9 Jan 2014

[Guest Post] LFC legend Alan Hansen slams the double-threat that's 'damaging' the 'magic' and 'romance' of the FA Cup. What's the solution...?

GUEST POST: On Monday, Liverpool legend Alan Hansen bemoaned the decline of his beloved FA cup, and having won the trophy in '86 and '89, it's obvious he has as a lot of affection for the competition. Unfortunately, the so-called 'magic of the cup' has dissipated over last decade, and this concerns Hansen, who insists that a revamp is in order, and offers up a solution to improve the situation. Is the FA Cup beyond saving, though?

In his column for the Daily Telegraph, Hansen described the FA Cup as 'something magical', and slammed the 'damaging' influence the Premier League and Champions League on the competition of; He explained:

“The FA Cup is a shadow of the competition it once was and I seriously fear for its future unless it has a big revamp.

"The money is all in the Premier League and getting into the Champions League so of course the FA Cup is going to take a hit.

"I cannot see how it is going to get any better until they scrap replays, [which are] no good to anyone For [big clubs] another game is the last thing...needed and [can created] a real fixture pile-up".

In my opinion, the answer lies in how relevant the FA cup is in the modern era, and the answer to this question varies wildly amongst supporters, players, managers, and club owners.

Not Worth it?

For owners of top flight teams, winning the FA Cup offers little financial reward, and attaining a Champions League place is now more important than winning the oldest cup competition in the world.

The practice of fielding weaker sides for cup games is increasingly criticised, but when a manager can win the cup but still lose his job (for failure to win the league/qualify for the champions league/progress in the last sixteen), it's hard to blame someone for making that decision. Given the choice between the FA Cup and having a job at the end of the season, most manager's won't hesitate to prioritise the league.

Football clubs at the lower end of the table are also starting to see the FA cup as a lower priority, and again it's he same reason: money. Last year, Wigan became the first club in the competition's history to win the cup and be relegated in the same season. However, not only did Roberto Martinez keep his job, the owners and fans (rightly) hailed the victory as possibly the greatest achievement in the clubs history.

However, this seems to be the exception not the rule. In Dave Whelan, Wigan have an owner who understands what winning the FA Cup is all about. To him and the fans, a trophy is clearly worth more than the riches of Premier League survival, though it's doubtful someone like Cardiff owner Vincent Tan would share the same view.

Dump the Competition?

Last weekend, Norwich boss Paul Lambert received heavy criticism for his comments about the the FA cup. When asked if his fellow top-flight managers would prefer to avoid the competition altogether, Lambert told reporters:

"If they were being honest, they probably would do. Not just because of the money but survival in the league is vital.”

This is a compelling insight into the mindset of managers in charge of relegation-threatened teams, and in some cases it can be justified, especially when considering clubs like Leeds, Wigan, Blackpool and Wolves, whose experiences after dropping out of top-flight football are are a cautionary tale for football's current set of managers.

Refreshingly, mid-table premier league regulars still see the FA cup for what it is: an opportunity to reach beyond the ordinary and become exceptional for one season at least. The same can be said for every league club below the premiership, who play every FA cup tie with the belief that this year could be their year. Unfortunately, this is all for naught unless top teams take the competition as seriously as the minnows.

Drop Replays: A Good Solution?

So what can be done to revive a competition seemingly on life support? Hansen seems to think eliminating replays is the answer, but I don't believe that would be effective:

* If the priority is to avoid replays then logic seems do dictate that a manager will field his strongest team to ensure no replay occurs? In practice, however, the priority is to avoid tiring or injuring your best players. I

* With extra time and penalties instead of replays, top clubs will (IMO) still field weakened sides, but if the match is at eighty minutes and still a draw, managers will simply bring on big-money signings to to blow away the opposition, safe in the knowledge that there still remains maximum game-time of forty minutes. In my opinion, something much more drastic is required.

Bigger Incentives

* The ideal solution is to raise the incentive of winning the competition. Reduce the league qualification spots for the champions league from four to three and make that extra spot the ultimate prize for winning the FA Cup. Unfortunately, I can't see UEFA agreeing to this change kind of change.

* Another idea being mooted is to introduce premier league clubs at a later stage of the competition to reduce the number of games played, though this would inevitably incite considerable opposition from the lower leagues.

The solution is far from clear, but what is plainly obvious is that something has to be done.

