In just under 4 weeks’ time the Emirates FA Cup rolls into town heralding the start of the 2018-19 campaign.
While many believe the FA Cup only begins at the 1st round in November or in January when the Premier League enter the 3rd round, over 700 clubs will attempt to keep their cup dreams alive until the end of August.
There have been a few changes to the earlier rounds this year which will help all the clubs taking part. Last year the first game of season for nearly all sides was the Extra Preliminary Round, no league games scheduled before it although some leagues helped their clubs by arranging to fit in at least one league game before the Saturday cup fixture.
To their credit, and they don’t receive a lot, the FA have listened to their member clubs and all sides at that level will have played one if not two games before taking to the field for cup glory.
To also improve the competition for those taking part, there has been an increase in prize money including for those bowing out in the Extra Preliminary and Preliminary Rounds. An increase to £2,250 for the winners of that first game may not mean anything but pocket change to those swelled coffers of Premier League giants.
Whilst the winners benefit, so do the losers to the tune of £750, a new payment brought in this season. It improves further in the Preliminary Round where the victors will take away £2,890 and the losers once again benefit this time to the tune of £960.
As mentioned above this money means nothing to those higher up the food chain but clubs at Steps 5 and 6 any of this money will pay bills, clear small debts and allow some clubs to make some much-needed minor improvements to their facilities which in turn can encourage new supporters and sponsors.
Prize money has increased right through the rounds and although this is a good start, more needs to be filtered down to the earlier rounds to the clubs who need this cash more than their illustrious neighbours, £3 million for winning the cup makes no odds to the balance sheet of a Premier League club given the size of their TV deals, why shouldn’t more find its way to where it can be spent and used more wisely?
And now having looked at their major cup competition and begun to redress the financial imbalance, albeit in a small way, they must turn their attentions to both the FA Trophy and Vase next season and bring them in line to allow clubs to continue trading, playing and being a part of their community, rewarded for progress and not to end up costing clubs to take part just to be able to get their moment in the spotlight.
After all, England have done so much this summer to ignite people’s belief in them, the FA now need to pick up the baton and take the game to the people again.
A feel-good factor will only last as long as it’s pushed along, there’s not been a better time for a long while to get people engaged in grassroots football, the opportunity has to be taken.
Written by Trevor Knell
Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37
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