FA Cup final set to return to centre stage

The FA Cup final, which for decades was one of the only matches televised live globally, could regain some of its old pre-eminence following talks between the FA and Premier League to again stage it on a day clear of Premier League football.

Last season, for the first time since 1951, a significant number of top flight games were played on the same day as the final when Manchester City beat Stoke City 1-0 at Wembley - a few hours after Manchester United had drawn at Blackburn Rovers to clinch the Premier League title.

The competition, which began in 1871/72 and is the oldest in the world, has lost some of its allure in recent seasons following the cash-laden growth of the Champions League and Premier League with far more prize money on offer.

But a report by financial house Deloitte, commissioned by the FA, emphasises the cup's value to both top and lower league clubs with almost 650 million pounds in prize money, TV payments and gate receipts generated by participating clubs between 2001 and 2011.

"The end of the season has become hugely congested especially in years when international tournaments are staged and players are given a rest period to prepare for the World Cup or European Championships," Alex Horne, the FA's General Secretary, told a news conference at Wembley.


"It puts a lot of pressure on an already-congested calendar having to bring all your dates forward and it is easier to schedule an entire round of Premier League matches on the last day of the season than it is one football match with two prospective teams in it.

"Wembley also staged the Champions League final in 2011 and will again in 2013 and UEFA ask for a 14-day clear period on the pitch and in the stadium to set up the Champions League final.

"So scheduling the FA Cup final as the last game of the season at Wembley isn't possible but what we are doing is talking to the Premier League about making sure that it will still have a day of its own on the weekend - which will remain a Saturday and not on Sunday.

"The Premier League are open to that because it does not necessarily do their competition any good either as fans want to watch the FA Cup final as well."

This year's final is scheduled for Saturday, May 5 when a full programme of Premier League games are also set to take place, but they could be moved to the following day to accommodate the final.

Horne continued: "The FA Cup continues to attract huge audiences throughout the world, especially in Asia.

"China and Thailand are huge markets for English football and the FA Cup in particular. We had a global audience of half a billion for the FA Cup final last year so we know it's a very relevant product."

The detailed financial report shows that Manchester City earned 4.3 million pounds from winning the FA Cup last season and while that might only be a small percentage of their total revenues, it was "still a significant amount."

However non-league Havant & Waterlooville, who reached the fourth round in 2008 before losing to Liverpool, earned 600 thousand pounds from their FA Cup run - 70 percent of their total income for the season.

The report predicts that 24 million pounds in prize money and TV payments will be generated by this season's competition and Barry Hearn, the chairman of League One Leyton Orient, who reached the fifth round last season before losing to Arsenal in a replay, summed up what the cup meant to millions.

Orient earnt around 1.4 million from their FA Cup run, around 30 percent of their revenue for the year and Hearn said: "The FA Cup is the biggest cup competition in the world. It's a big chance for all small clubs to have their moment in the sun and get a little bit of glory.

"Whilst the financial returns are fantastic, it is miles ahead of everything else because of the pleasure it gives to ordinary fans providing memories that last for generations, not weeks."