Fans up in arms over FA Cup kick-off times

The Football Supporters' Federation have expressed their dismay after it was revealed that fewer than one third of FA Cup third-round matches will be played at 3pm on a Saturday due to television contracts.

The FA Cup.
The FA Cup.

Only 10 of the 32 third-round fixtures will be played at the traditional time on January 5, with the FA’s new six-year £820m overseas television contract contributing to a raft of rearrangements.

There will be one match on the evening of Friday, January 4, seven will kick-off at 12.30pm on Saturday and five at 5.30pm the same day.

Eight matches will be played on Sunday, most at 2pm, with Wolves facing Liverpool on Monday evening.

This brought a warning from FSF chairman Malcolm Clarke, who is now seeking a meeting with the FA to discuss his concerns.

“The third round of the FA Cup on the first Saturday in January was always one of the great highlights of the season, and to have less than one third of the games kicking off at three o’clock on Saturday definitely to some extent diminishes the magic of the day,” said Clarke.

“We do understand that, unlike the leagues, the FA is a not-for-profit body and the money only goes to be reinvested in football...but even so we think from the FA’s point of view there’s a grave danger that they might threaten what I say is the magic of the FA Cup.”

The overseas television deal that has come into force this season was announced by the FA in October 2016, but Clarke said the FSF had been taken by surprise when the fixture list for the third round revealed its full impact.

“We hadn’t clocked that the number (of rearrangements) would be this great,” he said.

“When talking to fans they sort of get it with domestic television, though they don’t like it.

“But the idea of moving domestic games for foreign audiences when people can’t even see it in this country feels like a bridge too far.”

Clarke has contacted the FA to seek a meeting on the issue, saying he wanted to understand how the matches were selected and whether issues such as the geographical distance between the teams involved was considered.”

An FA spokesperson said: “The new deal, which began this season, will see more money than ever before reinvested back into English football and prize money doubled to over £30.2m – with a guaranteed £4m distributed to non-league clubs.”