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FA Cup replays: EFL and non-League clubs hit out at controversial new format

FA Cup replays from the first round proper have been scrapped from next season; all rounds will be played on weekends, exclusive of Premier League fixtures; the final has been moved to penultimate weekend of season; Premier League to increase lower-league funding to £133m per season

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Managers including Erik ten Hag, David Moyes and Russell Martin have their say on the FA's decision to scrap replays in next season's FA Cup.

EFL and non-League clubs have hit out at the Football Association's decision to scrap FA Cup replays from the first round proper, ending 150 years of tradition.

The FA and the Premier League revealed on Thursday they had reached an agreement for a different format from next season with "new and exclusive calendar windows" which had been agreed upon "in light of changes to the calendar, driven by the expanded UEFA competitions".

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said the changes, including all rounds being played exclusively on weekends without Premier League fixtures and the final on the season's penultimate weekend, would ensure the 'Magic of the Cup' was "protected and enhanced".

FA Cup changes

FA statement on FA Cup changes

"We have listened to the concerns expressed over the last 24 hours, and would like to outline the approval process which was undertaken for the 2024-25 professional game football calendar.

"We have been discussing the calendar for the 2024-25 season with the Premier League and EFL for well over a year.

"Removing Emirates FA Cup replays was discussed in the early meetings and all parties accepted that they could not continue. The discussions then focused on how to make all of our competitions stronger, despite having fewer dates available and wanting to maintain player welfare.

"The changes to the Emirates FA Cup achieve this by returning it to a weekend competition on every round, and ensuring that we have exclusive broadcast slots in an increasingly congested calendar.

"To clarify, we have also increased the number of Emirates FA Cup matches that will be broadcast in the early rounds, which will lead to additional guaranteed broadcast revenue for EFL and National League teams.

"Additionally, we review the prize money annually for the competition, together with representatives from the EFL and PL and will do the same for the 2024-25 season.

"The calendar for next season was approved by the Professional Game Board, which consists of four EFL representatives and four Premier League representatives, last month, and then by the FA Board, which includes Premier League, EFL, National Game and grassroots representation. This is the process we undergo every year to approve the calendar.

"We understand the concerns expressed over the last 24 hours, and we will be sharing more details with clubs very shortly to explain the additional revenue opportunities in the early rounds.

"We will keep this under review as the new calendar begins to ensure that EFL and National League clubs do not lose out."

The FA's statement said the Professional Game Board, which has four EFL representatives including its chairman Rick Parry, and the FA Board had approved the overall calendar for next season containing the changes.

But the EFL says the move to ditch replays is "frustrating and disappointing" and has indicated that it was not involved in the final decision.

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Journalists Sam Tighe and Peter Smith discuss the impact of changes to the format of the FA Cup with replays being scrapped from the first round proper

Furious clubs say they were not consulted while the Football Supporters' Association has relayed the "serious concerns" of fans to the FA.

Replays remain popular with supporters with 69.5 per cent of those polled in an FSA survey last summer believing they were an important part of the competition. However, 70 per cent of Sky Sports users from 9,000 votes on our WhatsApp poll believe scrapping replays was the right move.

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EFL chief executive Trevor Birch

"Whilst the League had previously been involved in discussions over the future of the calendar, these were predicated on the agreement of a new financial deal with the Premier League for EFL clubs which has not progressed.

“This is frustrating and disappointing given the calendar is a shared asset across football and as we have consistently said a whole game approach is required to find solutions to complex fixture scheduling challenges.

"Our domestic calendar has been put under extreme pressure by the expansion of UEFA competitions and ultimately this represents another lost traditional revenue stream for EFL clubs at a time when the financial gap between the biggest clubs and those further down the pyramid is growing bigger than ever.

"We will now be discussing the implications for EFL clubs and seeking appropriate compensation arrangements."

Tranmere Rovers vice-chair Nicola Palios slammed the decision, posting on X: "Seven hundred and twenty nine teams compete in the FA Cup. Why is its format being dictated by the Premier League who represent circa three per cent of them? Why were EFL clubs not given a say? Why is the EPL even dictating whether replays are allowed in rounds they don't participate in? Protest is needed!"

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Dorking Wanderers owner, chair and manager Marc White explains why scrapping FA Cup replays is a hammer blow to clubs up and down the country

Dorking Wanderers owner-manager Marc White told Sky Sports that FA Cup replays were a "significant loss" for lower-league clubs, while Bradford City chief executive Ryan Sparks said they only found out about the decision via the Sky Sports App.

