Written just before the 2011/2012 FA cup final
As a child, the FA cup final day held significant importance and was considered an event. The entire day was spent in front of the television, constantly switching between Grandstand and World of Sport. Regrettably, those two institutions are no longer with us, and neither is the enchantment of the FA cup. The morning would begin with watching the players eat their breakfast, followed by participating in a special episode of A Question Of Sport. In one instance, they even appeared on TISWAS. Lunchtime would roll around, and the players would board their coaches, and we were treated to the comedic talents of Stan Boardman (when Liverpool reached the final).
Both coaches would be followed by a helicopter on the motorway and onto Wembley Way, where we would witness the teams perform their FA cup songs recorded specially for the day. How we belted out those cheesy tunes! Once the game began, the outcome didn’t matter (except in 1978), as the only thing that counted was that we were watching football – on TV! Yes, we used to get excited about a single televised game of football each season. So, where did it all go wrong? What happened to the enchantment that once made the FA Cup the greatest football competition in the world? Pose that question to the average person on the street, and the most common response will be Man Utd’s withdrawal in 1999.
Having won the European cup, they had secured a spot in FIFA’s first-ever world club championship, which coincided with the 3rd round of the FA cup. The English FA, vying for the opportunity to host the 2006 world cup, did not want to offend FIFA and jeopardise their chances, so they convinced Man Utd to participate in the tournament and permitted them to withdraw from the FA cup. Unfortunately, since then, the cup’s value has declined as top premiership clubs often field reserve teams until the quarterfinals and regard it as a necessary inconvenience rather than a must-play event. However, before we point fingers at Man Utd and the English FA, let’s go back to October 2nd, 1983.
The match between Nottingham Forest and Tottenham Hotspurs marked the debut of live league games on television, a concept that started with a few games per season but has now become a daily occurrence. The recently announced TV rights deal for the 2012/2013 Premier League season includes 158 matches, not to mention coverage of Championship, League 1, and League 2 football, as well as remaining fixtures from the Scottish league, Spanish games, and insignificant cup matches from the Irish league.
There’s an excess of football nowadays. It’s broadcasted every day, sometimes even two or three times, which has stripped the FA cup of its magic. It’s no longer the sole game we eagerly anticipate each season. I managed to catch every FA cup final from 1977-1990 and then missed the 1991 final due to work commitments. However, I caught up all the finals from 1992-2000.
When I was younger, I’d watch these games in the cozy confines of my living room, but once I hit legal drinking age, it was all about heading to a friend’s place with a sweepstake and plenty of cans. Sadly, those days are long gone, and this season marks the final nail in the coffin for me. The FA Cup used to be the season’s grand finale, with its 3pm kick off, but now it’s just another game lost in the shuffle of regular league fixtures, airing at 5:15pm.
Farewell, FA Cup. You were once a great cup…