The 1st full weekend in January should be an occasion to mark on the football calendar, the FA cup 3rd round weekend. A weekend filled with promise, hope and expectation. Who would be this season’s giant killers or the fairy tale story?
We have just seen the last of this weekend’s ties and we can’t help but feel let down by what we have witnessed over the 32 games.
We’ll start with the TV coverage. The BBC have rammed the message of “The Magic Of The FA Cup” down our throats showing the usual clips from bygone days then they serve us up the all Premier League clash of West Ham vs Man City followed by Spurs vs Villa (an all premier league tie for the last 25 years until the start of this season.)
BT Sport added a little more imagination with their ties but all included either Man Utd, Arsenal or Liverpool. The Anfield game being the only legitimate case for a televised spectacle.
Where were the live broadcasts from Barrow, Sutton Utd or Wycombe Wanderers? All containing not only lower league sides but also non-league ones. All, who we are sure, would be more welcoming of the cash than the much changed high flyers.
Neil Warnock, an uber-experienced British born and bred manager whose previous clubs have depended on the FA Cup for much needed income said of his Cardiff tie with Fulham “I struggled to get out of bed and I must admit I wasn’t really excited at the prospect of playing the side I got to play in the FA Cup.” Do his sentiments echo that of most within the game?
Next to catch our eye was a significant number of empty seats up and down the country, a shocking 307,639 chairs went unused during the 3rd round.
Pass marks go to Sutton Utd & Barrow who perhaps unsurprisingly sold out. Liverpool, WBA, PNE, Chelsea and Man Utd also came close to capacity so escape our gaze. All full breakdown can be found below, we have highlighted all games that had over 15,000 or more empty spaces:-
|West Ham v Man City||56,975||60,000||3,025|
|Man Utd v Reading||74,396||75,653||1,257|
|Accrington v Luton||1,717||5,057||3,340|
|Barrow v Rochdale||4,414||4,414||0|
|Birmingham v Newcastle||13,171||30,106||16,935|
|Blackpool v Barnsley||4,875||17,338||12,463|
|Bolton v C Palace||11,683||28,723||17,040|
|Brentford v Eastleigh||7,537||12,763||5,226|
|Brighton v MK Dons||11,091||30,750||19,659|
|Bristol City v Fleetwood||10,301||27,000||16,699|
|Everton v Leicester||35,493||39,571||4,078|
|Huddersfield v P Vale||11,715||24,500||12,785|
|Hull v Swansea||6,608||25,586||18,978|
|Ipswich v Lincoln||16,027||30,311||14,284|
|Millwall v Bournemouth||9,471||20,146||10,675|
|Norwich v Southampton||12,479||27,224||14,745|
|QPR V Blackburn||7,482||18,489||11,007|
|Rotherham v Oxford||5,618||12,021||6,403|
|Stoke v Wolves||21,479||27,740||6,261|
|Sunderland v Burnley||17,632||48,707||31,075|
|Sutton v AFC Wimbledon||5,013||5,013||0|
|Watford v Burton Albion||13,270||21,500||8,230|
|WBA V Derby||25,288||26,850||1,562|
|Wigan v Notts Forest||5,163||25,023||19,860|
|Wycombe v Stourbridge||6,312||10,300||3,988|
|PNE v Arsenal||22,185||23,408||1,223|
|Cardiff v Fulham||5,199||33,280||28,081|
|Liverpool v Plymouth||52,692||54,074||1,382|
|Chelsea v Peterborough||41,003||41,798||795|
|Middlesbrough v Sheff Wed||23,661||34,988||11,327|
|Spurs v Villa||31,182||36,284||5,102|
|Cambridge v Leeds||7,973||8,127||154|
The 3rd round should always be viewed as an opportunity, not just by the clubs involved but by the FA as a whole. We continuously hear about grass roots football and how we need to attract new coaches, home grown players etc. How about making sure all stadiums are full to the brim for this special weekend? Work with the clubs to utilise the millions of pounds available, make the day cheaper and tempt those who don’t go to the game. Entice literally 100’s of 1000’s of new supporters to our beautiful game!
Sadly the competition is in need of a boost, it is not taken seriously by most until the latter stages and managers seem grateful to go out giving them fortnight breaks later in the season. Are the likes of Bournemouth, Stoke and Liverpool fans telling us that they don’t want the memories that a day out at Wembley brings or is it all simply about finishing 17th or above?
The FA need to take drastic action to revamp a competition that is on life support. They recently signed a vastly improved sponsorship deal for £820m spread over 6 seasons, the prize fund from qualifying rounds to eventual winners is just £25m…we think it’s time we saw a breakdown of the remaining yearly total of £111m.
Terrible attitudes have outshone the world’s oldest association football competition and it’s just not right.