FA Cup debate is about much more than scrapping replays

The abolition of FA Cup replays has done more than cause huge debate in the game. It has caused interesting fissures in new alliances.

Over the last few weeks, politicians have been sent invitations to a drinks reception in the House of Lords about the Football Governance Bill, hosted by the Premier League and the National League. It is a reflection of a "long-standing partnership" that has raised eyebrows among others in the game, but displayed a mutual concern about some of the potential implications from the independent regulator. This latest news could now bring some different conversations at that event.

Many National League clubs are aggravated by the abolition of replays, given the difference that can make to their budget. It's that simple to some of them, and adds another layer of complexity to all of this discussion about football's future direction.

As befits a format that ensured ties didn't just end with win or defeat, this debate isn't so binary, either.

The early discussions for this idea did display that most parties realised the format needed to evolve. To go much deeper, there is even an argument that one-off games better fit the do-or-die knock-out spirit of the FA Cup, despite replays representing such a rich part of its history. Ending it on the day even makes upsets much more likely, since the lesson of football history is that the bigger team are usually only rattled once. If it goes to a replay, the chances are the wealthier club will steady themselves and assert their force.

That opportunity to get it done on the day, and exploit anxiety, could then bring the extra game that the replay would represent.

Of course, it just doesn't guarantee it. This is why replays are so valued, because they are an assurance of revenue.

That is also where the argument gets a lot more complicated, and actually goes to the crux of the entire debate.

As lucrative as FA Cup replays can be, and for all the stories about such games saving clubs' futures, it is an obvious point that sustainable economic models should not be dependent on the pot luck of one-off games. The same argument applies to ownership.

Football should have a much solid and fairer system, and that is currently being negotiated right now. That is what points to what is actually the most remarkable aspect of this story.

The controversy shouldn't be that replays have been abolished, although that is obviously worthy of great debate about the tradition.

The controversy is really that they have taken this decision before the settlement of English football's "new deal". That is what is staggering.

FA Cup replays have been scrapped from the first-round proper (Getty Images)
FA Cup replays have been scrapped from the first-round proper (Getty Images)

At the exact same time that the Premier League is holding out on an agreement with the lower-league clubs, a badly needed source of revenue has been stripped.

That should never have happened until there was first a new agreement on distribution. That is where a more sustainable model could have come, and at least made the loss of replays less of a financial burden.

The Football Association would fairly point out they were under pressure to resolve the new format for next season, but that should only have put more onus on the Premier League to sort the new deal.

This issue has been going on for months, after all. It is why this is all about much more than the idea of doing it on the day or not, or FA Cup history. It is about a sustainable future.