Published on February 25, 2013 | by Gabriel Colyer


Fans frustrated by United’s FA Cup TV domination

Wayne Rooney celebrates with Javier Hernandez during Manchester United’s FA Cup fourth round win against Fulham [Kinney Cheng]

Last Monday, ESPN televised Manchester United’s FA Cup fifth round victory over Reading, making it the 39th FA Cup tie in a row that Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have been selected for live broadcast.

It was eight years ago the last time Manchester United played an FA Cup tie that was not shown live on TV, a home draw to Exeter City in the Third Round.

While this ‘streak’ might delight United’s huge fan-base, the decision to continually choose the current Premier League leaders for broadcasting – seemingly regardless of their opposition – has come under fierce criticism from managers and owners of lower league clubs, with Macclesfield Town’s chief executive recently labelling the TV scheduling “farcical.”

However, it is not just managers that disagree with the schedulers. Many fans believe that since it is the rich history of ‘Giant-Killings’ that have earned the FA Cup the nickname ‘The Cup of Dreams,’ the smaller clubs should be given the chance of live broadcast more often.

Martin Dylan, a lifelong Manchester United fan, said: “Historically the FA Cup has always been at its best when small, lower-division teams go on improbable runs, taking on the grand and expensive titans of the First Division, and now the Premier League. The romantic stories of thrilling upsets are what make it different from any other tournament, and what makes those matches, where there’s potential for giant-killing, the best matches to watch.”

Julian Biermann, an avid Chelsea supporter, pointed out that as well as live-television exposure, the financial implications for a lower-league or non-league club would be great: “It seems the schedulers are definitely too favourable towards Premier League teams. I read that clubs chosen for broadcast in the fourth-round received almost £150,000, teams lower down in the leagues need that money for their survival, Premier League teams don’t!”

Nicolas Jones, who is a lover of the sport despite never supporting a particular team, watched all the weekend’s televised matches and admitted it wasn’t United’s victory that he was left thinking about.

“I was much more entertained by Oldham’s display at home to Everton,” he said. “It was great to see a minnow grab a last minute equaliser against an established Premier League team to force the replay. As a neutral, that is the sort of match I want to watch, that is what the FA Cup is all about.”

IT Student and Manchester United fan James Murray, 22, is not a Sky TV subscriber, and said he jumps at any opportunity to watch his team live. However, he admitted he could understand why managers of smaller clubs would feel aggrieved.

“I don’t have Sky, meaning I don’t often get to watch United’s games live, so assuming Chelsea beat Middlesbrough in their replay, I’d love the chance to watch them play knock-out football against each other on ITV,” he said.

“But to be honest, I don’t think it was worth broadcasting all three of United’s last Cup games, which were all against other Premier League teams, they should have given the more intriguing fixtures like Norwich vs. Luton the air-time.”

However, 22-year-old bookmaker Eden Darninsuang believes the fact that United are a prime draw cannot be denied: “Manchester United guarantee an audience whoever they play against, it’s just a fact. Honestly, I think the majority of the time the broadcast schedule is fair. There has to be a balance and by constantly selecting United as one of the Premier League teams they choose for broadcast, it acts as a safe-net. United guarantee viewers.”

Its hard to argue with United’s popularity, but it goes against the FA Cup’s unique magic to keep featuring the Red Devils on TV, instead of the heart-warming runs put together by minnows, who surely deserve their time in the sun – and a tidy sum of money which could help them for many years.

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