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Clubs Like Tamworth FC Worry for Their FA Cup Futures

Monday Feb 10, 2020

 Everyone connected to Tamworth FC loves a good cup odyssey, exemplified by the incredible runs the club have previously made to the main draw: taking Stoke to penalties in 2006, hosting Norwich in 2007 and visiting Goodison Park in 2012, and who can forget recent fairy-tale results The Lambs have pulled off; beating the likes of Cheltenham Town, Crewe Alexandra and Hartlepool United. Of course, the club fell just short of making the main draw this season, falling to the hands of Darlington, a match that drew a home flock of 1,358 fans. But are bumper gates and lucrative away ties at top tier clubs in danger of being lost forever? With the likes of Jurgen Klopp deciding to favour winter breaks over the FA Cup, the once revered cup competition risks becoming surplus to requirements for the big boys, so what would this mean for Tamworth?

 Is the FA Cup Losing Its Sheen?

  

 When Jurgen Klopp announced that he wouldn’t even attend Liverpool’s FA Cup 4th Round replay against Shrewsbury Town, hackles were raised across the Football League and non-league, with figures such as Accrington Stanley’s owner, Andy Holt, describing the German manager as “a disgrace”. Even former Liverpool legends and pundits criticised the move, with Danny Murphy saying he didn’t “see any reason” for the manager not to be present. However, it was Holt’s criticism that rang true for teams down the English football pyramid, essentially saying that the dominance of the Premier League was being prioritised over the survival of clubs who operate at a community and grassroots level. With the odds continuing to shorten on the idea of a breakaway European Super League, brought on by UEFA making sneaky alterations to the Champions League format, the worry is that the powers-that-be are becoming detached from the realities of the game they’re tasked with protecting. One thing is for sure: whether you’re fighting Championship relegation odds, clinging to Football League status, or like Tamworth, having to play through four rounds of qualifying to reach the 1st round of the FA Cup, surviving financially outside the English top flight is harder than ever before.

 What Lies Ahead for Non-League Teams?

  

 For all the talk of the demise of the FA Cup (and indeed the already diminished – whoever’s sponsoring it these days – League Cup) there are those who see value in non-league clubs jumping ship first, to abandon such competitions to focus instead on the likes of the FA Trophy instead, thus providing their fans with a cheaper, more accessible football experience, the exact reason why many of them prefer to follow non-league football in the first place. After all, at the beginning of 2020 there were just two non-league teams still left in the FA Cup, proving that for many bridging the gap to more financially dominant teams is already proving close to impossible. But perhaps non-league teams should embrace this and market themselves as the cost-effective grassroots connection to the game that they are; offering a matchday experience that all the family can still attend without dropping half a monthly wage on row-Z tickets. If Premier League teams’ plummeting FA Cup attendances are anything to go by there are swathes of disillusioned fans, all sat on their arses, mashing their Sky remote, wishing they were stood on a terrace with a pie in hand, and the smell of freshly cut grass in their nostrils.

 This is a debate that’s only set to intensify, as the trickle of television money coming from the Premier League slowly dries up and its teams use competitions like the FA Cup as a proving ground for their youth teams. No doubt Tamworth fans will have plenty to say on the matter on forums. It remains to be seen if the suits at the FA, Premier League and UEFA will choose to listen to their concerns, or marginalise them more than they already have.
  

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