Is there much hope for the FA Cup if fans are more interested in the Champions League?

The current attitude towards the FA Cup feels a bit like the weather - miserable. But why?

Thursday, 16th January 2020, 5:30 pm
Chelsea lift the 2018 FA Cup - but it wasn't enough to satisfy some fans at Stamford Bridge / Picture: Getty

One of the oldest football competitions there is, the FA Cup used to be one of the most prestigious tournaments going. For decades, the Cup final was everything to clubs and fans alike and was one of very few games broadcast live on TV.

But since the modern era started to become what it is today - with televised matches the norm on Sky, BT and other channels and mega-money to be won by finishing one place higher than your nearest rival in the Premier League, and even for winning promotion from the Championship, the FA Cup has struggled to hold its own.

For Some Premier League teams - and even some in the Championship, the Cup is seen almost as an inconvenience to their domestic league campaigns, a view which results in them throwing reserve players into the squad to fulfil the ties.

There's no doubt it's a positive to get youth players involved in their respective first teams, but when clubs are fielding teams full of unrecognisable 17-20 year olds - it can demonstrate a lack of respect for a once-colossal competition. But it's not just the clubs who are frowning upon it - in places, supporters are too.

On Tuesday night Tottenham hosted Middlesbrough in a round three replay at their new state-of-the-art stadium, which holds a capacity of 62,000. Their official attendance was counted at 49,202 - nearly 12,000 off the full house they have been getting for league games.

Meanwhile, known for their large fanbase, Newcastle overcame Rochdale in their replay at St James' Park. A crowd of 29,786 was present in a ground that holds 52,405 - the shortfall made obvious not only by visible empty seats but also by an eerie echo which rang around the ground throughout the match.

This Cup malaise only applies to teams high up the pyramid. Clubs from the lower leagues still appreciate the competition, not least because of the ever-rising prize money offered for progressing through the rounds.

Take Chichester City. The club from the eighth tier of English football earned close to £160,000 for their extraordinary run in this year's FA Cup.

Around £82,000 came from City progressing from the extra preliminary round - the first round of the entire competition - all the way to the second round proper, helped by their first-round bye, awarded when Bury's absence gave an odd number of teams in the draw. Chi's second round trip to Tranmere Rovers of League One in the second round was televised on BT Sport - earning them a further £75,000.

Of course this sort of money means the world to a club like Chichester City FC, but the prize money is peanuts to the teams in the top flight - which is probably another reason why the Cup isn't considered so important.

Another factor in the competition's decline in popularity for Premier League sides is the Champions League - Europe's most prestigious competition.

I'm a Chelsea supporter and we won the FA Cup, in 2018. I was ecstatic with the fact we'd managed to win another piece of silverware, but some of our fans were hardly bothered - seeing it as barely even a silver lining to what had been a 'disappointing' season - so described as we had narrowly failed to qualify for the Champions League for the 2018-19 campaign, finishing fifth.

It baffled me that some of our supporters would have preferred to finish in the top four and not win a trophy - but tha's a mentality which is more than likely here to stay.