So, it was FA Cup weekend this weekend.
And it was good. There weren’t a huge amount of upsets – save for Oxford United’s thrilling 3-2 victory over Swansea City – but there were still some good-quality games on display.
But something’s missing. For me at least.
When I was younger, the FA Cup was a BIG deal. A huge deal. Something that every single club wanted to win, regardless of their league position.
But it’s not any more. I’ve recently switched off the box to write this article, and I took in Spurs’ draw with Leicester. Both teams had made about seven changes from their regular starting line-ups, with one eye on Wednesday’s league fixture.
And it was no different all over the country. Big teams playing weakened sides, to save their players for the Premier League.
Of course, we know why this is the case. Money. The Premier League is far more lucrative than the FA Cup, and so finishing as high up as possible is important to every single club; not least the relegation candidates who are desperate to stay in the league and enjoy the television revenue.
But it’s a shame.
Gone are the days of the FA Cup being a truly credible competition. But in my view, and for the good of English football, they need to return. And here’s my suggestion to make it happen:
Give the winner a Champions League spot.
In a similar vein to the Europa League, I would give the FA Cup winners automatic qualification to the following season’s Champions League. Even if it meant that fourth place in the EPL no longer results in a UCL place.
In my view, it would accomplish multiple things. First things first, it would make the competition very much worth winning.
Secondly, because cups are more of a lottery than leagues, we’d be likely to see a really good mix of teams qualify for the Champions League; not just the same old faces.
Thirdly, and perhaps most romantically, it would allow the Champions League dream to be alive for any club, no matter what league they played in.
The FA Cup needs saving, and whether it’s my solution or not, something needs to be done. Otherwise the competition we know and love will become less and less relevant with each passing year.