Belfast Telegraph

FA in talks with Premier League about moving cup games to midweek from 2021

The disruption to the domestic season caused by Qatar's winter World Cup in 2022 could result in permanent changes to English football, including moving FA Cup games to midweek and scrapping more replays.

Recent seasons have seen the Football Association give up replays from the quarter-finals onward but, with the Premier League eager to move midweek fixtures to weekends, more room needs to be created in the calendar.

This may mean no replays after the third round and it could even see fourth- and fifth-round games played during the week, as weekend slots are more attractive to the Premier League's overseas broadcast partners, the league's big growth market.

Speaking to reporters at Wembley on Wednesday, FA chief executive Martin Glenn said there is no prospect of this happening until 2021, as the governing body has just extended its FA Cup naming rights deal with Emirates and the Premier League has started talks over its next set of broadcast deals.

"There are no plans to do it but we're aware there is value to the Premier League in getting more games from midweek to a Saturday and there's value to fans in that as well," Glenn said.

"There have obviously been discussions around if the Premier League was to get more Saturdays what would they need to give (us). That's all I'll say on the matter. There's an ongoing conversation."

The unavoidable disruption caused by the 2022 World Cup moving from the summer to November/December, because of Qatar's extreme heat, provides a chance to consider radical surgery to the domestic calendar.

The FA, English Football League and Premier League are eager to reduce fixture congestion and are mindful of UEFA's ambition to stage more European club games in the lucrative weekend slots, too.

The attraction of weekends is obvious, as early kick-offs are prime time in Asia and late kick-offs suit the growing North American market.

The most likely concession the Premier League could make would be to agree to a winter break - something England managers have been requesting for years - although it is understood the governing body no longer believes this is essential to improving the national team's fortunes.

Another bargaining chip the FA might consider could be a post-Brexit agreement on quotas for England-qualified players in Premier League squads.

It is possible, however, that nothing will change, as the FA Cup is currently in rude health, bringing in huge sums which the FA invests in coaching, grassroots facilities, the women's game and so on.

" If the Premier League wants more Saturdays, and between us we're trying to solve fixture congestion in the second half of the season, then there are discussions about how to do that which are considerate of the value the FA Cup has to the FA in helping it raise money for all the work we do," Glenn said.

The extension of the Emirates deal to 2021 is indicative of the continuing attraction of the world's most famous domestic cup competition. Understood to be worth £10million a season, the deal comes at a time when the Dubai-based airline is giving up other sports rights.

It had been reported that Emirates would quit the FA Cup as well but it is understood that October's trophy tour of Ghana and Kenya, via Dubai, was well received by the airline's bosses, who were also pleased with the big, global audiences delivered by last season's script of giant-killing and heavyweight clashes.

This season's competition began on August 4, with 737 teams entering and 185 extra-preliminary ties taking place across the country. The final is at Wembley on May 19, 2018.

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