Startling figures published today show a marked decline in attendances for the 3rd round FA Cup matches that took place this weekend.

The 3rd Round ties see the Premier League clubs join the competition which is billed as the World’s most famous Cup competition. ITV did their best to heighten the atmosphere with their usual montage of FA Cup history and broadcast of live matches pretty much one after the other in peak time TV.

Some attendance figures were down over 50% compared to similar fixtures in the 2011/12 season and a paltry 8,900 fans attended the Premier League teams QPR v West Brom fixture.

A number of factors could have affected these figures – the hangover from Christmas and New Year, the financial credit crunch or indeed just an overkill of football. All teams played 4 matches between Christmas and New Year which is a staggering fixture list that is then immediately followed by the FA Cup 3rd round weekend. The problem is there are just not enough dates in the calendar to fit in all these ties.

The FA, and most importantly their sponsors must be concerned that the “magic” of the FA Cup is being eroded. When the financial importance of the Premier League grows ever more for clubs and fans alike, the cup competitions, no matter their heritage, will continue to lose their gloss.

With these disappointing statistics for the FA Cup, it will be interesting to see what the Capital One League Cup can deliver in terms of attendances and TV audiences.

The FA may need to go back to the drawing board to look at ways of changing the structure, timing and relevance of the FA Cup going forward.

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