Downing Street wades into FA Cup row as football fans and EFL fume over 'another nail in the coffin'

Image of the FA Cup
The FA says it understands the concerns of clubs over the scrapping of FA Cup replays -Credit:PA Archive/PA Images

No10 has stepped in as football authorities face criticism from disgruntled fans after the decision to scrap FA Cup replays, news which has also been blasted by the EFL.

A representative for Chancellor Rishi Sunak stated that the FA and Premier League need to clarify how this contentious resolution aids supporters. Government officials emphasised that matches between high-ranking teams and lower league rivals are "part of the magic" of the tournament; they also highlighted the value of replay games for smaller clubs.

This cancellation has been described by critics as "another nail in the coffin for the already crumbling football pyramid", following the announcement of the most significant restructuring in the history of the competition.

Detractors argue this will have dire consequences for smaller clubs, which will be stripped of profitable matches as a reward for drawing against big teams. The Prime Minister's official spokesman declared: "David and Goliath fixtures are a part of the magic of the Cup."

"We know that replays have been a popular income source for smaller clubs over the years. They are decisions for the footballing authorities, but it is clearly incumbent on the FA and Premier League to give an explanation about this decision and why it is beneficial for fans.", reports the Mirror.

Niall Couper, Fair Game CEO, has lead the barrage of criticism against the decision arguing: "Scrapping FA Cup replays from the first round proper deprives lower league clubs of a much-needed source of revenue. This is a short-sighted move that does nothing to strengthen the game. It is another nail in the coffin for the already crumbling football pyramid."

Changes which include doing away with replay matches are among those proposed to come into force in the 2024-25 season. Allowing for more time on the schedule, the final match will now be held one week before the end of the Premier League season, and apart from some fourth-round fixtures, all matches will take place on weekends.

Sheffield United's Chris Wilder became the first Premier League manager to voice his concerns over the changes by saying: "The game is dominated and dictated by the big boys - and they don't want FA Cup replays. What does that do to non-league clubs who get into the fairytale rounds and the financial implications? ".

He further vented: "I've been at both ends of the scale. The replay is a great reward. I'd have liked them kept."

In response to the outcry, the FA released a statement which read: "We have listened to the concerns expressed over the last 24 hours, and would like to outline the approval process which was undertaken for the 2024-25 professional game football calendar."

"We have been discussing the calendar for the 2024-25 season with the Premier League and EFL for well over a year. Removing Emirates FA Cup replays was discussed in the early meetings and all parties accepted that they could not continue."

The statement continued: "The discussions then focused on how to make all of our competitions stronger, despite having fewer dates available and wanting to maintain player welfare."

The EFL Logo on a flag.
The EFL Logo on a flag. -Credit:PA Archive/PA Images

The EFL have today released a statement, that reads:

The EFL wishes to clarify further its position in respect of yesterday’s Premier League and Football Association bi-lateral announcement over the removal of FA Cup replays and the role of the League’s representatives on the Professional Game Board (PGB).

The agreement which now sees the abolition of replays from the competition format was agreed solely between the Premier League and FA. Ahead of the deal being announced there was no agreement with the EFL nor was there any formal consultation with EFL Clubs as members of the FA and participants in the competition.

In September 2023, the EFL did initially discuss with Clubs potential changes to the FA Cup format but only as part of a wider and more fundamental change to financial distributions. As is now clear, there has been no movement in this area since September.

This latest agreement between the Premier League and the FA, in the absence of financial reform, is just a further example of how the EFL and its Clubs are being marginalised in favour of others further up the pyramid and that only serves to threaten the future of the English game.

The EFL today calls on both the Premier League and the FA, as the Governing body, to re-evaluate their approach to their footballing partnership with the EFL and engage more collaboratively on issues directly affecting our Clubs.

A separate issue is the role of the EFL representatives on the Professional Game Board (PGB) in agreeing to the 2024/25 overall fixture calendar. PGB is there to make technical decisions across the game as opposed to key policy decisions such as competition changes or formats.

Any decisions taken on the calendar involving EFL representatives are in no way an endorsement of the joint deal agreed between the FA and Premier League that imposes changes to the FA Cup competition format in isolation.

As part of the discussions the EFL representatives did challenge the position and were told that Clubs would be comfortable with no replays. They were effectively advised that, as a result, of it being an FA competition, the fixture list needed to be agreed as presented. It is also important to note that this matter was not discussed by the FA Cup committee, a separate group that oversees the competition across the professional and national game.

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