Football: No FA Cup replays, winter break to fix logjam

LONDON • FA Cup replays will be scrapped for next season in a bid to ease the strain on clubs during the coronavirus pandemic, the English Football Association (FA) announced yesterday.

With a shortened season starting a month later than usual in September, there is more pressure on an already hectic calendar.

So the FA has taken the decision that all ties in the FA Cup will be decided on the day rather than allowing for the usual replay to ease fatigue concerns.

"In order to assist in easing pressure on the football schedule, there will be no replays for the 2020-21 season," it said in a statement.

"After two seasons of record levels of prize funds, the Emirates FA Cup prize fund has returned back in line with 2017-18 levels due to the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic."

Significant changes have also been made by the English Football League to the League Cup in a bid to help teams cope with the schedule.

The first four rounds will be compressed into consecutive weeks in September, with the fifth round held the week before Christmas to avoid clashes with the Champions League.

The two-legged semi-finals, often criticised by managers, will now be played on Jan 5 or 6, with the club drawn first benefiting from home advantage. Premier League clubs will enter the competition in either round two, or round three for sides with European commitments.

The coronavirus pandemic has also prompted the top flight to cancel its winter break next term, according to a report by the BBC yesterday.

Last season was the first time it had been implemented, with each team having one weekend and one full midweek off in February.

It was in response to longstanding calls to follow the example of other top European leagues, whose customary break of between two to three weeks has often been cited as a reason behind their success in both the Champions League and Europa League.

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    Weeks shorter than a standard campaign for the upcoming season due to the late end to 2019-20.

But with the upcoming campaign five weeks shorter than a usual season, it has resulted in fixture congestion.

The need to cram all three domestic competitions on top of balancing European games meant that the break had to be sacrificed.

The new term starts on Sept 12, compared to Aug 9 last year.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2020, with the headline 'No FA Cup replays, winter break to fix logjam'. Print Edition | Subscribe