What would scrapping FA Cup replays mean to the Football League?

By Phil ShepkaBBC Sport

As much as we all may say we dislike the cliche 'the magic of the cup', there is a certain joie de vivre seeing a team from the lower reaches going up against one of the Premier League's big boys.

The chance of a replay adds even more jeopardy, but the Football Association and Premier League clubs are mulling over whether the oldest domestic football competition should be made into a midweek event - with no replays.

The top flight only contains 20 clubs, so what do some of those from the lower leagues of English football feel about those proposals?

'What memories are made of'

Cambridge United
Cambridge lost the fourth-round replay at Old Trafford 3-0

One of the most famous FA Cup replays of recent times came after League Two side Cambridge drew 0-0 with Manchester United at home in the fourth round of last season's competition.

The U's lost the replay at Old Trafford, but from the two matches - both of which were televised - they made about £1.3m, which the club have spent on improving the off-field facilities, like the changing rooms.

"It wasn't just about the money," U's chairman Dave Doggett told BBC Look East.

"The money is important and we've used that wisely, but there's the excitement it generated in Cambridge and people who were not interested in football were in front of the television. That's what memories are made of."

Doggett has pointed to a long-term benefit for clubs and communities that go further than just two 90-minute games of football.

"Our attendances have gone up this year, more mums and dads with their children," he said. "Once people have experienced live football they want to come back."

And what does Doggett think of scrapping replays altogether?

"It would just spoil it," he argued. "How many matches are we talking about? Each round throws up a couple of replays, and really, can footballers not play two matches a week?

"There's only five rounds of it, and if they want to avoid replays then they should put their strongest team out and win it the first time, rather than compromise and moan about it."

'The idea fills me with horror'

Lee Angol
Lee Angol missed the decisive penalty at the ABAX Stadium

Similar to Cambridge, Peterborough United took Premier League side West Brom to a fourth-round replay this year after an impressive 1-1 draw at The Hawthorns.

In an FA Cup year devoid of many shock results, Posh played host to the Baggies in front of a TV audience of 5.6m on BBC One - and only lost the match on penalties.

When asked about getting rid of FA Cup replays, Posh boss Graham Westley responded passionately.

"I hate this talk of messing with the greatest competition in the world," he told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. "It's a competition which helps small clubs to build training grounds, new stands, and it gives so much value to communities around the country.

"There's such a deep rooted benefit to the FA Cup that goes right the way through the national game.

"For the big boys to take away more from the small boys just fills me with horror. I'm not just saying that as a stubborn manager who's stuck in League One. If I was a Premier League manager I'd be saying exactly what I'd be saying here.

"You have to have respect for the whole of the national game, it's not the Premier League's game, it's the country's game."

'Losing its beauty'

Milton Graham
"It's got to be the greatest day of my life, and I'm sure it's the greatest day of all the players' lives," - Harry Redknapp, 7 January 1984

One of the greatest nights in the history of Bournemouth - a club that have spent almost their entire existence in the lower leagues - was their 1984 FA Cup third-round win over Manchester United.

They may not have needed a replay for that, but Plymouth Argyle manager Derek Adams has asked the Premier League to think about what they would want if they were beneath the vast riches the top division has to offer.

"You can't forget about the teams in the lower divisions," Adams told BBC Radio Devon.

"Look at Bournemouth, where they've come from, and they would look at it and think 'what would we have liked when we were down in the lower divisions?'.

"The FA Cup is a tournament where it's a knockout, but we always enjoy the beauty of a Premier League team playing a lower-division team, a non-league team and getting a replay, and the replay can feel like a victory at times for some of these small clubs."

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