How TV Fails To Reflect The Magic of the FA Cup

The 4th round of the FA Cup at the weekend produced some great upsets. Luton won at Norwich, Oldham beat Liverpool, MK Dons thrashed QPR.  You could have seen the Oldham win live on ITV but the other games were only available as highlights.

Looking at the games that the television companies with the rights to live games, ITV and ESPN, chose makes you wonder at their priorities. The choices on Sunday were fine with the games at Brentford, Leeds and Oldham all having the potential for good stories. However, on Saturday the games that were chosen were, to say the least, uninspiring. The choices were Stoke v Man. City and Man.Utd v Fulham. Both of these games would be run of the mill clashes on any given Premier League programme. From the reports I read of the games, I didn’t watch either as they seemed so uninspiring, I didn’t miss much. How much better to have chosen a game featuring a lower league club. Not necessarily one of the games that produced a shock but possibly the  games at Brighton or Macclesfield. There were any number of matches that were potentially more interesting than the ones they chose.

The 4th round of the Cup, like the 3rd round, is mainly about the chance of a shock result for one of the smaller teams against a big name. Unless there is a really big clash, such as the Manchester derby in last year’s 3rd round, the TV companies should be showing games between minnows and giants. There will be plenty of opportunity to show the all-Premier League confrontations as the Cup reaches its later stages.

I read yesterday that Manchester United’s last 38 FA Cup ties have been shown live on TV. That’s an amazing run. Some of those will be in the later stages when every game is on but there were many in the 3rd and 4th rounds that haven’t merited live coverage. It’s also quite lucrative for United in terms of the money they receive for a live game. They don’t need that money. What a boost it would be for a small club to get that money if their game was on. Sometimes it can be the difference between profit and loss for a season. Of course, it isn’t the TV companies job to support the small clubs, although perhaps ITV ought to help clubs out after the disaster a few years back with the collapse of one of their contracts. It would be nice if they would bear it in mind when choosing their games. I suspect however, that when showing Man Utd games in every round their eyes are only on the worldwide viewing figures.

I wait to see which 5th round games will be chosen. There are some intriguing ties, but  Man.Utd v Reading isn’t one of them. It will, however, be no surprise if the cameras are at Old Trafford for United’s 39th live game in a row in the Cup.


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