Minnows may be out of the FA Cup before it even starts! Hundreds of small football clubs could be EXCLUDED from historic competition in 2020-21 if next season is delayed
- Hundreds of small football clubs could be excluded from next season’s FA Cup
- Qualifying rounds in August could be scrapped if next season is delayed
- Money is awarded for winning each round which makes big difference for some
Hundreds of small clubs could be excluded from the 2020-2021 FA Cup if the start to next season is delayed.
With EFL clubs insisting that the first round proper should take place in its usual November slot, there are growing fears that qualifying rounds for non-league teams will be scrapped if the full football pyramid fail to start the next campaign on time in August.
A total of 739 clubs entered the FA Cup this season, with the first extra preliminary round being played in early August. But there is concern only the fourth qualifying round in mid-October will take place next season in order for league fixtures to be completed.
Hundreds of small clubs could be excluded from the 2020-2021 FA Cup if season is delayed
That would leave room for only 64 non-league clubs from the National League, National League North and National League South with clubs below the sixth tier unable to enter.
Fears of missing out have already been discussed by the boards of several lower leagues. With their clubs already hit badly by the lockdown, one proposal is that the Football Association divide the regular prize fund to all clubs, though that would depend on the FA’s own financial situation.
Clubs receive prize money for winning in each round of the Cup and reaching the first round proper would have earned teams £46,000 this season, a significant windfall to many clubs whose annual turnover would barely reach £100,000. National League club Sutton’s run to the fifth round in 2017 earned them £700,000 in prize money and TV fees.
Clubs receive money for winning each round and can make a huge difference to small clubs
The FA Cup is renowned throughout the world and any reduction in numbers would be a massive blow — though perhaps unavoidable.
Many non-league clubs have let players’ contracts run down to save money over the summer and they are clinging to the hope that the Government will allow gates of up to 500 fans when their leagues resume.
It’s a sign of the declining importance of the FA Cup to the top teams that resuming this season’s competition has barely had a mention in all the talks over Project Restart, despite FA chief executive Mark Bullingham and chairman Greg Clarke taking part in all the video meetings.
There are fears clubs below the sixth tier will not be able to enter competition next season
Sheffield United, who are drawn at home to Arsenal in the quarter-finals, are one of the clubs known to want more discussions on how the competition will be completed.
Blades manager Chris Wilder said: ‘From the FA’s point of view they will want to get it done. And we do too. We’ve worked hard to get where we are and we don’t just want to give that up.’
The FA wants this year’s final to be played the weekend after the Premier League is concluded, but the priority is arranging dates for remaining league fixtures first.
Should the Premier League restart on June 13 or June 20, one proposal is for the quarter-finals and semi-finals to take place in midweek between league games, but it would also be possible to play both semi-finals and final over a four-day period at Wembley in early August.
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