Jan 24, 2009

A Modest Proposal For The FA Cup

Another FA Cup Saturday passes , and while there were some mildly surprising results -- Villa drawing with Doncaster, Fulham needing late goals to beat Kettering Town -- the only shock of the day was Swansea beating Portsmouth.

It's become a January tradition in England to ask whether the FA Cup has lost its "magic." And while some of that is just blather, the fact remains that upsets have decreased and the Big Four's hold on the competition is getting boring -- in the past 20 years, the Cup's been won by Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United or Liverpool all but three times.

So what to do? Perhaps it's time for radical change. A radical, two-step change, in fact.

Step one should be enactment of this rule. Better yet, just make each and every game do-or-die. As someone who's lived in the US for six years, yours truly can attest to the added spice of a win-or-go-home game. After all, what's more exciting than a game seven, or seeing the Arizona Cardinals bulldoze their way to the SuperBowl?

Growing up in England, there was always an added pleasure to an FA Cup tie that had multiple replays. But when they introduced penatly shootouts after the first replay in 1991, well, that was the end of that. Why not take it to its logical conclusion and have extra time and penalties at the end of the first game?

One answer is that having one replay gives the valiant away team a reward for tying the first game. But our second proposal would put paid to that anyway: the team ranked lower in the league table(s) is always the home team. As even Sunday's early fixture showed, when the big teams playing away is a leveler. And if the big team takes it to extra time or penalties, good for them.

So there you have it. The lower-placed team is always at home, and every game is decided on the day, with 30 minutes of extra time and penalties. These changes would greatly enhance the excitement of the FA Cup and increase the chances of upsets. Here's hoping that the folks at FA headquarters read this blog.


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