This weekend sees the Premier League’s elite teams battling it out for a place in the FA Cup Final.
For the tenth time since the new Wembley Stadium was built, we will all watch this weekend’s FA Cup Semi-Finals being played at the national stadium. But is this right? A majority of fans think the FA Cup semi-finals should not be held at Wembley. Here’s 5 reasons why:
1. The achievement of reaching the FA Cup Final has been diluted
Wembley should be the pinnacle of a player’s career – and a supporter’s. It should be for the elite. It should be accessible only as a result of brilliance. We all know the F.A. is desperately trying to recoup some of the estimated £757 million it spent on building the stadium. But in the process of doing so it is devaluing it! By allowing the teams who reach the semi-finals to play there it weakens the importance of Wembley as a venue and it makes it ‘less special’. This argument carries extra weight this weekend with Spurs playing there on the Saturday. After a season playing their home Champions League and Europa League fixtures at Wembley, this Saturday’s semi-final against Chelsea will be just like another day at the office for Spurs players and fans. I can’t imagine a single one of them is currently tingling with excitement at the prospect of going to Wembley this weekend… again. Yawn!
2. It’s not tradition
A lot can be said for tradition within sports and modernisation should only be brought in if it benefits the game. The decision to play the semi-finals at Wembley is clearly a financial one. Unfortunately, for the romantics out there, ‘tradition’ is not deemed as important and certainly would not be entertained by the F.A. The tradition of two teams visiting a neutral ground is in itself a romantic one and one that excites most genuine football fans. Unfortunately, this format does not look likely to return in the near future.
3. It’s not accessible for all
The cost of travelling/staying in London is too much for some fans who only get the opportunity to see these big events if they’re in a town or city near them. The benefits stretch to the local communities too. If the FA Cup semi-finals were still held at neutral grounds such as Hillsborough, St James’ Park and Villa Park the local communities would thrive as a result. 50,000 plus fans would flock to their city for this one off game spending money in their shops, restaurants, hotels and pubs. Instead, every year, yet more money is spent in the city of London and taken away from other communities.
4. The atmosphere
The atmosphere is not a traditional football atmosphere. Wembley stadium only gives each team approximately one third of the ticket allocation allowing them to give the final third to sponsors and friends of the F.A. This thins the atmosphere and makes for a less passionate crowd. You’re too far away from the action at Wembley and if you buy a ticket in the upper tier, don’t forget your binoculars! Can you imagine Spurs fans filling the Kop end at Liverpool? Or Chelsea fans packed into the Holte End at Villa Park? Not only would this give these supporters a unique insight into these famous old grounds but it would serve to provide an electric atmosphere for a competition that seems to be surviving on its last few burning embers.
5. The magic is dying
We all feel it. Every year, the third round arrives with hopeful ‘minnows’ keeping their fingers crossed that they’ll get a ‘big draw’ in the third round. The trouble is, nowadays, even if they do get their wish, the chances of a Premier League team putting out a full strength squad is getting less and less. The magic of the cup is dying. The prize for winning is not worth putting all their efforts and resources into. With the amount of money in football and the impetus put on reaching the Champions League the F.A. needs to seriously rethink its format and its prizes. If there was a Champions League spot on offer for the winning club it would transform the competition. Equally if the prize money was more in keeping with today’s sums, we might find clubs placing more importance on the competition. Currently, the F.A. offers £1.8 million to the winner of the competition. That might pay the wages of 1 or 2 players for that month – in other words, it wouldn’t touch the sides. But, whilst the FA Cup semi-finals remain at Wembley alongside the paltry prize money, the FA Cup will continue to suffer and this once great competition may be on the verge of extinction.
Tom Tyler (@gameof2football)
This weekend’s F.A. Cup fixtures fixtures:
Saturday 22nd April 2017 Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur 17:15
Sunday 23rd April 2017 Arsenal v Manchester City 15:00
Please note these fixtures are subject to change and LWOS is not responsible for any changes that are made.