FA Cup tradition vs. economic reality; we’ve seen this tussle before

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I suppose it’s nice to see that lands beyond our own struggle with some of the same issues around their favorite sports – the constant push and pull of tradition vs. economic reality, for instance.

Ahead of today’s FA Cup final, one man who has played in this historic event wonders about the timing. Former England international Sol Campbell, writing in The Guardian, says the kickoff time is wrong (later in the evening, to capitalize on greater ad revenue in the TV slot). And he says the relocation on the year’s sporting calendar (landing on the next-to-last weekend of league play) is a mistake, too.

Campbell’s piece in The Guardian is here.

In terms of tradition, he’s got it right. But Campbell and so many others benefitted (and continues to benefit) from the vast pools of money in the game. And at some point, you have to feed the golden goose rather than just gathering the eggs.

It’s no different than Major League Baseball playoff games that start well into the night – at times when children are less likely to hang in there through conclusion. We’ve been arguing about that one for 30 years.

The FA Cup, perhaps, is one of the properties so filthy rich with tradition that maybe it shouldn’t be touched. Campbell certainly believes so. He’s also bothered by the Saturday kickoff rather than Sunday.

Playing the final on this Saturday has also taken some sheen off the game. Don’t get me wrong, Chelsea versus Liverpool at Wembley in an FA Cup final has sparkle, but it is taking place on the same weekend that the two Manchester clubs are playing in huge, title-deciding league matches, and arguably Manchester City’s match at Newcastle on Sunday is the biggest of the weekend given the quality of both sides and what’s at stake. So to play the Cup final now is bizarre. The fabric of the game is being stripped away and in 10 years’ time we may not recognise it at all.