Paul Parker

The FA nearly killed the FA Cup – but they have the power to fix it

FA Cup winners Chelsea on parade in 1997

Obviously Paul Lambert is under pressure at Aston Villa but his comments regarding the FA Cup this week were not just disrespectful to the competition but also English football in general.

It is disrespectful in the extreme to clubs who started their FA Cup campaign back in September to say that major clubs could do without the distraction of the world’s most famous cup competition.

If you pin a player down, then the opportunity to play at Wembley in a FA Cup Final will remain seriously high on their career objectives. Unfortunately, you won’t hear players come and say that as they tend to peddle the same old jargon at press conferences nowadays.

We must also remember the financial benefit the FA Cup and the League Cup bring to lower league clubs – it can be the difference between survival and extinction.

Let’s not fool ourselves: the FA Cup is not held in the esteem it once was, and there are a number of reasons for that fact. However, it remains an integral part of the English footballing calendar.

The Football Association obviously bear much of the responsibility for this lack of respect that the competition has received the last few years.

The decision, for example, since 2010 to not play the final after the last game of the season has lessened the anticipation toward the game. The FA degraded and completely disrespected its own competition as a spectacle.

Thankfully, common sense has prevailed and the FA Cup Final will this season re-take its rightful place as the curtain call on the domestic season. It should have never changed in the first place.

Obviously, the other factor that has had a detrimental impact on the prestige of the competition is the all-encompassing shadow of the Champions League.

The obsession with the Champions League is understandable - it reaps huge financial benefits for clubs.

But while the English game needs to adapt and move on, the FA has a responsibility to protect the integrity of the FA Cup - and the revenue streams of some lower league clubs.

We must showcase and protect our own competition, and, the FA could even use the importance of the Champions League to rejuvenate the FA Cup.

It has been said before, but if the winners of the FA Cup were given a qualifying spot for the Champions League – i.e. the qualifying round spot that currently goes to the team that finish fourth in the Premier League – then the FA Cup will re-emerge of as one of the most important games on the English footballing calendar.

Money is paramount in football. Imagine how much interest a more-or-less one-off play-off for a spot in the Champions League would generate. The excitement would be huge. This would ensure that top clubs would take it as seriously as it deserves to be taken, and, in doing so, protect its integrity.