After seeing my hometown club bow out of the (Now known for the time being as the ‘Carabao Cup’) a couple of weeks ago, it was only right that I kept an eye on who were the lucky club tasked with the challenge of overcoming our victors. As luck would have it, the Burton Albion supporters (including those 33 diehards at Cardiff) would then be handed a meaty tie at Old Trafford to pit their wits against the mighty Manchester United.
Oh, did I forget to mention that the draw for the third round was made in China, 4:15am UK time? Staying up in the early hours of the morning to watch balls being swirled around a bowl does not really compare to watching the Superbowl or even the Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor fight last weekend. To try and make sense of this, the EFL put out the following statement: “Our decision to go to China is part of a strategic plan to grow the EFL internationally and specifically boost profile and exposure in ASEAN markets. A number of potentially significant meetings are being held around the draw that we envisage will deliver a benefit to all 72 clubs of the EFL.”
As ever, the Football Association declared their intentions were for the good of the EFL and expects the idea to propagate the EFL into the Asian market to be financially rewarding for all 72 clubs. However, is it of any benefit to any of the supporters? Other than the aforementioned Manchester United v Burton, and perhaps Chelsea v Nottingham Forest, there wasn’t to be any real stand-out ties.
In the eyes of some football purists, the Football League are the pedlars of English football. With affordable match ticket prices, cheap food and drink, and a more unpredictable nature. We are all, I’m sure, still baffled as to how senior Football League figures could come together and concoct that delving into another market at 4:15 in the morning would not be a good idea. It is the latest in a series of humiliating gaffes for the FA. The first-round saw Charlton playing two sides in the on-screen graphic. Both clubs saw the funny side amidst the confusion.
Round two saw John Salako inadvertently drawing both QPR and Brentford at home. To be fair, it’s not quite as bad as watching an inebriated Rod Stewart helping out with the fifth round of the Scottish Cup earlier this year. The third round was not televised, perhaps as a sign that the EFL/FA were already aware that nobody in the UK would have been watching regardless. Now I don’t claim to be Mystic Meg, however, I just don’t envisage there being too much interest outside the UK for a cup not necessarily taken seriously by clubs, fans and the media alike here.
Of course, they have made strides to fix its cup competitions. It wasn’t long ago that the FA Cup final was a two-legged affair and that was thankfully abolished. And a couple of years they again came to their senses and agreed to move forward the kick off tie for the final from its 5:30 slot back to its traditional 3 o’clock on a Saturday.
Good for them. Now if they could just scrap the introduction of Premier League Under 23 sides in the EFL cup and move the FA Cup semi finals to anywhere but Wembley, that would be grand. On the 30th August last year, Reading fielded 7 foreign born players against Bristol Rovers in a competition revamped to develop young English players. Fast forward a year and just this week, a game played in the Checkatrade Trophy between Colchester and Reading B drew in an attendance of 527, the lowest competitive crowd in Colchester’s history.
Could the football governing bodies reassure supporters the cups are good and healthy? Only time will tell eh.