The FFA Cup appeals to many football fans. There are however equally as many who struggle to find anything to make this a plausible competition.
For a start most Cup competitions the World over know where the final will be played before the competition commences. This is not the case in the FFA Cup. The good news is that after one season the Cup Final will now be played on a weekend rather than midweek. This will allow fans from interstate a better opportunity to attend if their team makes the final.
The competition is a 32-team knockout tournament with pairings for each round drawn based on a seeding system to ensure the progression of teams lower down the Australian league system, usually the NPL in each state. This again does not appeal to a large section of football fans. They want to see the smaller clubs take on the full time professional sides. They want to see the winners there on merit, not because the seeding system favoured them.
Then there is the issue of grounds on which the games are played. With the games being played midweek the standard of floodlights at many of the semi-professional grounds is not adequate enough to host an A-League side, even though the game is not being televised.
With the A-League season not under way when the early rounds are played one has to wonder why games cannot be played at the weekend. Yes, they clash with other codes on Television, but as only one game is usually broadcast live, that one game could be the one played midweek, the others could be played at the weekend and the highlights shown in an edited highlights show. This was the benefit for NPL or State League clubs playing in the competition. They would earn the opportunity to benefit from drawing a large crowd to their ground and making some money.
Next is the question as to whether a game should be decided by penalties in the first instant if it is a draw. If a side, especially a semi-professional side, manages to achieve a draw after full time and extra time against any side should not the away side benefit from taking the team back to their ground for a replay? Let’s be honest the football calendar is not that overcrowded that this could not be accommodated. Both A-League and NPL sides in the main only play one game a week, so on the occasions that this would happen is it such a monumental issue? Sure there would be a cost, but it would make the competition a lot more interesting and may in fact attract more fans, hence more revenue.
The draw is set up so that one non-A-League side is guaranteed to make the semi-finals, and incredibly when this team makes it to this stage the public are supposed to believe that it is a “fairytale.”
This year Hume City has made it to the semi-final and stories that they are looking to sign a former big name international star for the game against the Melbourne Victory make a mockery of the competition. First of all why would they want to sign a 37 year old World Cup winner in David Trezeguet, who struggled in the Indian Super League in 2014, and subsequently announced his retirement? How would the players who have managed to get them to this stage feel, as one of them is bound to miss out?
Obviously he is not cup-tied, meaning he has not played for another side in the competition, but should clubs be allowed to bring in players for one game? The fee is allegedly $50,000 for one game. Will he pull that through the gate? So is this really good for the game? If allowed surely Harry Kewell or Lucas Neill would be a bigger drawcard?
All competitions take time to bed down, the European Champions League when it first started took time to be accepted. Sixteen teams contested the first tournament in 1955-56 and there was no English side as the English FA did not see any worth in such a competition. It was only Sir Matt Busby and Manchester United who, on earning the right to play in the competition, told the FA they were accepting the invitation that things changed.
The timing of the FFA Cup is ideal, NPL or State League sides are coming to the end of their seasons so should be fit, and teams should have gelled, which will enable them to be more competitive against their full time professional opponents. The A-League clubs are in pre-season so they would not be at full fitness and neither would new signings have dove-tailed into a squad properly, which evens up the odds.
The competition is only in its second year and the fact that the final has been moved to a Saturday shows that changes are being made. Hopefully there will be no seeding in the next few years and teams who earn the right to play in the competition will be afforded the right to play at home, and if they gain a draw on the road they are given a replay. Only when these finer details are sorted out will the competition truly capture the whole of the footballing public’s imagination.