A number of football writers have already commented on how mind numbingly tedious the FA Cup draw was on BBC on Monday night. But criticism is easy. As Margaret Thatcher once famously said of Sir Keith Joseph, “Everyone else brings me problems, he brings me solutions.” So here are some of my ideas as to how can we make the FA Cup draw a must –see TV water cooler moment again.
I am sure that for the Tristains and Gideons who live in Islington and work for the BBC marketing department, this probably took hours of planning over their skinny lattes. I am sure on paper it had legs. Place the FA Cup draw in that well- known hotbed of footballing passion that is known as the One Show. Doesn’t one of the presenters go out with Frank Lampard of Chelsea? Next, have one of the stars of Strictly and a FA mannequin with a personality bypass to make the cup draw. Then, to show how the nation is truly enraptured by the FA Cup, pay some extremely middle class passers- by, the new football “consumer,” to put on some replica shirts and shake hands with each other when they find out that they have earned an away trip to some “God forsaken Northern hell hole” which, I presume, is a Watford fans view of a trip to Middlesbrough.
Maybe I just go to the wrong type of game or mix with the wrong people but I am not in the habit of going up to random away fans before a cup tie and shaking their hands and wishing them the best of luck. I go to see Everton win and want the opposition to be humiliated. Sorry, that is how football works. Why can’t the BBC get this? Somehow I struggle to imagine Celtic and Rangers fans shaking each other’s hands in such a friendly manner after a Scottish FA Cup draw. Many of the younger generation have grown up addicted to the fall outs and arguments that are a regular feature of programmes like Celebrity Big Brother. So why not invite fans with football banning orders to a pre draw social event involving copious amounts of free alcohol, transmit the whole event live and thrill as rucks start when Millwall draw West Ham. I guarantee a lack of smiles and handshakes but hugely increased viewing figures.
So, if the future of the FA Cup draw is to be as part of a regular scheduled programme, what are the options? How about having the cup draw being held in the “Rover’s Return” in Coronation Street? Perhaps Pat Phelan, and you don’t mess with him, could threaten the presenters beforehand to ensure that Everton got a decent draw and Ken Barlow could unravel the philosophical implications of the draw whilst supping his half of bitter. Bill Kenwright has already appeared on the Street before so perhaps we could have Joey Barton make an appearance as Norris Cole’s long lost son? Let’s face it, they both talk utter bollocks.
We could also consider handing over the whole franchise to Steven Moffat. We could then look forward to a multi- dimensional quantum time leap type draw where the next round is drawn before the previous round but next year’s draw is included. Perhaps each ball could be thrown into the air to be zapped by a Dalek? Or, even better, why not use the techniques employed by The Voice. Somebody on stage sings a club song, maybe “Nice One Cyril” and the Chairman of all the other clubs turn their chairs around if they want to play that team? The possibilities are endless.
Now, we need to look at the people who are invited to make the draw. Let’s face it, they are just too damn nice and friendly to each other. Nobody really wants that. We need to invite personalities who hate each other to add a modicum of tension to the proceedings. I am thinking about putting Piers Morgan, wearing high heels of course, and Arsene Wenger together. Friendly banter will not prevail here. Or bring back Payet to make the draw with a West Ham supporter, who has just spent over seventy pounds on a Payet shirt for his son for Christmas. Or try placing Roy Keane with his dear friend Mick McCarthy. In fact, it would work with Roy and anybody.
If the FA Cup draw is to remain as a stand- alone programme, there is only one possible host. Rod Stewart is the obvious choice. Never before have so many people wanted to catch up with a Scottish Cup draw in the history of You Tube. To people of a certain age i.e. the baby boomer generation, Rod is the man most real males have always aspired to be. He lives in Los Angeles, trades in his wife for a younger model every five years, has own football pitch and insists on having a hotel room for his model train set when he is on tour. What’s not to admire?
However, I accept that for the millennials, Rod may not mean anything to them. So bring in the constantly award winning Ant and Dec, who are the only people I know who claim to be Newcastle fans but nevertheless appear to be constantly happy all the time. At least Terry from the Likely Lads always looked miserable and had the credibility of having been arrested for fighting after a Newcastle game. However, there may be a problem with opting for Ant and Dec. How do you explain to them that they both cannot pull out the balls at the same time?
My final thought is this. Let’s face it, all clubs are really interested in is money, more so than a Champions League place. If you finish fourth you are often involved in a trip to an unknown Eastern European team, whose name alone is worth forty points in a game of scrabble. Clubs never have made that much money from the Champions League. So why not make it more like the National Lottery draw. From the fourth round onwards, when the draw is complete, have a bonus ball selected and the team whose number matches the bonus ball is awarded a prize of one million pound, kindly donated by either Sir Phillip Greene or any number of mysterious Russian oligarchs.
The basic concept of the FA Cup draw has not changed since the 19th century. Two people (always male) pulling balls from a container. If the competition is to survive this century, we need to re- imagine the whole process! Go Tristain!