In fact, its decline has been a constant reminder of the emphasis on money-over-everything attitude that has engulfed the game – leaving the FA Cup seriously damaged.
The games are dull, the big teams are weakened and the one thing it desperately needs – money - is sorely lacking.
But before we go any further, indulge us while we investigate how the FA Cup lost its magic - and what can be done to salvage it.
1. The third round comes after the busiest period of the league season
The third round of the FA Cup falls in the first week of January, just after most teams have played four league games in less than two weeks over the Christmas and New Year period. So when the FA Cup kicks into action, the desire to rest players for upcoming league games outweighs the need to progress in the cup – adding to the tournament’s anticlimactic feel.
2. FA Cup weekends are a disaster
The only third round FA Cup game that caught the eye this season was AFC Wimbledon vs Liverpool. Not only was it a David vs Goliath clash, it was a throwback to a time when the FA Cup actually meant something and we could all reminisce about ‘the good old days’. The majority of games were the likes of Rochdale vs Nottingham Forest and Derby vs Southport which, frankly, no one cares about.
Also, the fact big clubs aren't really taking things seriously is proved by the fact that Manchester City felt they could take a money-spinning trip to Abu Dhabi days before their “shock” fourth round exit to Middlesbrough.
3. No Champions League place for the winner
Perhaps the most important point on this list. If the FA wants to save the competition they simply have to offer its winner a place in the Champions League. It’s the only way the big teams will take it seriously and restore its credibility as a tournament worth winning, if the Premier League agrees of course, which it won't. Most clubs that have a realistic chance of winning the FA Cup will have a decent chance of qualifying for the Europa League through the league, so why not up the stakes? It’s radical, but may be the only sure-fire way of saving the competition.
4. The best games are often not on terrestrial TV
Where were you when Bradford beat Chelsea? You probably can’t remember because, if you’re in the UK, you weren’t watching it. How can anyone tell the grandchildren about earth-shattering cup shocks if no one can watch the games? The BBC came under fire for not showing any of Bradford’s games live this year – but as they had to decide their schedule weeks in advance they cannot really be blamed. The FA needs to give broadcasters more flexibility.
5. Double Wembley jeopardy
Reaching the FA Cup final gives you not only one trip to Wembley but two! Why? Well, the FA (yes, them again) needs to pay off its debt for the national stadium sooner rather than later and feel that selling 62,000 tickets for Wigan vs Millwall, for example, is the best way to achieve this. Could that game have been played at a venue that didn’t require Wigan fans setting off at 6am? Yes, but the FA makes the decisions… remember that!
6. No sponsor
It’s not hard to see that the FA Cup is struggling given that it can’t even attract a sponsor. This year is the first in almost 20 years that the tournament hasn’t been sponsored. Sponsorship may not add any magic to the tournament, but given the era we’re in, the lack of money streaming in should worry the FA.
7. Terrible scheduling
The FA Cup is all about shocks and seeing Manchester United brought back down to earth with a trip to Yeovil. But if the shocks and surprises happen every round, every year, they cease to become shocks. The tournament’s scheduling (from January to May for the big clubs) coincides with the business end of the more attractive Premier League, Champions League and Europa League competitions – meaning clubs have to prioritise. The FA Cup is last on that list. The Capital One Cup, meanwhile, is done and dusted by late February/early March and is a much more attractive prospect for the big clubs.
8. Replays are boring
Yeah, yeah, it’s part of the cup’s heritage and it helps the small teams but, come on, replays are a farce and a complete waste of time. The fact that small clubs rely on replays at bigger clubs to make money is an archaic and frankly ridiculous concept that attempts to paper up the cracks of the Football League and financial disparity with the Premier League. Would you prefer to have seen Cambridge vs Manchester United go to extra time and penalties? Of course you would – it would have been epic! Instead we were subjected to a meaningless and forgettable replay that served no purpose other than allowing Juan Mata to score a goal.