Row brewing between the FA and the Premier League over move to turn FA Cup into midweek competition and threaten £800m TV deal
- The FA will fight hard to keep most of their traditional slots in the calendar
- Staging most matches at weekends is crucial to the overseas £800m TV deal
- Scrapping replays would deny much-needed revenue for lower-division clubs
- The FA are also ready to sacrifice the winter break after just one season
The FA are bracing themselves for difficult negotiations with the Premier League over next season’s fixture list.
Both bodies are determined to secure as many weekend dates as possible because they are the key to delivering lucrative broadcast deals.
While the League Cup could be scrapped or turned into a development competition due to the congested fixture list — as Sportsmail reported last week — the FA Cup also faces being turned into a midweek competition.
Manchester United are among the FA Cup quarter-finalists in action this weekend
The FA are conscious they need to be flexible and are ready to sacrifice the winter break and replays if necessary, but will demand their competition continues to take place primarily at weekends.
This season’s FA Cup resumes on Saturday, following a break since early March, at the quarter-final stage. And negotiations have already begun about how to fit matches into next year’s truncated campaign.
With the Premier League season set to start almost a month late in September, fixture congestion is inevitable, but the FA will fight hard to keep most of their traditional slots in the calendar.
The ability to stage most matches at weekends is crucial to satisfying the terms of their overseas broadcast contract in particular. That deal is worth £800million and runs until 2024, the terms of which would compel them to make significant rebates if FA Cup matches are moved.
The FA are ready to sacrifice the winter break and replays to protect the magic of the FA Cup
The FA agreed a compromise with the Premier League last year to move the fifth round to a midweek slot and abandon replays from that stage onwards in order to bring in the winter break. But they are adamant the rest of the competition must be played at weekends next season.
The governing body are prepared to give ground in other areas, however, including scrapping replays altogether to allow more Premier League games to take place midweek, and abandoning the winter break after one season.
Getting rid of replays would annoy lower-division clubs because they provide much-needed additional income through gate receipts and broadcast fees, but the FA would compensate them by altering the distribution of prize money in their favour.
A number of overseas broadcasters have withheld payments to the FA that were due earlier this year following the postponement of cup ties, but are expected to pay in full…