The NFL Superbowl is one of the largest sporting spectacles in the world, it shows off American patriotism, guest stars before and at halftime, (with the halftime show and adverts being a major talking point of the entire event) and it gives fans an experience they will forever remember.
It really does have the whole world talking about it. Now I’m not saying the FA Cup final doesn’t leave a fan with a bag full of memories, and I’m not trying to encourage having a near 30/45 minute half-time show for the FA Cup Final, but it has recently irked me as to why the FA Cup final doesn’t receive the national and international recognition it perhaps deserves.
The FA Cup - the oldest domestic cup competition in the world, something English football has always been extremely proud of. Yet recently it has seemed to lose some of its ‘prestige’, so why is this? What factors have contributed to the FA Cup and the final for it to not be the competition is once was?
For the top English clubs the priority now is to finish in the top four to gain qualification into the money pool that is the UEFA Champions League, and in doing so sacrifice the chance to gain silverware by playing weakened teams in the domestic cups, (FA Cup and Capital One Cup). The most recent example being Arsenal, who have been trophy-less for eight years now, playing a below full-strength side at home to Blackburn Rovers. Surely the FA Cup was a chance for them to end that drought?
Being in the FA Cup final is about the honour of playing at the home of football - Wembley Stadium. The fact that even that has now been somewhat tarnished, with the addition of the semi-finals being played there is incredulous. Bring back the days when the semis were held at Villa Park or Old Trafford, or any other stadium for that matter in the country.
I don’t believe that the TV companies help in this either. ITV and ESPN share the FA Cup rights in England and basically have what would seem to be the final say in what time kick-offs are to be played. I cannot stand games being played Monday nights; Sky has a lot to answer for in this matter with their Monday Night Football show. Manchester United versus Reading was the most recent Monday night FA Cup game, what need is there to play this game on a Monday evening?
When Manchester United met Everton in 2009, the game was scheduled for 4:00pm, Sunday afternoon at Wembley, London. Now just think of the fans that have travelled to the game, knowing the majority will have work Monday morning and that trains back up north won’t be running all day on a Sunday. The game went to extra time and penalties and many fans had to leave early or risk missing transport home, thus making it a complete faux-pas by the powers that be at the FA.
Last season’s FA Cup final was moved to a 5:15 kick off time, and as Sir Alex Ferguson so eloquently put it at the time, “Absolutely ridiculous. Stupid."
The Final has always been a 3 O'clock kick off unless it went to a replay, (something that now cannot happen).
The FA should perhaps look at what makes and made the FA Cup final a day to remember and try to bring back the ‘prestige’ of old. By looking at the model set by the Superbowl maybe the FA could learn a thing or two about making cup final day the biggest on the English football calendar. It would be back where it belongs.
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