FA Cup Statement

The scrapping of all FA Cup replays from the first round proper, starting next season, is perhaps the starkest and most damaging example yet of how the game’s lesser lights are being marginalised by the elite.

As the country’s first fan-owned club, the board at Enfield Town FC deplore this short-sighted approach which is hugely detrimental to the development of and, in some cases, survival of non-league teams.

The FA Cup is the world’s oldest domestic knockout competition and every year hundreds of non-league teams throughout the pyramid dream of reaching the Holy Grail of the first round proper and beyond. Horsham, in our own division, are a classic example, having taken League One Barnsley to a first-round replay this season.

Scrapping cup replays has served only to wreck those dreams, seemingly without any consultation with grassroots clubs.

Replays have long been ingrained in a competition that is is over 150 years old and have provided some of the tournament’s greatest and most iconic moments.

This self-serving, ill-conceived decision has, in one fell swoop, severely undermined the magic of the cup as well as the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime financial windfall.

The trade-off, we are told, is that there will be a significant increase in funding to lower leagues and grassroots football. Where is the evidence for this? The damage this rash, ill-advised move will cause is far greater than the effect of some token payment.

If concerns about a congested calendar for Premier League clubs really is that much of an issue, we fail to understand the thinking behind getting rid of replays in the first and second rounds when neither of the two top divisions take part.

We at Enfield Town FC join scores of our colleagues in urging the FA and Premier League to think again, protect the integrity of the FA Cup and respect the hopes and aspirations of non-league clubs whose underdog status represents the very essence of the competition and for whom cup replays are often their very lifeblood.