This weekend featured plenty of thrilling games in the English FA Cup. In the most exciting of them, Shrewsbury came back from two goals down to earn a replay against the mighty Liverpool.
Another tie that will need a second attempt is the one between Southampton and Tottenham. Both sides had a proper go at it in, but there was no winner at the end.
The managers Jose Mourinho and Ralph Hasenhuttl were both frustrated after the match and agreed on the proposal to ditch FA Cup replays. The gaffers prefer extra-time and penalties instead.
That sparkled a bit of a debate, so I decided to share my opinion on the topic. Before I get there, I will go through the key points from the perspective of the bigger and the smaller clubs.
Why the Bigger Clubs Don’t Want or Need FA Cup Replays
Let’s start with the big English clubs. For the purpose of this debate, I would put all members of the English Premier League here, although that’s not perfectly accurate. The reason is that I believe they all or most elite sides are against the FA Cup replays.
The top-tier teams are involved in 38 games in the league. If you add the League Cup and the FA Cup, we already have a tight schedule.
Most clubs have international players, so you can include at least several games for their countries. The top 6-7 sides also play in UEFA competitions, so the number grows even bigger.
If you add the fact that the FA Cup is not a priority for most teams and that many supporters don’t take the tournament seriously, it’s easy to see why they are against FA Cup replays.
And yet, there’s another perspective that needs to be considered.
Why the Smaller Clubs Want and Need FA Cup Replays
If you want to know the opinion of the smaller clubs, you only need to look at the delight of the Shrewsbury fans on Sunday. They will be traveling to the Anfield to face the best team in the world and their club plays in the English League One.
The opportunity to watch some of the best players is huge for both the team and the supporters. And yes, Klopp rotated a lot and most EPL managers do, but Liverpool finished the game with Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino on the pitch.
Let’s not forget the financial rewards for teams like Shrewsbury. The money they earn from TV rights could be enough to support the club for years.
If you remove the FA Cup replays and add extra-time plus penalties instead, the smaller clubs won’t have the chance to change their future on the pitch in such a fashion.
I understand the point of the big English clubs and their managers but I respectfully disagree with the suggestion to remove the FA Cup replays. The top teams in the country have large squads and even the fringe players are often paid millions.
The same applies to the managers who earn large amounts of money and they owe it to the fans to play in the FA Cup.
The competition has always been for everyone and the replays are part of the magic. The smaller clubs across England know that a strong run and one or two matches against elite opposition could be groundbreaking for their fortunes.
Let’s not forget the fans that experience pure joy to watch their local boys face the best teams in the world.