrative and Champions League such a gigantic carrot for more clubs than ever before, we now have a Cup which very few take seriously. The League Cup (sponsored by various companies over the years) suffered long before & The FA Cup is simply just another competition to play fringe players or youngsters.
Replays for draws is something that should be scrapped which simply adds to an already growing list of games. Get a result on the day, with extra-time and penalties on the first visit.
This gives more chance for the smaller club to get through to the next round and one less game to play. I would suggest scrapping the extra Premier League game that comes two days after Boxing Day which normally means the 3rd Round is played only a few days later.
The FA have done much in recent years to allow the demise of such a great competition with their main focus concentrated on revenue and the decision to offer semi-finalists a spot at Wembley is ultimately their biggest failure plus moving times to accommodate TV schedules.
It's no surprise if the authority responsible for giving us The FA Cup are not running it properly, that Premier League clubs would seek importance elsewhere. You simply would not risk your star players getting injured for a futile competition when so much is at stake with Champions League and positions in the league of such high importance. Even the prospect of playing in The UEFA Cup for the winners has proved fruitless and you only have to look at clubs like Wigan Athletic to see that playing in Europe can easily backfire.
So, will The FA Cup ever get its Prestige back or is the demise set to continue? Personally I would love to see the Clubs and players get some passion back for it with the help of some chart toppers to join them, Chelsea - I'm totally available for the Cheesy music Video FYI!
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