By Jeremy Whitehead
Last Updated: 13th March 2018
For those following clubs in the lower leagues, and especially the non-league clubs who make it to the third round and beyond, a good run in the FA Cup certainly retains much of its historic charm and appeal for supporters. This is not least because the world’s oldest association football competition has produced numerous appealing David versus Goliath encounters over the years, where semi-professional minnows have hosted professional top-flight giants at their own tiny grounds and won.
To this day, people still talk about the dramatic and stunning goal scored by Ronnie Radford, when non-league Hereford United beat Newcastle United 2-1 at Edgar Street in 1972, or fifth-tier Sutton United enjoying a thrilling 2-1 win against top-flight Coventry City in 1989, less than two years after the latter had won the competition. More recently during the 2014-15 campaign, a Chelsea side that would eventually win the Premier League that season, suffered an embarrassing FA Cup defeat against Bradford City, who mounted a spectacular comeback after trailing by two goals and ran out 4-2 winners away at Stamford Bridge.
That there’s always a chance of an upset being caused by a National League side, against one of the best teams in the land, is arguably what makes the FA Cup so appealing. Nevertheless, there have been countless debates amongst fans and pundits alike over the last decade or so, suggesting the FA Cup has perhaps lost some of its magic of old. By the time the third and fourth rounds are played, Premier League sides are in the midst of one of their busiest periods of the Premier League schedule, meaning that some field weakened sides in the FA Cup.
Champions League now the priority
The prestige and huge prize money on offer in the Premier League and European competitions such as the Champions League, means they are the inevitable priority for the biggest clubs, seemingly devaluing the importance of the FA Cup. However, interest amongst fans does appear to be on the up again, with domestic TV viewing figures for the third round rising to 17.9 million for games broadcast on the BBC and BT Sport in 2018, compared to 13.8 million in 2017. This has apparently prompted the Football Association to double the prize money available from the 2018-19 season, as they can attract bigger deals with sponsors, and aimed at encouraging the biggest clubs to take the famous cup competition more seriously.
Of course, for anyone following football betting odds here at William Hill, the chance to win big on a potential FA Cup upset remains just as appealing as ever. It might have endured a lull during changing times in the modern era, but the FA Cup is heading into the future with all the magic and charm that makes it so popular and fascinating. Not just for fans in England, but also for those around the world, who watch with envy from afar, thanks to the magnificent history and stories that the FA Cup will always boast.