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All FA Cup replays scrapped, wiping out potential revenue for lower-tier clubs

Peter Byrne - PA Images / PA Images / Getty

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Replays in the FA Cup — for so long a big money-maker and potential lifeline for lower-division teams in English soccer — have been scrapped from next season.

The Football Association, which organizes the FA Cup, cited "expanded UEFA competitions" as the reason for a move that was taken following talks with the Premier League.

Earning gate receipts and broadcast revenue from an extra game, especially against a top Premier League team, can be a game-changer for smaller clubs, bringing in as much as £1 million.

However, the FA Cup recently got rid of replays from the last 16 onward, and on Thursday said there won't be any from the first round, a decision that was heavily criticized by the English Football League, which runs the three divisions below the Premier League.

"Ultimately this represents another lost traditional revenue stream for EFL clubs at a time when the financial gap between the biggest clubs and those further down the pyramid is growing bigger than ever," EFL chief executive Trevor Birch said.

The EFL will be "seeking appropriate compensation arrangements," Birch said.

Space on domestic soccer calendars is increasingly tight, even more so from next season when there will be an extra 64 games in an expanded Champions League and four extra midweeks during the season for European games. England is unusual in still having a second cup competition — the League Cup — too.

Chris Wilder, who manages Premier League club Sheffield United but has spent much of his coaching career in the lower leagues, would have preferred replays to have stayed.

"As always, the game is dictated and dominated by the big boys. And the big boys don't want FA Cup replays, do they?" Wilder posed.

"As a traditionalist, what does that do to non-league clubs who get into the fairy tale world of round three (when top-flight teams enter the FA Cup) ... and the financial implications that gives them? There are clubs who have financially benefited from it for the next three, four, five years."

The move comes as part of an agreement between the FA and the Premier League that will see up to an extra £33 million go to the grassroots game from the top flight each season.

The Premier League will be contributing more money to a stadium fund, which can be accessed by clubs from the lower leagues for infrastructure improvements.

Also as part of the agreement, the fourth round, last 16 and quarterfinals of the FA Cup, the world's oldest knockout competition, will be played exclusive of Premier League games for the first time.

The FA Cup final will be played the weekend before the end of the Premier League season. Currently, it is staged the weekend after.

"The new schedule ensures the magic of the cup is protected and enhanced, while working for the whole of the English game," FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said his competition had been "committed to enhancing the scheduling of the FA Cup, a hugely important domestic competition with a storied history."

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