Football: FA Cup keeps replays

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THE FOOTBALL Association yesterday repelled the latest assault on the integrity of FA Cup when it rejected a proposal to dispense with replays, writes Glenn Moore.

The suggestion followed next season's expansion of the Champions' League which could cause fixture congestion for clubs progressing in both competitions.

But the Challenge Cup committee decided the interests of less than a handful of teams should not be allowed to overrule those of the 550-plus who enter the 127-year-old trophy.

However, the anomaly created by this year's decision to complete the final on the day is to be continued. The move was largely prompted by a possible fixture clash with the European Cup final even though it is a problem which could only occur if Manchester United reach the FA Cup final on May 22 and the European final on May 26.

An FA spokesman stressed that this decision was also due to the sense of anticlimax experienced by fans attending the final at not seeing a result. Critics argue that the retention of a final replay would benefit fans since more genuine supporters are able to attend such games.

The decision to retain replays for the rest of the competition was applauded by Bryon Butler, whose Official Illustrated History of the FA Cup was reissued yesterday in an updated edition. He said: "To have dispensed with replays would have damaged the fabric of the competition."

The majority of clubs will also welcome the news. John Hollins, the manager of Swansea City who knocked West Ham out of this year's competition in a replay last week, said: "It's a fair decision. I think every team should get a chance to play at their own ground. It gives clubs the chance to experience a night like we had at the Vetch last week. With such a prestigious competition it should be too much to ask to find space for replays."