Was scrapping FA Cup replays the right move?

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FA Cup replays have now been scrapped from next season, causing many to come up with new ideas and others to protest their argument for why replays should remain in the oldest cup competition in England. However, there is a solution that gives both parties what they genuinely want.

From next season, replays in the FA Cup will only be in the qualifying rounds, and the extra preliminary rounds will be played in August. The aim is to free up space in the hotly congested football calendar with the UEFA European competitions expanding and FIFA’s introduction of the brand new format of the Club World Cup coming in 2025. 

The changes have come as part of a new six-year agreement with the FA saying that the Premier League would provide an additional £33M for grassroots football, adding to the current £100M they already give for good causes each season. 

Newcastle United Legend Alan Shearer had his say during BBC’s Match of the Day Live: “FA Cup replays scrapped? I think the lack of communication from the FA has been dreadful.

“For them to put out a statement out the following day to say they will then talk to the clubs in terms of how they will make up the finances, that has been really poor.”

Shearer would then offer up a solution of his own with regard to the situation.

“I would look at something along the lines of scrapping extra-time and going straight to penalties so the lower-league also team has the reasonable chance of going through and getting the better draw in the next round.”

Lastly, Shearer would comment on the frequency of replays: “There’s only been eight times in the last five years where a League One club or below has gone to a Premier League ground in a replay. On average, one and a half times a season that that happens.

“And also to look at the same money for every club, whether you’re televised or not, whatever round you’re in. I think that would be a much more sensible way to look at it.”

Who made the decision?

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It is not a decision just made by the FA because the Premier League has been forcing its power over the governing body of English Football, with the FA allowing it to handle their upcoming TV biddings a while back. 

This means that the FA Cup will move back off free-to-air TV for most games and will be part of TNT Sports from the 2025/2026 season. 

The BBC will continue to show live tournament games, but it is likely to be just two games per round and, of course, the final,  one of Britain’s protected sporting events that must be broadcast on free TV per government law. 

But while the clubs at the top are being considered, the clubs towards the lower end of the football pyramid need to be remembered because they are at the heart of English football and are vital to the pyramid we have in England. 

UEFA’s expansion of the football calendar

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It is understandable why replays are scrapped, given the football calendar expansion thanks to the new formats of the Champions League, Europa League, and Conference League. It just adds to the number of games football teams in Europe especially have to play.

However, there is a counter-argument: replays should be kept until the third round, given that Premier League and Championship teams enter the tournament in the third round. But that discussion could be just as chaotic as the FA’s poor statement when it was announced replays would be gone from next season.  

What is the solution?

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I don’t think replays being scrapped is the worst idea; however, the FA’s decision to make it without fully consulting everyone was wrong because replays matter to those in the EFL and further down in the pyramid, as the television money helps those clubs keep going.

This has all been about money and due to the nature of a lower league side going up against a massive Premier League side on a rare occasion. Replays should be scrapped but in a different manner. If there can be an agreement for the Premier League to put together a package and share more of their money with the EFL and lower down the pyramid, then there is a consideration for replays to be removed from the FA Cup.