Hereford stressed how their famous FA Cup giant-killing against Newcastle would no longer be possible under the new format.

The club said: "Our city was catapulted onto the football map thanks to the exploits of Colin Addison's Southern League Hereford United team in the 1970s, and his side's FA Cup third-round replay win over First Division Newcastle United in February 1972 remains one of the greatest upsets in the competition's history. No one will ever forget the late, great Ronnie Radford."

How EFL and non-League clubs reacted...

Ten Hag: Fixture overload had to stop

Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag on FA Cup changes:

"It's very sad for the British football culture. But also it's inevitable. No one can do anything for it. It's due to the overload in the schedule. That's dictated by FIFA and UEFA and England is part of UEFA.

"We are a big competition, we have a big influence and impact on FIFA and UEFA but there are so many other countries and they are making the football schedule.

"There is so much overload on the players. It has to stop. I feel really sad for the clubs in England football but for top players this is a measure which can make some space in the schedule."

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Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder claims he is not surprisedFA Cup replays have been scrapped due to the pressure from some of the Premier League's biggest clubs

Who plays more games - the EFL or Premier League?

Image: Portsmouth clinched the League One title this season

Sky Sports' Lyall Thomas and Amar Mehta:

From next season, the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference Leagues will take on new formats that, after qualifying rounds, begin with a larger mini-league in each, meaning more games.

Champions League teams will play 10 group matches instead of six, Europa League teams see theirs increased to eight, while the Conference League teams will stay at six but in the new mini-league format.

But how many more games will the Premier League clubs in Europe really play than those in the EFL? Sky Sports News has worked out that:

  • A Premier League club that qualifies for the Champions League next year will play a minimum of 50 matches. That includes 38 league games, at least one in the FA Cup, one EFL Cup, and 10 Champions League group-stage fixtures.
  • A Premier League club that qualifies for the Europa League will play a minimum of 48 matches (including one FA Cup, one EFL Cup, and eight in the Europa League group stage).
  • A Premier League club that qualifies for the Europa Conference League will play a minimum of 46 matches (including one FA Cup, one EFL Cup, and six in the ECL group stage).
  • In the Championship, clubs play a minimum of 48 games a season (46 league, one EFL Cup, one FA Cup) regardless - just two less than next year's Champions League teams, the same as the Europa League teams, and two more than the Conference League sides.
  • Championship clubs play eight games more than the majority of Premier League teams (those that do not qualify for Europe) anyway, every season.
  • That only increases in League One and League Two, whose clubs play a minimum of 51 games per season (46 in the league, a minimum of one FA Cup, one EFL Cup, and three EFL Trophy group games) regardless.

The FA, EFL and Premier League had been involved in 'New Deal' talks over funding and the domestic calendar, but negotiations over a new financial settlement between the EFL and the Premier League have been put on hold after top-flight clubs opted in March to first focus on agreeing new cost control measures.

How valuable is a replay to a small club?

Cray Valley celebrating forcing a replay against Charlton
Image: Cray Valley celebrate forcing a replay against Charlton

Cray Valley PM compete in the eighth tier of English football but, after navigating through five qualifying rounds, they reached the first round proper this season where they were drawn against League One side Charlton.

They held the ex-Premier League side to a 1-1 draw at The Valley, earning a replay back at their humble 1,550-capacity Artic Stadium.

The tie earned them more than £100,000 with £75,000 coming in TV money, but they also saw shirt sales increase ten-fold, including sales in the USA and Australia plus a full kit to a team in Denmark. It brought the Eltham-based club significant exposure and has funded a new catering unit.

Bullingham: Magic of the Cup protected by changes

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham on FA Cup changes:

"The Emirates FA Cup is our biggest asset and generates over 60 per cent of our revenue to invest into the game, so it is critical to secure a strong format for the future.

"This new agreement between the FA and the Premier League strengthens the Emirates FA Cup and gives this very special tournament exclusive weekends in an increasingly busy calendar.

"The new schedule ensures the magic of the Cup is protected and enhanced, while working for the whole of the English game. The longer summer period also allows a much-needed player break before the start of the next season.

"We have also agreed new funding for the grassroots game, disability football and the women's and girls' game. All football begins at the grassroots, and this is recognised by the Premier League with very welcome additional financial support."

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