Ending FA Cup replays another example of EFL being ‘marginalised’, says league

All replays from the first round onward are being abolished.

The EFL says the agreement over FA Cup replays is further evidence of its clubs being ‘marginalised’
The EFL says the agreement over FA Cup replays is further evidence of its clubs being ‘marginalised’ (Nigel French/PA)

The decision to scrap FA Cup replays is further evidence of the EFL and its clubs being “marginalised”, the league has said.

The Football Association announced on Thursday it had reached an agreement with the Premier League on the future format and funding of the competition, which would include all replays from the first round being abolished.

A number of EFL clubs have criticised the changes and insisted they were not consulted, with the FA releasing a statement on Friday saying it understood those concerns and would share details with them about how any shortfall in lost replay revenue may be made up.

However, the EFL said this was just the most recent example of how the league and its clubs were being sidelined, with Premier League clubs having also decided to halt discussions over a new financial settlement with the EFL.

“This latest agreement between the Premier League and the FA, in the absence of financial reform, is just a further example of how the EFL and its clubs are being marginalised in favour of others further up the pyramid and that only serves to threaten the future of the English game,” the EFL’s statement on Friday afternoon said.

“The EFL today calls on both the Premier League and the FA, as the governing body, to re-evaluate their approach to their footballing partnership with the EFL and engage more collaboratively on issues directly affecting our clubs.”

The EFL insisted in its statement that the decision to abolish replays was “agreed solely between the Premier League and the FA”.

The FA stated on Thursday – and reiterated on Friday – that the Professional Game Board, which features four EFL representatives, had approved the overall calendar for the 2024-25 season which included the changes to the FA Cup.

However, the EFL has said: “PGB is there to make technical decisions across the game as opposed to key policy decisions such as competition changes or formats.

“Any decisions taken on the calendar involving EFL representatives are in no way an endorsement of the joint deal agreed between the FA and Premier League that imposes changes to the FA Cup competition format in isolation.

“As part of the (PGB) discussions the EFL representatives did challenge the position and were told that clubs would be comfortable with no replays. They were effectively advised that, as a result of it being an FA competition, the fixture list needed to be agreed as presented.”

The EFL said that ahead of Thursday’s announcement there had been no agreement with it, or any formal consultation with its clubs.

“In September 2023, the EFL did initially discuss with clubs potential changes to the FA Cup format but only as part of a wider and more fundamental change to financial distributions,” the EFL said.

“As is now clear, there has been no movement in this area since September.”

Sources close to the FA insist all stakeholders have been very aware of the direction of travel on replays.

The EFL, FA and Premier League had been holding discussions on a ‘New Deal’ covering, among other things, financial distribution and calendar issues, with an acknowledgement from all parties that the expansion of UEFA’s club competitions from next season would require changes to the domestic calendar.

The failure of the Premier League and the EFL to reach a new funding deal means the Carabao Cup is set to remain unchanged next season and there are already concerns being raised about the possibility of those fixtures clashing with midweek European dates.

The FA issued a new statement on FA Cup replays on Friday, saying: “We understand the concerns expressed over the last 24 hours, and we will be sharing more details with clubs very shortly to explain the additional revenue opportunities in the early rounds.”

Erik ten Hag says the scrapping of replays is sad, but inevitable given the pressure placed on players by the calendar
Erik ten Hag says the scrapping of replays is sad, but inevitable given the pressure placed on players by the calendar (Andrew Matthews/PA)

On Friday morning Bradford joined a group of EFL clubs condemning the move, which also includes Accrington, Crawley, Grimsby, Peterborough, Tranmere and AFC Wimbledon. The Bantams statement said that although retrospective consultation from the FA was still necessary, it would now be “nothing more than an insult”.

Coventry boss Mark Robins, whose side face Manchester United in an FA Cup semi-final on Sunday, said the decision to scrap all replays did “kick everybody in the teeth” below the top level. United boss Erik ten Hag said the scrapping of replays was “sad” but “inevitable” given the overload of the schedule on top players.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola could understand why lower-league clubs were upset, but said losing replays was “better” from a welfare perspective for players at top-flight clubs.

“I think you know better than me the reason why replays were created – it’s for the lower divisions, I guess. To have the chance, to give an opportunity for these clubs in lower divisions, to have an opportunity to play a big club, good money.

“For them (scrapping replays) is bad. In that sense, it is a problem. It’s a big blow, absolutely. For the big clubs playing the European competitions, it’s much better.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola understands why EFL clubs are upset about replays being scrapped
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola understands why EFL clubs are upset about replays being scrapped (Mike Egerton/PA)

“We have less games in our tight schedule of a lot of games. To find the balance today in the world football is the most difficult thing. I understand that the clubs and the lower divisions can complain about that, because if we have a game here in the Etihad Stadium and we cannot win, we have to go to the team in the Conference or League One. That game is so important for them. This is replacing an FA Cup tradition of many, many years.

“But with the schedule that we have, especially teams that play European competitions and national teams – many players go to the national teams – it’s much better.”

Downing Street said the decision on replays was a matter for the football authorities but said it was incumbent on the FA and the Premier League to explain it, and why it was in the best interests of fans.