FA Cup romance killed off

DAVID CUFFLEY ITV chief executive Michael Grade's cup was running over after yesterday's announcement of the new television rights deal for England internationals and FA Cup matches.

DAVID CUFFLEY

ITV chief executive Michael Grade's cup was running over after yesterday's announcement of the new television rights deal for England internationals and FA Cup matches.

ITV and Setanta will be the FA's new broadcast partners from August 2008 to July 2012 in a deal worth £425m, a 42 per cent increase on the current £300m agreement with the BBC and Sky.

The fickle FA seems to have had as many partners as Sven has had girlfriends, always looking for the suitor with the biggest wallet.


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But Grade, who left the BBC only three months ago, reckons ITV have a great deal.

“The FA Cup is undoubtedly now much, much more valuable than when the last deal was done four years ago,” he said.

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“We think we've paid the right price and that this deal will be profitable for us and the FA.” Well, the FA Cup may be more valuable - should we say profitable - but, new Wembley or not, the romance of the competition and its capacity to produce fairytale winners have all but been destroyed over the past 20 years.

In the 18 finals since Coventry and Wimbledon had back-to-back successes, only six different teams have won the trophy.

Arsenal and Manchester United have had five wins each, Liverpool four, Chelsea two and Everton and Spurs one each.

In the last 11 finals, no one outside the big four has won the FA Cup and it will take a miracle to stop either Manchester United or Chelsea winning it this year.

Great if you support one of the elite, but a complete turn-off for the rest of us.

Add to that constantly changing sponsors, ridiculous kick-off times to suit armchair viewers, the long-running Wembley fiasco and the year when holders Manchester United didn't even take part and I would say the FA Cup has been seriously downgraded - worst of all, by the body that runs it.

Football Association chief executive Brian Barwick says the revenue raised from the new TV deal will be pumped into grass roots football.

“From this deal we'll have in excess of £106million per year to put back into football,” he said.

Oh well, at least it will help to pay off Steve McClaren when the time comes.

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