Friday, March 04, 2005

Tinkering with Format Undermines Cherished Soccer Trophy

Football authorities in England are under fire again following their latest announcement of changes to the format of their flagship cup tournament, the FA Cup. The English FA had previously courted controversy with the suggestion that the final of this prestigious competition might be held on a Wednesday night, as opposed to the traditional Saturday afternoon, for the 2006 final. This was to allow the England national team a full four weeks to prepare for the 2006 World Cup. Outcry over that proposal have forced the FA to change their plans, with the final now being played a full week earlier. But they have also made other changes to the format, in order to guarantee the earlier final, and it is those changes that have disappointed many commentators and fans.

The latest changes mean that teams involved in the EUFA Cup competition will not have to play replays in the fifth and sixth rounds of the FA Cup. Teams involved in the so-called Champions League will not play FA Cup replays in the sixth round. This opens up a two-tier system, whereby some ties may go to extra time and penalties while others in the same round will go to a replay. One league manager, Neil Warnock of Sheffield United, said of the changes:"It is an absolute disgrace, an example of how authorities seem intent on messing with a competition that should be sacrosanct."