Fans and their representatives were left furious when it was announced that only 10 of the 32 FA Cup third round games will kick-off at 3pm on a Saturday after 22 games were moved to accommodate the wishes of TV companies.
Arsenal’s game against Solihull or Blackpool has been moved to Saturday 5 January with a 5pm kick-off so it can be shown live on BT. That means Arsenal fans face either a 114-mile journey home from Solihull or, more likely, a 236-mile journey home from Blackpool late in the evening.
But Arsenal are far from the only side that has been impacted. In fact, more have been moved than have been allowed to kick-off at the traditional time of 3pm on a Saturday.
Malcolm Clarke, the chairman of the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF), told The Times [£]: “This has gone too far and it is taking away some of the magic of the FA Cup.
“The FA Cup third round on Saturday afternoon is one of the enduring traditions of a wonderful competition. To have fewer than a third of the 32 matches kicking off at 3pm on Saturday is both extraordinary and very sad.
“The FSF does understand that the FA is a non-profit-making organisation and will be reinvesting any surpluses into the game, so at least this is not a league doing it for profit. But I would question the necessity of this, and also the value of it in the longer term.
“If you start taking the magic out of the FA Cup, then the danger is that people start losing interest in it.”
Every year we have the same discussion about the ‘magic of the cup’ yet the FA continue to allow TV companies to move game regardless of the impact it has on fans.
Seven matches will kick-off at 12.30 on the Saturday when the FA Cup returns with another five getting going at 5.30pm later that day. Another eight will be played on Sunday 6 January with most of those kick-offs around 2pm. Then there’s the Friday night game and another on Monday between Wolves and Liverpool.
In addition, as we have witnessed over the past few seasons, we are likely to see the draw for round 4 take place before the Wolves v Liverpool game has even been played.
The FA confirmed in a statement that a new international deal with TV companies was behind the moves.
“A selection of the Emirates FA Cup third-round fixtures have been picked for domestic and overseas television coverage as part of the new international broadcast deal for the competition,” their statement said. “The new deal, which began this season, will see more money than ever before reinvested back into English football and prize money doubled to over £30.2 million — with a guaranteed £4 million distributed to non-League clubs.
“In addition, the new deal will provide an increased level of investment into grassroots football pitches, facilities and participation programmes across England.”
You can see when all the matches have been moved to next…