FA Cup replays: Darlington FC sign open letter

By Ray Simpson

FA Cup replays: Darlington FC sign open letter

Fair Game clubs push for change of mind by FA

Football chiefs from across the football pyramid joined forces last night in an angry riposte to the flawed consultation process that has seen FA Cup replays being jettisoned from the first-round proper from next season.

The clubs, including Bolton Wanderers, Lincoln City, this year’s FA Cup heroes Maidstone United, ourselves and over 20 others, have now penned a letter to the Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer backing a Fair Game amendment to the Football Governance Bill.

The decision was made by the Premier League and the FA in a response to pressure on the football calendar. The reaction from the rest of the pyramid has been almost entirely hostile with a vast majority of clubs kept in the dark.

The amendment demands that any change to the FA Cup must require a majority of eligible clubs to back it.

The letter, which has also been sent to the Premier League, the FA and the EFL, said:

We want to save the FA Cup.

The FA Cup is the oldest football competition in the world and the decision to remove FA Cup replays from the first-round proper further undermines its prestige and does nothing to help protect our cherished football pyramid.

The Premier League’s influence in this decision is yet another example of football’s growing divide that has seen the gaps between and within divisions grow at all levels.

Participating clubs in the FA Cup were not consulted. Our fans have been let down.

We are determined to see this decision reversed and fully support amending the Football Governance Bill to make sure such a move can never happen again without the backing of a majority of eligible clubs.

FA Cup replays create lasting memories for generations of football fans – and it is those memories that are priceless.

Go to any lower league club and there will be photos on the walls of great Cup memories, while their fans will be able to recall those magical FA Cup nights.

We all remember ties like Cambridge United v Manchester United (2015), Hereford United v Newcastle United (1972), Leeds United v Wimbledon (1975), Arsenal v Leyton Orient (2011), and Watford v Tranmere (2020).

This whole flawed process has devalued the most prized cup competition in the world.

It is not just about finances, it is about the power dynamics within football. That needs to be overhauled.

Concerns about a packed calendar also do not stand up.

In the last 10 years, there have been less than 10 occasions when a club playing in European football has been taken to an FA Cup replay.

Meanwhile, a Premier League club that qualifies for the Champions League - and there will be only four of them in the 2024/25 season - will play a minimum of 50 matches. That includes 38 league games, at least one in the FA Cup, one in the EFL Cup, and 10 Champions League group-stage fixtures.

However, League One and League Two clubs - and there are 48 of them - will play a minimum of 51 matches (46 in the league, a minimum of one FA Cup and one EFL Cup tie, and three EFL trophy group games). That’s 11 more than Premier League clubs that don’t qualify for Europe.

In the National League the situation is also packed with a minimum of 48 matches for their 72 clubs (46 in the League, and a minimum of one each in the FA Cup and the FA Trophy).

This decision needs to be  overturned.

This decision has become totemic for how the game is being run. Decisions are being made behind closed doors. There is a lack of transparency, a lack of consistency, and a lack of fairness.

We call for an immediate reinstatement of FA Cup replays and encourage all supporters to lobby their MPs to back the Fair Game amendment.