27 EFL and non-league clubs demand the return of FA Cup replays.
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27 EFL and non-league clubs demand the return of FA Cup replays.

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NEWPORT County AFC is one of 27 clubs who have written to the Culture Secretary, requesting that FA Cup replays be reinstated.

Club secretary Gareth Evans is one of 11 Football League club officials, four from League One and seven from League Two, who signed the letter, which was also submitted to the Premier League, FA, and EFL.

The association has supported a demand by football reform organization Fair Game for an amendment to the Football Governance Bill that would need a majority of qualifying clubs to accept the elimination of replays.

Last month, the Football Association declared that replays would be removed from the first round proper beginning next season, due to calendar changes induced by the growth of European club championships.

A number of clubs in the EFL and lower down the pyramid criticized the idea, with County manager Graham Coughlan calling it a “disaster for football,” and claimed they were not consulted on it.

The letter to Lucy Frazer, the Cabinet minister in charge of sport, began: “We want to rescue the FA Cup. The FA Cup is the world’s oldest football competition, and the decision to eliminate FA Cup replays from the first round proper further diminishes its reputation and does nothing to defend our beloved football pyramid.

“The Premier League’s influence in this decision is simply another indication of football’s widening split, as the differences between and within divisions widen at all levels.

“The FA Cup’s participating clubs were not consulted.” Our clubs and fans have been let down.

“We are determined to see this decision reversed and fully support amending the Football Governance Bill to make sure such a move can never happen again without the backing of a majority of eligible clubs.”

“Go to any club and there will be photos on the walls of great Cup memories, while their fans will be able to recall those magical FA Cup nights,” the statement went on to say.

“We all recall matches like Cambridge United v Manchester United (2015), Hereford United v Newcastle United (1972), Leeds United v Wimbledon (1975), Arsenal v Leyton Orient (2011), and Watford against Tranmere (2020).

“This defective procedure has devalued the world’s most valuable domestic cup competition.

“It is not just about finances, it is about the power dynamics within football. That needs to be overhauled. Concerns about a packed calendar also do not stand up.”

The Premier League said last month that it will offer the FA with up to an additional £33 million in financing every season for a minimum of six seasons to support the grassroots game.

“This decision has become totemic for how the game is being run,” the letter said.

“Decisions are made behind closed doors.” There is a lack of accountability, consistency, and fairness.

“We, the undersigned, call for an immediate reinstatement of FA Cup replays and are encouraging all supporters to lobby their MPs to back the Fair Game amendment.”

Frazer has previously stated that the decision on replays is between the FA and the football authorities.

The FA stated in the original announcement that its Professional Game Board, which includes four EFL representatives, including chairman Rick Parry, had approved next season’s domestic timetable, which included an FA Cup without replays.

In response, the EFL stated that the PGB is responsible for making technical choices across the game rather than significant policy decisions such as competition changes or formats.

“Any calendar decisions made by EFL officials in no way condone the FA and Premier League’s joint agreement, which imposes modifications to the FA Cup competition format in isolation.

“As part of the discussions, EFL representatives challenged the position and were told that clubs would be fine with no replay. They were basically informed that, because it was an FA competition, the fixture list must be approved with as presented.”

THE CLUBS

  • Neil Hart, Chief Executive, Bolton Wanderers
  • Nick Hawker, Chair, Exeter City
  • Neil Peters, Head of Business Operations, Wycombe Wanderers
  • Nigel Clibbens, Chief Executive, Carlisle United
  • Clive Nates, Chair, Lincoln City
  • Mick Buckley, Chair, AFC Wimbledon
  • Andy Holt, Owner, Accrington Stanley
  • Gareth Evans, Secretary, Newport County AFC
  • Anthony Hall, Chief Executive, Swindon Town
  • Mark Palios, Co-owner, Tranmere Rovers
  • Jason Stockwood, Co-owner, Grimsby Town
  • Bill Waterson, Co-Chairman, Altrincham FC
  • Neil Pinkerton, Chair, Gateshead FC
  • Damian Irvine, Chief Executive, Ebbsfleet United
  • Simon Gauge, Chair, Rochdale AFC
  • Matt and Julie-Anne Uggla, Co-owners, York City FC
  • Marc White, Owner, Dorking Wanderers
  • Geoff Thompson, Chair, South Shields FC
  • Mike Vickers, Director, Chester FC
  • David Johnston, Chief Executive, Darlington FC
  • Stephen Cleeve, Co-owner, King’s Lynn Town FC
  • Oliver Ash, Co-owner, Maidstone United
  • David Boggins, Chair, Hemel Hempstead Town FC
  • Jack Miller, Chair, Basingstoke Town
  • Paul Leary, Chair, Marine FC
  • Jim Ayres, Business Manager, Salisbury FC
  • Phil Young, Chair, Bury FC
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