Why the FA Cup Matters and My Disdain for the January Transfer Window: Insights from Simon Jordan

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The FA Cup third round, one of the great days in the English football calendar, kicks off on Thursday night and no doubt debates about its relevance and importance will abound.

There will be much hand-wringing about how the Cup has lost its lustre and appeal, but that just isn’t true. It still has value and still means something. Which generation are we asking if it still matters and which generation are we led to believe is the most important? Sky seem to think it’s 12-year-olds with an IQ of 7.

Perhaps we should spend more time getting influencers extolling the virtues of the FA Cup and then we’ll have a more commercially viable proposition.

But, in truth, there’s not a lot wrong with the world’s oldest – and best – cup competition.

There’s been a bit of tinkering around the edges which hasn’t achieved much, but seeding of the third round might work. If Premier League clubs were drawn away and could not face each other it would give lesser clubs more opportunity. That would create more romantic headlines and thus more attention on the FA Cup, which would benefit the competition.

Despite what some ‘influencers’ on Sky TV say, the FA Cup is still massively important

There is not a lot wrong with the FA Cup and it remains a special competition (Leicester City fans pictured celebrating their win in the 2021 final)

There is not a lot wrong with the FA Cup and it remains a special competition (Leicester City fans pictured celebrating their win in the 2021 final)

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While I’m a staunch advocate for aspects of tradition and the value of the English pyramid being maintained, I’m also a realist.

The Premier League is a juggernaut, the only show in town, but that doesn’t mean there is no place for the FA Cup. The pragmatist in me says it is what it is. The Cup needs to be preserved, but it also needs to understand where it is in the food chain.

The Premier League is all-consuming, swallowing and devouring every aspect of English football, and the idea of them selling broadcast rights for the FA Cup is quite repugnant to me. But perhaps given their capabilities as an operation it might be the right move in the long term.

The reason the Premier League is so successful is, primarily, because of the broadcasters. The reason it has become so appealing to a global audience is as a result of the finances the broadcasters have brought. It allowed the best players and managers to come here and enhance the league, to such a level that our top division is now the envy of the world — and all of it comes back to the broadcasters.

The FA Cup third round is special and always will be. It allows smaller clubs to take on the big boys they only ever get to see on TV, but the terrestrial broadcast rights give it the feel and look of what it is, the old man with the rattle.

Liverpool play Arsenal but a seeding system in the third round where Premier League teams avoid each other in the third round and play away could create more romantic headlines

Liverpool play Arsenal but a seeding system in the third round where Premier League teams avoid each other in the third round and play away could create more romantic headlines

That could change if Sky got involved. Look at every sport they touch. As much as I find Sky a virtue-signalling organisation that has lost all credence, they are still able to put on excellent live fare. Look at what they have done with darts, cricket and everything they commit to. It all goes to another level and football was the blueprint for that.

Broadcast rights are not driven by Hereford beating Newcastle on a muddy pitch in the 1970s though, they are driven by seeing the big clubs in the semi-finals and final.

Inside our little prism of value, tradition, meaning, substance and legacy that the Cup has to us, we look back at those moments with fondness, but the great giant- killings of yesteryear don’t mean very much to people around the world, the big games do.

The hand-wringing is just bleeding heart liberals being idealistic. The FA Cup is still alive and thriving. We see meaningful participation from most clubs. Those at the top end of the Premier League should be able to put reserve sides out against Football League teams and still get through, because that’s what Premier League finances allow you to do.

The problem for the Cup is that the FA are utterly incompetent, embarrassingly so to the point that they need to get an independent regulator in. If the FA were a more capable organisation they wouldn’t have handed the rights to the Premier League to sell. If they were more capable they would have enhanced and enshrined the value of the FA Cup, to such a level that it wasn’t always beset by the hand-wringing that accompanies the competition every year.

But if we keep fretting about the Cup and its relevance then we’re adding to the argument that it’s being diminished. Let’s celebrate it for what it is and help ensure its value is maintained.

The third round is still a remarkable day. The structure is about right. The biggest clubs generally win it, although it is wonderful when the likes of Wigan and Portsmouth go all the way and the pyramid is given a chance to shine.

Let’s not worry about what it’s not and celebrate what it is. It has gravitas, history and a European place for the winners. Despite what many would have you believe, there is not a lot wrong with the FA Cup and it remains a special competition.

 

Why I can’t stand hype and circus of January window 

Here comes the freak show. The January transfer window carnival is upon us.

The transfer window — apart from being a financial canker sore on the backside of football — is now a media event with more hype, more engagement and more interest but actually, it’s quite degrading. I find the whole circus reprehensible.

People are seemingly desperate to see how much money can be spent as well as how much profligacy they can applaud.

On one side of the news we have the cost-of-living crisis and on the other we’re cheering for somebody paying hundreds of millions for footballers.

I don’t even understand why we needed to do it in the first place. There was nothing wrong with the old system where clubs could sign players until later in the season.

Enzo Fernandez joined Chelsea for a then British record transfer fee of £107m from Benfica

Enzo Fernandez joined Chelsea for a then British record transfer fee of £107m from Benfica

I’ve always felt it is an awful driver of poor business that only really benefits players and agents.

It’s become a monster and smacks of a ‘What’s next’ mentality. Rather than clubs being built, players being developed and opportunities being created, it’s a case of ‘Who’s next?’

It does of course provide intrigue and I understand that. But unlike the summer window, which has value because you’re creating something, the January window is all about fixing something that’s broken.

Rather than rely on skilled operators such as managers you’re relying on the owners’ chequebook and most of the time, January business is bad business.

As a former owner myself, I think it’s awful. It’s unsettling and only creates expectation and disappointment.

 

What possessed Birmingham’s owners to hire Rooney? 

Birmingham City’s owners have got precisely what they deserve but it comes as no surprise to me.

When they appointed Wayne Rooney, I said from the outset that it was a poor appointment from autograph-hunting new owners without any substantive thinking.

Well, he delivered 10 points from 15 games, took Birmingham from sixth to 20th in the Championship and is now out of a job. A season has been wasted and I’m not in the least bit surprised. We were told they would play ‘no fear football’ but one thing they clearly feared with Rooney was relegation.

I don’t want to bash Rooney. He was a remarkable footballer and fair play to him for having a go at management. But what were his credentials? What was the criteria? The motivation? The blueprint?

What is it Birmingham’s owners thought they saw that suggested he was the man? He must have delivered one hell of an interview, or was his appointment the management version of a shirt-selling exercise?

While Rooney’s managerial career has been dissected, analysed and written off since his sacking on Tuesday, the focus really should be on the intellectual capital guiding Birmingham. 

Wayne Rooney's appointment was poor from Birmingham's autograph-hunting new owners

Wayne Rooney’s appointment was poor from Birmingham’s autograph-hunting new owners

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Criticism of new owners is often about not having the right people advising them and, in Birmingham’s case, that was former Manchester City chief executive Garry Cook. He was supposed to be the experienced head guiding the new owners, yet his sage-like advice was to alight upon Rooney and wax lyrical about his capabilities and the reasons for his appointment at the time. Apparently he was potentially still in favour of keeping the better half of ‘Wagatha Christie’ in situ.

You really have to question Cook’s thinking there. Rooney is a famous footballer who had had a couple of tilts at management. Neither were particularly successful and certainly neither warranted the opportunity to get the Birmingham job.

It’s always difficult for new owners but they really should have left it alone and watched John Eustace, Rooney’s predecessor, play out.

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