Coventry city fans are set to stage two protests during Friday’s FA Cup 4th Round tie with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Friday night.
The game, which was switched to Friday evening to suit BT Sport TV scheduling, is the subject of upheaval among Coventry City fans and is also the subject of controversy among football fans in general.
Coventry, who lifted the trophy in 1987 after a 3-2 win over Tottenham (titter, Gary Mabbutt’s knee) are often cited as the epitome of what the FA Cup is all about in terms of magic and romance.
Cash-strapped Coventry will get £123,500 in a television windfall and their management insist they do not have a problem with the rearranged fixture. However Sky Blues fans, who already have to make a 70-mile round journey to watch home games at Northampton’s Sixfields Stadium, are irate at the decision and believe it further tarnishes the image of the world’s oldest cup.
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Supporters of the League One club face either a 190-mile round trip to north London during rush hour or a dash for the last train from Euston at 11.30pm.
The Daily Mail reports that the Sky Blue Trust’s Jan Mokrzycki said in relation to the tie:
I was lucky enough to be there in 1987, so the FA Cup is particularly special to me. But the TV companies are ripping it apart and devaluing the competition. Coventry might be getting TV money, but a match on a Friday night will cut the number of fans who travel by half.
While I sympathise with the City fans, I think they are wrong in thinking that such a move by TV stations and clubs is killing the magic of the FA Cup, as you cannot kill something that is already dead.
I feel that the FA Cup died as a competition in the season 1999 – 2000, when Manchester United took the horrendous decision not to take part in the competition that year, deciding instead to take part in the World Club Championship. The fact that they were Cup holders only added insult to injury.
United blamed pressure from FIFA, the FA and the Government for the move, but the then incoming Sports Minister, Kate Hoy, who United made much of as being an Arsenal supporter, told them to reconsider their position and re-enter the FA Cup.
United said at the time that the decision was taken, as if they hadn’t represented Europe in the WCC competition, that England’s chances of hosting the 2006 World Cup would have been seriously damaged.
Then United Chairman, Martin Edwards, said at the time:
United initially, was prepared to travel and compete in the competition the Government wanted us to play in, as long as it meant we could enter the FA Cup at the 4th Round. Everyone was a winner. But the FA were having none of it.
David Davis, the then FA Chief executive, has since spoken of the incident in his book, insisting that United never wanted to pull out of the competition, but still won’t accept any blame for the situation himself, said:
I did feel I was betraying the FA Cup by giving United the option of withdrawal. Even though I’d spent my life besotted with the Cup, I couldn’t see any other way out. Even now, nobody has presented a way out we didn’t consider.
I’m not prepared to point the finger of blame at Manchester United. I honestly believe that there was pressure put on the club by the money men in Government circles, the FA and ‘Interested Parties’.
Some might point out – “Well haven’t Chelsea taken part in the WCC and still played in the FA Cup” and that may be so.
There is nothing to be gained by pointing the finger at this stage, except to say that it was MONEY, pure and simple that killed the FA Cup. Whether it was the revenues United received for taking part in the WCC to forsake the FA Cup we refer to or the money earned by the UK generally for staging the World Cup, is immaterial.
All I know is that the man who’s writing this opinion, was a young boy in 1971, watching the FA Cup final (in living colour for the first time) and saw his hero Charlie George score the winner and lie on his back with his arms outstretched, waiting to be mobbed by his team-mates.
It was a sunny summer’s day and I remember the bright colours, Liverpool in Red, Arsenal in bright Yellow, the green of the pitch. The singing, the laughter of the Arsenal players and fans as the lifted the trophy high. I lay on my back for years after every goal I scored for my local team, in honour of Charlie.
I was ten in 1971 and this set off an undying love affair with Arsenal and the FA Cup that lasted for years. No amount of money can buy these feeling for a small boy, so I say that the money men in FIFA and the Government should have been told “shove your money”! – take note FA.