The 2015 Cup Final between Arsenal and Aston Villa was too one-sided a contest to be memorable so it’s worth considering the current status and presentation of this show piece of the sporting calendar … or is it? In my lifetime it has reduced significantly in status. This is because there is much more live football, overseas players come from countries where the Cup has no such mythic quality and the proximity to the Champions League Final means that if a Premier club is in both the European final takes precedence. The presence of two traditional clubs as finalists, with one Villa the wrong end of the league is exactly what you would want. From its most celebrated fans Prince William and David Cameron to the supporter who came home early from Dubai leaving his wife there this final means so much to them. Sadly their beloved team never competed sufficiently to make a game of it.
One suggestion to enhance its status is to offer the winner a Champions League berth. Other European leagues would never agree to this. It would mean that Italy, who have had their quota reduced to three places anyway, would only have the top two proceeding to the Champions League. The 5-30 kick off which the sponsors like but breaks the tradition of 3 pm does not help either. It has become like a famous old hotel that has seen better days where every refurb does not restore its previous reputation.
The BBC, who has so little sport, milked it for all its worth, filling the day with memorable moments and nostalgia. I decided to switch on late and was pleased to see the panel of Alan Shearer, Dion Dublin, Martin Keown and Gary Lineker in suit and tie as befits the occasion. After a dull interview with Bendaeke who spoke of his new child, there was an interesting piece on Sanchez’s poor background in the rough port of Todjilla and then an unctuous interview of Prime William by Lineker calling him ‘sir’. To be fair the Prince came over as a courteous, pleasant man and he had the courage to speak out against the re-appointment of Blatter. Unfortunately he reinforced the rather patrician view in which British sport and its institutions are held by many of the federations who supported Blatter. You need to look further than the title of the FA, not the English FA, to underhand the attitude.
The singing of the hymn Abide with Me by fans was a clever touch blending tradition and grass roots support. Guy Mowbray and Danny Murphy gave a reliable commentary, Murphy has emerged as the best of the new analysts and the rather only one to rival Gary Neville. The absence of any betting adverts was a blessing but soon the one-sided nature of the game reduced any spectacle.
It’s a fact that the so-called Crown Jewels go up and down. The Derby since it was moved from Wednesday to Saturday was never the same nor the Boat Race with so many post graduate Olympians rather than the flower of Edwardian youth. Cheltenham has risen in status. Test cricket in England, Wimbledon and the Open ( another the) stayed the same though Arnold Palmer enhanced this by brining over the Americans in the sixties. The Cup Final will jog along or, to apply my analogy, be fully booked but you can hear guests saying in the Palm Court over their tea and scones served by waitresses in pinnies in nice China cups in a little 3 level tray “It’s not what it was” …