Every year it is always mentioned, particularly at third round stage, that the magic of the FA Cup is still alive.
However, the need for us to continually utter this phrase indicates a certain insecurity about the status of the age-old competition. We never feel the need to utter similar beliefs when it comes to other long standing British sporting events, such as The Open or Wimbledon, and we don’t see newspapers commenting on their equivalent of whether teams were up for the cup.
There can be no denial that the FA Cup’s importance has been steadily decreasing, largely thanks to the arrival of the Champions League and the financial success of the Premier League.
Better things to do
Put simply, the majority of us will now look forward to a Champions League knockout fixture much more than the FA Cup’s third round weekend. However, a further crucial factor in the dwindling of the FA Cup’s romanticism is the ever decreasing numbers of genuine upsets.
The top Premier League sides are stronger than ever with the influx of foreign stars and year-in year-out we end up with a side that treat the FA Cup as a second tier competition hoisting the trophy aloft in May.
Better big clubs, smaller small clubs
The days of teams not from the top division reaching the final appear to be consigned to the past, notwithstanding Millwall’s efforts, and attendances are down as fans would rather spend their money watching a competition their team cares about.
All this inevitably leads to the argument that there needs to be a greater reward for the team that wins the cup, but this would change nothing, we would still see the top teams lift the cup every year as they are now stronger than ever.
Thus, a solution appears difficult but the fact remains that FA Cup final day isn’t the highlight of the footballing year that it was for previous generations, as that honour now belongs to the champion’s league final.
Nonetheless, the FA Cup is deeply ingrained into the English football psyche and for smaller clubs and their fans, the prospect of being in the hat for the third round and drawing a big club, will always be something to look forward to.