Thanks to Sky TV, English football is now a global product, with international leagues more widely available and increasingly followed by British football fans. As a result the magic of the FA cup has shifted to European competitions.

The new generation of fans no longer salivates at the prospect of Man Utd vs. Liverpool at Wembley; it's now Man City vs. Barcelona in Lisbon. European football has grown at such a rate globally that the idea of a European Super League has been considered.

Can the FA cup really keep up with the relentless progress and popularity of the new “brand football“? unfortunately, the answer is probably no. For better or worse, at the top level of football, the global football machine has outgrown the relevance of the FA Cup, and I see no way to reverse the trend. The competition will always be a part of British football, but it just won't be quite as revered by fans as in the past.

To Mr. Hansen and co, I offer this slight comfort. An image of Steven Gerrard in the Sky Sports studio in twenty years time, recounting his memories of Istanbul 2005, and how winning a Champions League used to mean something before being reduced to irrelevance by the European Super League.

The farther you go, the harder it is to return.

Author: Barry Kennedy (aka site regular Slippery_Slope)


  1. Yann M'vila has apparently been back in Liverpool to 'see his mate' Sakho for a second time, Sakho seems to think Yann M'vila will be joining Liverpool in this window???..............................very interesting.

  2. What's good news about it? FSG will probably stall and lose him to Durtmund etc. Can't believe they play save a buck with Basel. A-holes. After the money they put on Sakho, Allen, Ilori, etc, how dare they? What the hell is wrong with them. Holysh!t.

    About the article, people should just chose the Wigan way here, and when football is a joke in 20 years i hope we will be in the lower leagues and owned by the fans.

  3. Mexican stand-off but apparently he wants to come, depends on what you believe I suppose?. Sakho has told a few people at Liverpool that M'vila should be joining this window but he plays for an Eastern European club (Kazan) and they are very hard to deal with.....................lets see what happens????.

  4. Where did you get this?

  5. Lets say I trust the person who told me!...........lets hope he is right??

  6. Guys, please don't hijack this thread. Thanks.

  7. Great piece! Well written and well throught out. I would tend to agree with your suggestion of giving the FA cup winner a shot at a championsleague place but I would look at it in a different mannor.
    UEFA only care that FOUR teams from England are in the competition, I dont think they are too concerned how the four are selected (I could be entirely wrong about that). I would suggest having the winner of the FA Cup play the fourth place team for that final spot in a playoff - don't agree with just replacing the 4th place team as you can argue that acheiving a top four position after an entire season warrants a chance to play in the CL as much as winning the FA cup.
    My arguements:
    * Its good encentive because there will be even more drama in the league with a potential huge end of season game everyone tunes in to see (who will win it, who be relegated, and who will get that final CL spot)
    * It would force teams to field their strongest teams in the FA cup knowing that their odds are better with a championsleague playoff in December rather than waiting till the final standings in May.
    * And it's also adaptable because if England was to lose that 4th spot in the future, the FA cup winner would then have a playoff with third place.
    *Another ammendment I would have is that the prize money would have to go up. Last year the 4th place team (Arsenal) took 12.8M Pound while Wigans FA cup glory earned them a measly 1.8M. I know the league money is comprised of TV, prize, and FA shares which outdoes the FA cup but there has to be a way to bridge that money gap (monetary or through creative incentives)
    The real flaw I see in my case is if, in the case of Liverpool in 2005, a team wins the championsleague -not the FA cup- but finishes outside the top 4....now that would be tricky deciding which of the three teams would play in the playoff...

  8. Great stuff, Barry. I think you're right about the future allure of a European Super League. The Champions League holds all the cards right now, but it will inevitably suffer the same fate as the FA Cup at some stage, and like you suggest, it will all be down to money. That's all football is about these days, and greed will lead the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern, Juve, and yes, Liverpool, to the competition that generates the most cash.

  9. we dont need salah he is not good enough we need players like frank ribery or cristiano ronaldo

  10. how do you know they are intrested in salah ?

    liverpool have not made a bid for him
    its all rumours

  11. Wanna bet?

    It's a Makytirian. FSG are clueless.

