The draw for the inaugural Westfield FFA Cup has been met with mixed response from football fans. Which is a shame, maybe it was the timing, being almost lost during the World Cup, or maybe it is the structure.
The FFA Cup is being manipulated too much. Cup competitions are all about who is the best on the day and tailoring a draw so that a non- A- League side makes the semi finals is not the way to go. In truth the whole seeding of the draw seems to have been a little foolish as it will see three A-League clubs eliminated in the first round of 32. If the competition is to be about quality and the promotion of the best teams in the country, this is not good for the game or the competition. Most fans wanted to see an open draw where each club in the hat for the round of 32 was drawn out one by one to find out who their opponents were.
There was a lot of talk about how the A-League sides would be drawn away, which is the case for the Central Coast Mariners, Melbourne Victory, Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar. This could still easily have been achieved had the A-League club’s name been drawn out first and their opponent been from below the A-League in this round, the game would simply be switched to be played at the semi-professional club’s ground.
One of the big questions surrounding the FFA Cup has been what is the benefit to the semi-professional clubs taking part. Obviously it may well give some the chance to test themselves against A-League opposition, and will be a great opportunity for up and coming coaches and players to show what they are made of. As for the clubs, hopefully it will see an increase in people coming to their grounds and buying drinks and food on a match day, but this will only happen if the FFA markets the competition and promotes it in the local press; some of that onus will also come down to the individual clubs to ensure they maximise this opportunity.
The good news is that the rules of competition state that ‘the home Club will incur applicable venue hosting costs and receive all associated ticket revenue, excluding the Westfield FFA Cup FInal which will be run by FFA.” Unless they are forced to move to another venue then there is a chance to make some money. However there is a rider, “each venue will need to meet appropriate Minimum Venue and Security Standards that will be in place for the Westfield FFA Cup.”
Sadly however the FFA Cup games will not be played at weekends leaving clubs less chance to maximise this revenue making opportunity. According to the FFA playing the games on a Tuesday “creates consistency for the viewer and fan to identify with Tuesday night as the night to watch the Westfield FFA Cup.” However not all Westfield FFA Cup matches will be necessarily be played on a Tuesday night, “for player welfare reasons, matches may be rescheduled to Wednesday depending on the league fixtures of the participating Clubs.”
One of the benefits of being a Non League club in England and progressing through the FA Cup is the money generated from the Television rights. Unfortunately the clubs around Australia failed to unite and request a slice of this pie, and with only limited games being broadcast, another opportunity for the clubs that develop players for the A-League to make money has been missed. Westfield is the naming rights partner for the first three years of the competition but as yet the value of that sponsorship has not been revealed, nor the prize money for the winning team.
There will be a minimum of 10 matches in the FFA Cup broadcast on Fox Sports, “One Round of 32 match, two Round of 1 matches, and all Quarter Finals, Semi FInals and the Westfield FFA Cup Final.” However Fox Sports may elect to broadcast additional Westfield FFA Cup matches from the Round of 32. The first Westfield FFA Cup match broadcast live on Fox Sports will be on the opening night on Tuesday 29 July 2014. All broadcast matches will kick off at 7:30pm.
As for the future of the State Cup competitions, these are still yet to be determined. This competition is a great one in concept and was always going to face logistical challenges due to the size of each state, but one cannot help thinking that the current structure is going to have to be altered in the future to make this a competition on par with the romance of the English FA Cup. One simple solution would have been for all A-League sides to take part in their State Cup competitions and then all the finalists put in a hat to play off for the FFA Cup. This would also have helped keep the tradition of the State Cup competitions alive. There is no doubt judging from social media sites that a fair bit of tweaking is going to be needed to engage the established football fan.
As for the clubs, they too would no doubt like to see some financial reward for making it into the FFA Cup as their success will bring with it costs, more bar staff, player bonuses etcetera. Or worst of all hire of another venue to play the match because their own ground fails to come up to standard. These costs could eventually see some clubs opt out of the cup unless monies cascade down to them, and that would be a great shame and an embarrassment to the competition in its early days.
This is a great concept but one that is far from perfect at this early stage. Hopefully with time it will evolve into a meaningful competition that captures the public’s imagination.