The FA Cup with Budweiser
Third Round Proper
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FA General Secretary Alex Horne has hailed “a great day for the Cup” after a string of memorable results including two non-League sides reaching The FA Cup with Budweiser Fourth Round.
The thrilling Third Round action saw Luton Town and Macclesfield Town record home wins in front of capacity crowds against former winners Wolverhampton Wanderers and Cardiff City respectively.
In a terrific opening weekend of The FA's 150th year, Brighton set the tone when they struck a blow for the Championship with a 2-0 home win against top-flight Newcastle United on Saturday lunchtime.
Elsewhere, a sensational strike from in-form Robin van Persie ensured a dramatic 2-2 draw for Manchester United in the late kick-off against West Ham United at a packed Upton Park. That match was televised across the globe, and was notably the first-ever FA Cup tie to be shown live on free-to-air in the United States, courtesy of the Fox network broadcast.
Elsewhere, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur had strong crowds for their victories against Watford and Coventry City respectively, and Peterborough United recorded their biggest gate of the season in losing out to Norwich City.
Speaking on BBC Radio FiveLive’s Sportsweek programme, Horne said the results for Luton and Macclesfield, in particular, underlined “100 per cent what The FA Cup is all about”.
He added: “It was a good day for us yesterday. It was a good day for the competition. Not forgetting Brighton’s result at their home ground against Newcastle. It was a great day for The Cup.”
With live TV matches across the weekend culminating in Monday night’s Cheltenham Town-Everton tie and some mouth-watering replays to come on Tuesday and Wednesday week, Horne said The FA would always look to uphold the traditions of the oldest cup competition in the world.
He said: “We talk regularly about ways in which we should look at the competition.
"What we are very nervous about is tinkering and potentially damaging the competition. You have got to recognise The FA Cup has to appeal to a new generation. It needs to stay relevant in a very different landscape to that which a lot of us remember historically.
“History is clearly important but the game needs to evolve and so we are regularly trying to look at ways to make it relevant to a new audience. Our view is there are absolute fundamentals in The Cup.
“One of those fundamentals is the free draw - the absolute tradition around the ability for a club to be picked away, to be picked at home - against a big club or against a small club. Tinkering with that would be a mistake.”
He added: “Replays are an absolute part of the magic of The Cup. If you look at the replays that were earned, some of the big clubs have got themselves into a spot of difficulty with having to play away.
“Bournemouth, for example, have taken Wigan back. It is a great replay for them, there is a lot of money in it for them. Part of the magic of the competition is that ability for a smaller club to go away and earn a replay. Again, they are an integral part of the competition.”
Last year’s Final between Chelsea and Liverpool took place late on a Saturday afternoon and was watched by more than 500m people across the world and more than 11m domestically - more than watched the UEFA Champions League Final also involving Chelsea - along with the 90,000-capacity crowd at Wembley Stadium.
Horne said: “No longer are people finishing work at lunchtime on a Saturday and getting to watch the 3pm game.
"So 5.15pm worked really well for us from a broadcast perspective, from a new audience perspective - great audiences, a great way to appeal and a great way to keep the magic of The Cup alive.“
Horne also said there were no plans to look at 7.30pm as a kick-off time, especially in view of travelling fans, or move to a different day.
He also touched on The FA’s approach to the millions generated from the competition as part of its not for profit aims.
“The £65m goes back into the game - from The FA, from the broadcasters and sponsors and also the gate money that the teams can earn. £65m a year goes back into the game.”
Click here for details of the Fourth Round draw