Yesterday the Football Federation announced that Westfield, their Chairman’s company, would be the inaugural sponsor of the newly created FFA Cup.
This was confusing on one level as the qualifying cup competitions in other states are being sponsored by other companies, for example in Western Australia the qualifying competition is called the Coolridge Cup. One wonders who long this will be the case.
The FFA says they want this competition to grow into a cup competition with the romance of the English FA Cup, which is something most football fans would like to see, but this is going to take time and the current structure is going to have to be revised before that will be achieved, as the current format is too contrived; That is though because of the vast distances in Australia and the costs to travel across the country.
This is the reason why the FFA Cup is unlikely to ever include as many teams as its English counterpart. The English FA Cup was first held in 1871–72. Entry is open to all teams who compete in the Premier League, the Football League and in tiers 1 to 5 of the FA National League System, as well as selected teams in the sixth tier. This means that clubs of all standards compete, from the largest clubs in England and Wales down to amateur village teams. That is unlikely to ever be the case in Australia due to costs and pitch availability.
The key component in the FA Cup that has given it its romance is that the draw for each of the “proper” rounds is unseeded and is broadcast live on television. No teams are seeded in the qualifying round draws either, but the teams are grouped geographically in the qualifying rounds to reduce travel costs. Public interest is particularly high during the draw for the third round, which is where the top-ranked teams are added to the draw. In the FFA Cup A-League teams are expected to be forced to play away from home. If the FFA are as strict on venue suitability as they have been when pre season games have been played away from the main stadia across the country, the competition will flounder. The “lesser” home team must be allowed to play at their home ground and must not be forced to play at another venue.
It would be nice to see television money filter down to those non-professional clubs who are featured, but at present that will not be the case, and that is why their must be allowed to host the game at their home grounds and not forced to play elsewhere, so more people or better seating can be afforded fans. That is the romance of the English FA cup teams, professional clubs playing at semi-pro grounds.
One area the FFA Cup is ahead of the FA Cup at present is at least it has a sponsor. The FA Cup is apparently struggling to find a sponsor after current backers Budweiser said they would not renew the UKL9 million a year deal which ends after this weekend’s final between Hull City and Arsenal. Budweiser has decided to focus on its World Cup sponsorship agreement.
The reason given for the lack of interest from major corporations in Asia, Europe and the USA in taking up this sponsorship is that they feel the FA Cup has lost some of its sheen alongside the Barclays Premier League. Ironically it appears that Barclays sponsorship of the Premier League is now in doubt. The bank has had to shed jobs and is expected to end their UKL40million a year sponsorship in 2016. They have been the major sponsor since 2004.
Is this the start of a swing in sport where sponsors can no longer justify the sums of money being demanded by sporting organisations? The FFA have themselves seen Optus and Qantas pull out of their sponsorship of the Socceroos and word has it they too are finding it hard to find replacements prepared to commit the same amounts of money in the current economic climate.
Whatever happens the FA Cup had teething problems when it started and as is clear still has them still 142 years later. No doubt the FFA Cup will as well, but we should definitely stick with this competition as it has a bright future. With the A-League an exclusive club with no promotion and relegation the FFA Cup if marketed correctly can unite football fans across the country.