The FA Trophy is a Tacky Bauble

B.B. King
B.B. King

The FA Trophy cost us promotion two seasons ago, and this season it is in danger of seriously impeding our progress in the league. If we were to win the Trophy this year; our players would be exhausted, our coffers would have a measly temporary boost, and our chances of promotion severely dented. Bah humbug!!

One of the best days of my life was the FA Trophy Final, and it’s a memory I will always treasure. I have to reconcile my negative views on the tournament with the pleasure gained from that happy day. That reconciliation is made harder by the fact I have also attended the FA Vase final, and an FA Vase Final replay, giving me further pleasure from tin-pot tournaments.

The explanation for my apparently contrary views is that Wembley is the draw, not the tournament. When you’re at Wembley supporting a team it feels like you own the place. To be honest it feels like you own London. If Wrexham’s FA Trophy Final had taken place after the play-off final two seasons ago then far fewer people would have attended. To quote BB King badly; the ‘thrill’ would have ‘gone’. Sadly, if we reached the final next year then fewer people would go. We badly need a review of the FA Trophy to balance the desires of fans wanting a trip to Wembley with the need of small poor clubs to cope with unprofitable games. If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written before then you know I have the answer!

I would suggest two changes to the tournament to reduce its burdensome elements. The prize money is only part of the reward for progressing through the rounds. The increased gates, a share of the Wembley receipts, and merchandising all bias the rewards heavily towards the winners. The prize money should be distributed more broadly throughout the tournament to compensate for the low gates. The second suggestion would be to address the burden of extra games. Teams who are still in the FA Cup after Christmas have made a considerable amount from their cup run already. For these teams the desire to progress in the trophy is diminished. It makes sense for them to drop out of the Trophy and allow their intended opponents a bye to the next round. Both teams benefit; both get a break and both get a better chance to progress in a tournament.

The Trophy is great for some of the teams who enter it. Teams who have never been to Wembley and teams at the bottom of their respective divisions enjoy it. Any other teams don’t get a buzz out of playing the earlier rounds. Their attendances go down to leave the fans that refuse to miss games. Don’t get me wrong, I want the tournament to flourish, because it is the equivalent of the FA Cup to smaller clubs, but to expect teams to actually lose money by entering is a bit tough.

The FA Trophy needs a polish, but if it’s rubbed up in the way I propose, then perhaps a Genie will pop out and grant us a decent tournament.

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