As a youngster I often looked on in wonderment at the FA Cup. The possibility of the underdog, the big boy finals and stories which resonate with you for the rest of your life.
I dreamt I would hold up the FA Cup not the Premier League. On 11th May 2013 I looked on with disgust. Where did the oldest and greatest footballing competition go wrong?
It can be best answered with a few short sentences: Corporate Sponsorship, Adrian Chiles and ITV, semi-finals at Wembley and finally the late kick-off.
As a passionate footballing fan, the FA Cup always served up a story beyond the realms of belief. The under-dog conquering the hot favourite, Wimbledon or the better known Crazy Gang defeated freshly crowned champions Liverpool in 1988. Sunderland were heavily tipped to be brushed aside by high-flying Leeds back in 1973 however this was not the case. More recently, Wigan conquered Manchester City to the disbelief of footballing fans across the country but as they lifted the trophy, something did not seem right.
It was the age old trophy draped in sponsorship. Budweiser wrapped the trophy and has compromised the very heart of the competition. As Gary Caldwell and Emerson Boyce lifted the trophy it did not retain the magic of years passed.
What felt even more wrong was that not every Wigan fan stayed to witness perhaps the greatest moment in the clubs history. It wasn’t out of disgust or that they left early because they couldn’t bear to see the end. It was to catch the last train back up north from London due to the lateness of kick-off.
The all-northern final was scheduled to kick off at 5:15pm. Had it gone to extra-time and penalties the final train for Wigan and Manchester City fans may have well passed. It's an example of how the FA is now prioritising revenue over the fans; with the FA Cup suffering.
Yes, it’s still a fantastic honour to play at Wembley for your club. However playing there twice in one season does not retain that shock factor that captures both the players and the fans hearts. Playing semi-finals at Wembley have further compromised the integrity of the occasion.
The semi-final between Wigan and Millwall demonstrates this. Had they been played at both teams grounds, the atmosphere would have been electric and we would have seen exciting cup football which serves up football which is unparalleled. This was not the case. Wigan had failed to sell out their allocation thus it was opened up to neutrals. Another example of trying to gain revenue at the cost of the heart of the event
Finally you have Adrian Chiles and ITV. Every footballing fans nightmare. Adrian Chiles tactless attempts at humour and to serve up an ‘insight’ into the fans point of view are poor and at best laboured. Throughout Social Media you could see the detest for Chiles and his boring team of 'experts' so much so that if they kept it on ITV they muted it and listened to TalkSport instead. What’s even worse is the 10 second coverage followed by endless adverts which never seem to end.It’s unbearable, infuriating and ultimately killing the cup.
The FA Cup seems to be following in the League Cups deterioration and there seems to be no saving it. Another footballing tradition falls at the hands of business and now English Football has lost its soul.
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