This weekend was the third round of the FA Cup. This is supposed to be a big round as it’s where the Premier League clubs enter the competition. This provides a higher level of viewing for fans of these lower league teams, as they get to see their hometown clubs clash against, and sometimes upset, storied teams from the top flight. However, this weekend passed with few shocks and few full-strength line-ups. Many Premier League managers used the tie as a squad rotation opportunity.
Manchester City obliterated their opponents, Port Vale, with a low strength team. Additionally, Liverpool fielded effectively a youth team in a Merseyside Derby against a full-strength Everton side and still came out on top. Leicester City, Manchester United and Norwich City also used these matches as a rotation opportunity. Changes in the competition need to be made for it to be entertaining and meaningful again.
How to Fix the FA Cup
Give Smaller Teams a Bigger Chance at Upsets
The factor that makes competitions such as the FA Cup so special is small teams pulling off upsets against bigger clubs. The DFB-Pokal‘s format really helps this, as all clubs start in the first round, including the top teams. Imagine the FA Cup where in the first round Liverpool play against a non-league team and lose! This is a DFB-Pokal situation, and it would make the competition so much more exciting.
Another way to give lower teams a better opportunity to beat Premier League teams is to guarantee them playing at home. This would make sure all the smaller teams get home advantage and would play in packed stadiums. This would raise the chance of an upset. Finally, it would also ensure fans of the lower league teams could experience such a game and such an atmosphere.
Get Rid of the Carabao Cup
Three of the five big leagues in Europe only have one cup competition, and by next year that number will be reduced to one, leaving England as the only country part of this elite group still using two cup competitions.
Having multiple of these competitions leads to major fixture congestion. The Carabao Cup further adds onto this problem by staging two-legged semi-finals in January. This is part of the reason why managers are forced to use the FA Cup as a rotation opportunity. As well, having two competitions that are so similar takes away from the grandeur and seriousness of both.
Decide on the VAR Situation
Since the FA Cup is played at grounds all over England, and from all the leagues, not all stadiums can accommodate VAR. This has led to a questionable decision by the FA; they have decided to use VAR in the FA Cup, but only at Premier League grounds. There cannot be VAR for some games, and not in others. This can completely skew the playing field, as different matches have access to different levels of officiating. VAR has been very controversial in England, and some grounds, cannot support it, so it might be easiest to scrap for this competition.
Make Premier League Teams Field their Starters
One of the biggest problems with the FA Cup is that instead of watching powerful teams face off in big games, it turns out to be an opportunity for managers to rotate their squad. The magic of a tournament such as the FA Cup is the chance to see David v Goliath stories, but this isn’t possible if the big teams, which are supposed to act as Goliath, just play their reserves. Fans are handed the short end of the stick when they pay for a game, and it’s just a glorified reserve match.