Will the last person to leave the FA please turn off the lights

Some readers who have heard me on the subject of the FA and the Premier League will be aware of my general view that The FA is staffed by good people let down by the muppets who actually make the decisions. They might also be aware of my view that too many people working in football are bears of little brain. Nowhere is this better illustrated than with the latest policy for dealing with the issue FA Cup replays.

The basic story is simple – the World Cup is in 2006, and FIFA have decreed that players must have a full month off before the tournament starts. This presented a problem – what to do if the later rounds of the cup went to replays. Like several did this year. Apparently, there simply isn’t the time to fit another week’s worth of fixtures in what with the compression of the season and the likely European commitments of clubs usually contesting the latter rounds. So what they’ve done is create a two-tier competition. Teams in European competition will have no replays, but the mere plebs will have the opportunity to fight it out once more. But no taking Chelsea back to your place after a hard-fought draw, and you’ll have penalties at the Bridge next year.

That’s not because of any other reason than Chelsea would be in another competition. It’s not like replays aren’t good. By keeping replays for teams not in Europe, they’re saying replays are an important part of the cup. By removing the need for them if certain clubs need them, they’re saying that those clubs are more important than the integrity of the cup.

It’s hard to think of a more idiotic policy. A fundamental of a cup competition is that the rules are the same for everyone. By ignoring that for this is yet another cut. It won’t be the death knell of the competition, but it’s a major cut in the list of a thousand cuts which will kill the thing.

By coming up with this policy, and agreeing it, football confirms that it really can’t see the whole picture, so beset by sectional and short-term interests. And so beset by those interests is the FA that it can’t actually go beyond them to act in the best interest of the cup and the game.

Lets be clear here – this is the FA’s flagship competition. This isn’t anyone else’s responsibility, over which they exert mere moral authority. This is their own sodding competition, and they can’t defend it against the major clubs.

What were the alternatives? Well, they could have not scheduled the week of the 5th and 6th Rounds as free weeks in the Premiership for those teams not in the cup by that stage. You know, liked they used to. They could have used the opportunity to reduce team numbers in the Premiership. You know, like they’ve been wanting too.

But no. Let’s come up with something really bad. Something that gets at the very essence of the competition. It’s a hoary old cliche that the FA Cup is under threat, and I’m sure that you can scour the archives and find people saying that the end of the second (and third and fourth…) replay was a death knell. But this is really bad. I was profoundly depressed about the future for the first time in some time.

It wasn’t so much that the interests of small number of clubs have predominated. I’m used to that. It was that an idea had been proposed and no-one, seemingly, had said ‘but it’s utter rubbish, as ideas go’. Power and money will always want to dominate, but you’d like to think talent will out. Silly me.