The FA trying to destroy the magic of The FA Cup

For a long time, the press have speculated that the magic of the FA Cup is dying. With dwindling attendances across the country, sides putting out weakened teams and it being low on the list for teams chasing titles, teams chasing Champions League spots, teams trying to avoid relegation and teams trying to win promotion to the Premier League, it certainly does not have the razzmatazz that it had in yesteryear.

The FA Cup is a victim of modern football. As teams chase money rather than success, it becomes more important to be in the Champions League, or in the Premier League, than win the FA Cup.

Fans, however, think different. Ask Portsmouth fans, would they rather be in the Premier League still, or be where they are – League Two – with an FA Cup win in recent years. Ask the same to Wigan fans, would they prefer to have stayed up last year, and lost the FA Cup Final, or get relegated but be winners? I think the answers are obvious. When it comes to the fans, the magic is still there. The dream is still alive. Which is why the behaviour of the FA shockens me.

Whilst clubs do not care too much for the FA Cup anymore, and the media see it as an inconvenience – hence their continual writing down of the FA Cup – the fans still love it. It is still the brilliant old competition it always has been. It is still silverware. A chance for a party on the streets. The FA seem to be doing their best to destroy their own competition with their behaviour around the FA Cup Final.

Kick-off Time

Saturday 3pm, that is when the FA Cup should kick off. This gives enough time in the morning for fans throughout the country to get to the game, whilst time after the game to get home. However, in 2012, the FA decided to change the kick-off time to 5pm. The reasoning behind, as always, was to satisfy TV companies, who felt that a 5pm kick-off time would garner more viewers, both in the UK and abroad.

This shows a blatant disregard for the fans who are important, those in the stadium. The FA Cup is possibly a 3 hour event. Normal time, extra time, penalties and the trophy ceremony. With the 5pm kick-off time, fans have got to be prepared to still be in the stadium up until 8pm. It can then take over an hour to get back to Wembley Station, back to Kings Cross, to catch a train home to where the fans live.

If you were looking at train times, you would be crazy to book anything earlier than 9pm. The last train out of Kings Cross back to Hull is 9.35pm. This leaves little time for anything after the game. Fans of Hull will have to rush back to the station. No pint after the game. No celebrating too long in the stadium if they win. Rather then the FA Cup being an event, the FA, in a chase for TV revenue, are ruining it for the travelling fans.

Even at the semi-final, the Wigan fan pubs were empty as Wigan fans had to rush home to ensure they got a train. This is not right. A 3pm gives everyone enough time to relax after a game, go to a pub for a beer or 6, have a bite to eat, and still get home before Match of the Day starts.

Allocation

A lot has already been made about the ticketing allocation. For clubs to only get 25,000 each, whilst 17,000 go’s to ‘Club Wembley’ members and the rest to ‘the footballing family’ means a little over half of the stadium will be from clubs of both teams.

The problem here is that the tickets for the ‘football family’ will likely end up in touts hands. Tickets are already been sold by ‘legal touts’ such as holiday companies for twice their face value. Whilst I understand that the FA wants to share the final, the fact is that the tickets that do not go direct to the clubs will end up in the hands of fans, at considerably higher than face value. The FA are basically supporting touting.

Pricing

Tell me what is wrong with this picture:

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The FA are greedy. Whilst everyone agreed that the prices for the semi-final were reasonably priced, the prices for the final are not. I understand that it is a final, and prices will go up, but for them to increase by nearly 100% is disgraceful.

The FA are killing their own competition with greed. They have become part of the problem. Any romance still in the FA Cup is with the fans who go. It seems the FA want to erode this.

The FA, fuck you.

Keenos

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Golden oldies move Arsenal to 4th

When Olivier Giroud is your youngest outfield player, you know something is wrong at Arsenal.

For a club who over recent years have been synonymous with bringing through youth players, it highlighted both Arsenal’s injury plight, and a slight change in policy within the club.

The average age of the starting 11 was 29, and that included 23 year old Szczesny in goal. Looking through the list of players and their ages, a point could be made that the team was filled with journeymen foreigners. And for much of the game, we played like that.

Whilst a 3-1 score line certainly did not flatter The Arsenal, it was hard fought and a game that man will forget in a hurry. It was a professional performance. A performance you would perhaps associate with a team of experience internationals.

The defence was solid. Whether by default or design, Thomas Vermaelen at left back ensured that Andy Carroll was not able to climb all over the full back as he so often does. The West Ham striker was blunted by the Belgium in his best performance in an Arsenal shirt this season.

Moving through the middle, Arteta was his usual competent self at home. He is certainly a player who enjoys the time and space he gets playing at the Emirates. Kallstrom busy and controlled in the middle, putting in an argument that we should perhaps make his move permanent.

