Despite a groundswell of support for the continuance of FA Cup replays by non-league and many lower-league clubs, they are set to be scrapped in a handful of one-off ties this season to ease the fixture congestion.
This may be a long way off for many clubs about to feature in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the competition this coming Saturday, but the prospect of a lucrative cup run and the possibility of a replay at a Premier League ground this season appears to have been dashed.
Premier League clubs had wanted all third and fourth-round replays to be dropped after having 13 top-flight matches postponed over the last two weekends, but the FA are determined to retain them if possible.
FA Cup replays provide around 20 per cent of the competition’s £1billion TV deal each season so the governing body are understandably eager to keep them to avoid paying rebates to broadcasters.
Rather than abolishing all replays the FA will make decisions on individual ties after the second-round draw is made in December, with those involving teams playing in Europe likely to be restricted to 90 minutes.
Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal have already seen two matches postponed, while Tottenham and West Ham have had one match called off.
The FA have shown considerable flexibility regarding replays in recent years, agreeing to abandon them all last season to ease the fixture congestion caused by the pandemic.
There is a determination at Wembley however to fight to retain replays in future years despite the Premier League’s desire to drop them altogether when the expanded Champions League competition begins in 2024.
It is understood that the FA have already had some overseas TV rights for the 2024 to 2027 period on the basis that the third and fourth rounds will feature replays.