How would you polish the trophy Sportsmail asks what changes are needed to save the FA Cup
Some grounds failed to feel the effects of Cup Fever this weekend — just 14,594 attended Birmingham’s half-empty St Andrew’s, Newcastle saw a 20,000 shortfall on their usual attendance and Spurs, Liverpool and Wigan all made eight or more changes to their starting XIs.
There were, however, plenty of other fans, players and managers up for the Cup.
Spot the fans: Jonathan Spector and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake fight for the ball in a half-empty St Andrew's
Sportsmail asked the experts how to improve the venerable old competition.
Chief Football Correspondent
Abolishing FA Cup replays would be obvious and makes an awful lot of sense. It would add a bit of excitement and would also benefit the England team when our top players are already playing too much football. But when the lower-league teams are longing for big-name opposition, why not seed the draw, too More big pay-days and more potential giant-killings.
Man in the middle: Graham Poll took charge of the 2000 FA Cup final between Chelsea and Aston Villa
Refereed the final in 2000
Foreign referees, especially in later rounds. The knock-out nature of the Cup means there’s more pressure on referees. In the league there’s always the next game for decisions to even things out. Bringing in the best from Spain, Germany and Italy would ease pressure on England’s top officials and would also prevent the over-refereeing of teams.
I don’t think there’s a lot wrong
with the format, although perhaps clubs could be forced to retain at
least four players who started the previous league match.
pricing is another area to look at, but seeding is a dreadful idea and
abolishing replays would encourage some teams to play for penalties.
Three-time winner with Arsenal
I think we’ve worked hard to rekindle the spirit of the Cup and it remains the only competition in football in which teams from all levels compete. That’s special. It would be ridiculous to introduce seeding but I would stop playing the semi-finals at Wembley. It’s a victory in itself to reach the final — playing the semis there as well just diminishes it.
Cup of joy: Martin Keown celebrates his first of three FA Cup wins with Arsenal
Two-time winner with Spurs
Giving the winner a place in the
Champions League play-offs is the only way to get top clubs to take it
seriously. I would also stop holding semi-finals at Wembley. When I
managed in Japan, their version was played after the league finished, in
neutral venues. I’m not suggesting it would work here but it was an
interesting way to stimulate the competition in a fledgling league.
Ken Bates often divides opinion, but there must have been a consensus in favour of his call for sanctions against teams who show a disregard for this most venerable of competitions. In these straitened times, how can clubs expect fans to pay first-team prices for what may be essentially a reserve fixture