Ahead of them, Cazorla was everywhere, dictating the game, picking up space, ensuring that West Ham’s thugs could get nowhere near, and Rosicky played with his normal directness.

It is the performances of Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski which is so interesting. After a poor start, Giroud suddenly burst into life, as if he remembered how he was playing at the beginning of the season. Bullying defenders. Showing a good touch. Taking on and running past opponents. And a brilliantly taken goal.

Podolski also showed how important he can be. Whilst he is not a central, loan striker, he is not a left winger. He needs to play further up the field, just wide of a central striker, either in a 442 or 433. In the box, he becomes interested, he is electric. And his 2 goals yesterday reminded us that he can be a game changer. Maybe his future lies as a super sub, Coming in to form a 2 man strike partnership?

Perhaps the biggest positive of last night is that Aaron Ramsey came on and showed no ill effects of playing 113 minutes at Wembley. He covered ground, and changed the game, bringing calmness and energy. He also bought the age of the team down considerably.

The thing now for Arsenal is we have players returning from injury. Ramsey is back. Oxlade Chamberlain is nearly there. Gnabry and Ozil are likely to be on the bench for Hull, with Wilshere returning for Newcastle. Add Flamini who is set to return from yet another suspension (he has missed 6 games this season through ill discipline) and things are starting to look a lot brighter for Arsenal.

Yes, it might be too little too late. But it should be enough to see us to 4th and lift The FA Cup.

Keenos

Ivan Gazidis – Put Up or Shut Up

Yesterday, Ivan Gazidis came out on the clubs website with a statement announcing his “disappointed [that] many of our supporters and also those of Hull City will be unable to get tickets to the cup final.” In what was an attempt by him to show he is on the fans side, fighting the corner of The Arsenal fan, the common fan, the fan on the Clapham Omnibus. I, however, feel different.

In my eyes, Gazidis has taken on a battle he knows he can not win. By coming out against the allocation of tickets for both sets of fans, he appears to be sticking up for us. In fact, he is playing a good game. Gaining some good press. Talking up for the fans with a topic he knows he has little chance of affecting, despite him being a member of the FA Council.

Ivan Gazidis likes to be seen as saying the right thing. Alongside yesterdays statement, he has also come out in favour of Safe Standing. All well and good. Backing the fans. He has our best interests at heart. Or so he would like you to believe.

The fact is, Gazidis has spoken out on two topics which he can not affect. His statement will not get us any more tickets for The FA Cup Final. Nor will just words get Safe Standing into the Premier League. And Gazidis knows this. Speaking about topics which he can not control is brilliant politically.

He gains favour from fans stupid enough to believe he is truly against the current policies, whilst also being able to stand there and say “I don’t agree, but its out of my control.”

Meanwhile, there most important topic for fans at the moment, that of ticket prices, Ivan Gazidis is mysteriously quiet. Where is his backing of the twenty’s plenty campaign – an argument for cheaper away tickets? Why has he not spoken about £100 tickets for home games at The Emirates? The common fan being priced out?

Gazidis can effect these. He could get involved in twenty’s plenty. He could talk about the rising costs of football. He could charter trains to ensure all fans have a way to get home at a reasonable time and cost. But he doesn’t. Why?

Because he is not interested in topics he can effect. He plays lip service to topics he can’t affect in an attempt to pull the wool over peoples eyes. The man is a charlatan.

For a man apparently speaking for the fans yesterday, where was his statement about the disgraceful moving of the Hull game this Sunday? 8 days notices, thousands of pounds down the drain for fans. Surely this is a topic the mighty Ivan Gazidis would be interested in. But no. He does not want to upset Sky. He knows that he could easily solve the problem by offering refunds, arranging free coach’s anything. But he has chosen to remain quiet. A clear indication that when it is a topic he can actually act upon, he has no opinion.

Ivan Gazidis has also spoken out in favour of safe standing in the past. A campaign which is completely out of his hands. Yes, his views might ‘add weight’ to the argument, but let’s be honest, it is very little weight. Why not actively petition Islington Council to allow Safe Standing at the Emirates Cup – a competition outside of the FA’s control – to highlight that it is safe?

More likely is the fact that Gazidis’s words are hot air. Are shallow. He is speaking about a topic which he has little control. Making it look like he is on the fans side, when in fact he is not.

Ivan, if you want to stand shoulder to shoulder with the fans, speak out against our own clubs ticket prices. Join the twenty’s plenty campaign. Let it be known to other clubs that if they offer our away fans tickets for £20, we will make a reciprocal offer.

No matter how much he might pretend to, Ivan Gazidis does not speak for me, he does not speak for you, he only has his own self interests at heart. Sit down Ivan and Shut up.

Keenos