One look at attendances for the cup competitions in England and Scotland over the last week shows the interest in both competitions is continuing to decrease at an alarming rate. No matter how advertisers and broadcasters try to ignite interest and excitement in them, it seems the glory days are long gone. It’s a shame but let’s face it, the FA and Scottish Cups have been in a downward spiral for years.
The rise of the Champions League, the importance of domestic league success and a lack of sufficient advertising interest have all contributed to a situation where one is left wondering, just how long do these competitions have left in them? The fact that there are Premiership games scheduled for the same day as this years FA Cup Final further accentuates the sorry state.
Growing up, I remember that the attendances would always be higher for the cup games and they were a genuine event. Not just for the latter stages but the 3rd round, 4th round and if you were lucky enough to support a team who got to the semi, the excitement was overwhelming at the thought of being just one game away from the final. This was especially the case for Hibs fans like me who are still waiting since 1902 to win the bloody thing again.
There is no doubt that the cup is still exciting for the smaller clubs who can dream of short term financial reward if they draw a big team with the prospect of a giant killing or even better, a replay at the big teams ground to coin it in a little more. However, watching games played out in half empty stadiums with the same cliches about knock-out football being trotted out year after year does not make for a great sporting spectacle. It’s telling that the play-off final for the Championship teams is far more of an exciting prospect for players, fans and viewers than the FA Cup Final is now.
I’m not too sure what the requisite remedy is for the national cup competitions both north and south of the border. It certainly isn’t the continuing trend of the bigger clubs to field weakened teams and still expect the fans to show up. With all that is at stake in the leagues, can they really be blamed in doing so though? I’d like to sit in at a meeting to work out how to rescue cup football in the UK, I’m just not sure if I could contribute a satisfactory idea to turn the tide.