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FA Cup Rules Changes: How Could They Impact Lower League Clubs?

Yesterday, the FA announced rule changes for the FA Cup, which will come into place from next season. What are the rule changes, and why have the FA received criticism as a result of them?

The biggest change to the format of the competition is FA Cup replays will be scrapped from the First Round onwards in the 2024-25 competition. In another change, all rounds of the Emirates FA Cup will be played on weekends, including the Fifth Round, which has been played in midweek during the last five seasons.

The changes come as part of a new six-year agreement between the Premier League and the FA which will strengthen the Emirates FA Cup format with new and exclusive calendar windows.


The FA Cup currently has no replays from the Fifth Round onwards. According to the FA, the decision to remove them from earlier in the competition has been made “in light of changes to the calendar driven by the expanded UEFA competitions”.

In the 2024-25 competition, the Fourth and Fifth Rounds and the quarterfinals will be exclusive of Premier League fixtures for the first time, and the Fourth round will have an extended window from Friday to Wednesday to allow fans to watch consecutive days of Emirates FA Cup football.


From next season, the Emirates FA Cup Final will take place on the penultimate weekend of the Premier League season, on an exclusive Saturday with no Premier League fixtures taking place on the same day. There will also be no Premier League games on the Friday night before the Final, to allow focus on the build-up to the final.


Speaking on the changes to the competition, FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: “The Emirates FA Cup is our biggest asset and generates over 60 per cent of our revenue to invest into the game, so it is critical to secure a strong format for the future. 


"This new agreement between the FA and the Premier League strengthens the Emirates FA Cup and gives this very special tournament exclusive weekends in an increasingly busy calendar. The new schedule ensures the magic of the Cup is protected and enhanced while working for the whole of the English game.”


The decision to remove replays from the first round of the competition onwards benefits the bigger clubs in the competition, particularly Premier League sides who are playing in Europe. FA Cup replays have been a burden for these sides, by adding to their already congested fixture schedules.


However, the FA have received some criticism as a result of their decision to remove replays from the first round onwards, due to the impact this could have on clubs in the EFL and lower down in the English football pyramid who desperately need the money that big FA cup ties can generate through gate receipts and TV rights.


The decision, which will come into force next season, has been described by the EFL as “frustrating and disappointing”, as a result of the damaging effect it could have for smaller clubs who are struggling financially.


Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder has also criticised the change. Wilder said: "As always the game is dictated and dominated by the big boys and the big boys don't want FA Cup replays, do they?


"Being a traditionalist, what does that do to non-league clubs that get into the fairytale round of round three and get a draw at home and the financial implications that gives them?

There have been clubs that have had FA Cup runs and replays that have financially benefitted themselves for the next three, four, five years.

Niall Coupler, the chief executive of Fair Game also hit out at the decision, claiming it “deprives lower league clubs of a much-needed source of revenue" and is a "short-sighted move that does nothing to strengthen the game".

Last year, an FSA survey found that 69.5% of respondents believe replays are an important part of the FA Cup, which highlights just how unpopular the decision to remove them from the first round onwards is.

Following the widespread criticism of the decision, the Football Supporters' Association said it has passed on the "serious concerns" of fans to the FA.

Despite the criticism, it is worth noting that the changes to the competition format as of next season are part of a new agreement between the FA and the Premier League which will see up to an extra £33 million going to grassroots football from the top flight each season, which will benefit the game at grassroots level.

It remains to be seen how the FA will respond to the backlash, as lower-league clubs will be hoping the financial implications of the changes do not have a detrimental financial impact.






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