I could not agree more with Tom Hollingsworth’s sentiments that the F A Cup has declined significantly over the past few years. Its easier to identify why than to find a solution. There is now much more televised football, the continentals as David Coleman called them do not have the same affinity to domestic cup competition , the rise of the Champions League and the absence of a place in it for the Cup Winner. Most of all the tradition of the Cup has been tarnished by tinkering with the dates and times. I once interviewed a FA Councillor on the FA Cup Committee who said that sponsors Budweiser were pleased with late kick off for the final. It might sell more beers, I thought, but did nothing for the tradition of the Cup with a 3 o’clock kick off.
The third round was traditionally the first Saturday of the New Year but now to please the tv paymasters games takes place on Tuesday ,after the draw ,when in the past a replay might be. There was a paucity of interesting ties yesterday and no surprises. Alan Tanner told me that his Fulham played out a bore draw . One of his great Fulham memories was the longest ever Cup run that ended withe Cottagers playing the 1975 final. Up till then they had reached the semi finals four times and it was a huge event that they would be playing Wet Ham in the final. Similarly Ivan Conway whose Brighton side did well to beat Brentford recalls the two 1983 finals against Manchester United as the first ended 2-2 . I remember the famous miss by Gordon Smith immortalised by the comment “And Smith must score.” This made me think of other memorable incidents : Montgomery of Sunderland’s save in 1973 and Ricky Villa ‘s dribble in 1981. I cannot recall any recent final incident to rival these . On the contrary , I can foresee Chelsea reaching the final and then playing a weakened side because they are in the Champions League.
Sporting bodies should not just be charged with maximising income by seeking tv rights and bowing to the whims of sponsors. They are custodians of the integrity of their sport. You could not imagine the Open in golf being sold out so as it’s no longer played on a links course nor in mid July.