NLP Column 18th November 2016
We all know the difficulties fans face from outside factors when following their football team. Family commitments seem greater than ever. Kids aren’t falling in love with the game like they used to, with PlayStations and Xboxes keeping more and more of them behind their bedroom doors, while technology, for better or worse, means for many the working week extends seamlessly into the weekend. All this and we haven’t even touched on the money factor, with so many fans being priced out before they have even got to the ground.
So it was a cause of much frustration last Friday afternoon when news of the FA Cup fixtures for the second round came through, with a cluster of Non-League ties being shifted to Sunday December 4.
At the time of writing before this week’s replays had settled matters for the second round, there was only one guaranteed Non-League fixture set for a Saturday 3pm kick-off – Sutton’s home game against either Cheltenham Town or Crewe Alexandra. We should make the point that each side involved in a Sunday fixture will receive a £12,500 bonus, so for the smaller clubs, there is a nugget of added incentive. It would be hypocritical if we weren’t applauding this because The NLP has been arguing for some time that the FA should be looking after clubs better financially in the earlier rounds of the Cup.
But shifting fixtures isn’t the answer, and we are not protecting one of football’s most treasured traditions – Saturday football. The FA Cup on a cold and wet Saturday afternoon is a time-honoured tradition for fans and players alike. Macclesfield are more than worthy of TV coverage, and we felt that the BBC did a fine job of the Friday night match they covered down at Eastleigh, but what’s the thinking behind nine games being played on Sunday with only one – Curzon Ashton versus Bury/AFC Wimbledon live on TV.
Some will argue that it’s a good thing; spreading the games out over the weekend. But you get more fans through the turnstiles on Saturdays, and a better atmosphere with more chance of an upset – this is what the Cup is all about. We need to cherish and look after what we have already got.
By Alex Narey