  12. No it isn't!!!.....................100%.

  13. the fa cups not important
    if wigan can win it it is worth not winning
    if portsmouth can win it it is not worth winning
    we should try to get top 4
    wigan,pourtsmouth, they cant get top 4
    fa cups just a mickey mouse tournament its not important

  14. And he is good enough. . .

  15. fsg have revolutionised lfc
    sturridge ,suarez,sterling,coutinho,henderson ,allen,sakho,mignolet,flanagan

    are part of their revolution
    plus they hired rodgers

    fsg are right i would not pay over the odds then every team expects the same
    eg when we signed hendo , laudrup used the price as a refrence for allen

  16. we dont know that
    he is doing well in bundesliga
    kagawa, dzeko ,sahin have all done well there but have not made the same impact in this league

  17. wigan ,portsmouth have undermined the fa cup
    in my opinion it should only be open to the top 8 teams
    2 legs
    the lower league teams can have the carling cup

  18. Ok. We shouldn't get Salah. He plays at the Bundesliga and has no chance to do well at Liverpool.

  19. everton have confirmed a change of name they will now be known as "the village peoples club".......................

  20. First time reader. Some very good views and opinions here..
    Enjoyed that piece Barry.
    Look forward to your next one

  21. Surprised nobody has mentioned the Norwich manager Paul Lambert. Ha ha ha. Thanks for the comments. Hope to do better next time. And thanks to the editor.

  22. I think you hit the nail on the head with the simplest way to make this tournament more meaningful...

    Take away the fourth place finisher, and make the FA Cup Winner a Champions League spot.

  23. Agree regarding 20 years in future. Totally..

  24. i love the idea of qualification to the Champions League, but what if a lower division team wins it?

  25. Like Man U, next season

  26. If you take away the 4th spot qualification and a team from one of the lower leagues win the FA Cup?

    I just wish the CL would go back to the old format i.e. European Cup where only the Champions of the respective leagues get to feature in the competition and then have the Uefa Cup as the competition for 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes. The UEFA Cup was a top competition before merging it with the Cup Winners Cup with all these unknown teams that play in it now. That is what the Cup Winners Cup was for, mediocre teams. The gap between CL vs Europa League is massive and the fact that teams who drop out from the CL get to play in the Europa League just shows what a farce it is.

  27. Honestly I don't think I misunderstood at the time but I can see what you mean. I just kind of got into a rant and lost what the initial point was. By the time I realised I though f@#k it! haha

  28. Excellent point, something I have wondered myself.

    IMO in order to make the F.A prestigious again we would need to:

    - Increase the prize money to around £10M
    - 3 league point incentive after winning it
    - Scrap replays

    Also, what's the point of the League Cup as well?

  29. IMO if you finish 3rd or 4th in the CL group you should be knocked out, not rewarded with another competition spot.

    That's insulting to the teams in the Europa League.

  30. They would received a nice financial bonus, but chances of them qualifying for the group stages would be low.

  31. Also, for the Champions League, I would scrap the group stages and make it straight knock out. Then we would see who are the real teams.

    Also, do away with the away goal rule, such a ridiculous rule.

  32. Excellent article mate! Keep them coming! :)

  33. We often have really excellent pieces on the site, both from Jamie and guests.

  34. I'm so glad about the winner of the ELeague getting a CL spot. UEFA are so late sometimes, this have been a suggestion for years.

    Which also means that, say, Liverpool get 4th spot and an english team who finishes 5th wins the Eleague then the 4th CL spot would probably be nullified.

  35. PS I don't even understand how a European Super League would work!

  36. I think the Champions League spot for the FA cup winner isn't as far off as many think. The Eng FA is a gorilla in UEFA, if they got say the spanish or german FA to agree you could probably see a revival in European cup competitions with the winners getting a spot or even a playoff spot. That way you could potentially avoid Wigan vs Barca before it happens.
    Also, I can't understand for the life of me how the prize money for the FA cup is paltry 1.8 million pounds. With the gobs of cash pouring in from TV revenues from both the Premier League and the national team along with sponsorships and merchandise sales (of England kits) how on earth can the FA cup be so under funded? You get more if you win Wimbledon for goodness sake!
    I'm not English but if the FA has any pride they should poney up and inject some cash. Make the prize 15 million pounds an all of a sudden you have a nice summer transfer paid for. It's a shame that they'd let this just go the way of the dinosaur, it's one of the most enterntaining competitions around and steeped in history.

  37. I was thinking the same thing... and while they would have a difficult time qualifying, they won the right to have the chance of being there.

    I would have no issue with the idea.

  38. With gobs of cash pouring in, they still couldn't find a way to air last week's game on TV in the USA... abomination.

    Couldn't even get a stream on the internet.