Soccer-FA Cup replays to be scrapped from 2024-25 season


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - FA Cup - Third Round - Manchester City v Huddersfield Town - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - January 7, 2024 The FA Cup trophy is displayed inside the stadium before the match Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith/File Photo

(Reuters) -FA Cup replays will be scrapped from the first round next season as part of a six-year agreement with the Premier League to strengthen the domestic competition, the Football Association (FA) announced on Thursday.

The FA added that all FA Cup rounds will be played on weekends from next term, with the fourth and fifth rounds, plus quarter-finals, to be held exclusive of Premier League matches.

"The current format, which has no replays from the fifth round onwards, has been extended throughout the 'Competition Proper' in light of changes to the calendar driven by the expanded UEFA competitions," the FA said.

"The FA Cup final will now take place on the penultimate weekend of the Premier League season, on an exclusive Saturday with no Premier League fixtures taking place on the same day."

The mid-season break was also removed from the calendar, in order to allow the Premier League to start in mid-August and provide a longer close-season break.

STRONGER CUP

The gradual removal of replays from the later FA Cup rounds was criticised, with some commentators saying it is another erosion of the importance of the world's oldest domestic club competition.

In the past, smaller clubs drawn at home to top-tier opposition in the FA Cup have enjoyed financial windfalls from securing replays.

"Scrapping FA Cup replays from the first round proper deprives lower league clubs of a much-needed source of revenue," Fair Game CEO Niall Couper said.

"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."

Mark Bullingham, CEO of England's FA, said the new agreement between the FA and the Premier League strengthened the FA Cup and gave "this very special tournament exclusive weekends in an increasingly busy calendar."

"The new schedule ensures the magic of the cup is protected and enhanced, while working for the whole of the English game," he added.

However, English Football League (EFL) chief executive Trevor Birch described the announcement as "frustrating and disappointing".

"This is another traditional revenue stream lost for EFL clubs at a time when the financial gap between the biggest clubs and those further down the pyramid is widening," he said.

League Two club Tranmere Rovers said in a statement that they "condemn the disgraceful" changes.

It said there had been no consultation with Football League clubs, National League clubs or grassroots clubs for whom the competition was a "hugely important source of income".

League Two side Grimsby Town joined the call for a pause in changes pending consultation, while the Football Supporters' Association (FSA) said it recognised the strain the fixture list places on top-flight clubs, but feared the decision would "diminish the magic of the competition".

As part of the agreement, the Premier League will increase the funding it provides to the English football pyramid, giving an additional 33 million pounds ($41.15 million) towards developing the grassroots game.

"Our domestic calendar has been put under extreme pressure by the expansion of UEFA competitions and ultimately this represents another lost traditional revenue stream for EFL clubs at a time when the financial gap between the biggest clubs and those further down the pyramid is growing bigger than ever," EFL Chief Executive Trevor Birch said.

"We will now be discussing the implications for EFL clubs and seeking appropriate compensation agreements."

The Premier League already provides 100 million pounds in funding to teams in lower leagues.

"This (investment) will improve facilities for communities and lower league clubs across the country, through the Football Foundation and Premier League Stadium Fund," Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said.

This season's FA Cup semi-finals will take place on the weekend, with holders Manchester City facing Chelsea on Saturday and Coventry City taking on Manchester United on Sunday.

($1 = 0.8019 pounds)

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru and Angelica Medina in Mexico City; Editing by Ken Ferris, Toby Davis and Sonali Paul)

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