In a week when English involvement in European football competitions all but extinguished, Aston Villa the only survivors in the lowest ranked cup of the three, there was something innately miserable about the major FA Cup announcement from the FA and the Premier League.

Condemnation has been pretty much universal.

We look at how the development will impact teams in the South-West but what are the proposed changes to the oldest club competition in world football?

From next season, all replays will be scrapped in the FA Cup from the first round onwards and all rounds of the competition will be played on weekends.

The FA said the decision has been made “in light of changes to the calendar driven by the expanded UEFA competitions”.

The Europa Conference League (the competition still involving Aston Villa) was launched in 2021 and there are further plans to expand the number of teams competing in the Champions League group stages and the Club World Cup.

As compensation to grassroots clubs, the FA and Premier League have pledged an increase in funding sent down the football pyramid.

The arguments for these changes are the stresses placed on the playing staff of the top clubs (yawn), but a quick look at the stats tell a different story.

Liverpool have played the most games out of Premier League clubs, 52 so far this season, but this is exceeded by EFL clubs Peterborough, Blackpool, Port Vale, Bolton, Wimbledon, Newport and Wycombe, all of whom have miniscule resources in comparison.

If top managers are so concerned about burn-out for their top players, make better use of your massive squads.

Here is just one example: Manchester City beat Huddersfield 5-0 in the FA Cup third round and included Ruben Dias, Phil Foden, Manuel Akanji and Jack Grealish in their starting line-up. No disrespect to Huddersfield but surely this was the chance to rest the top players, and that tale of false woe is repeated throughout the Premier League.

There are certain elements to this announcement that make for depressing reading.

Why are the FA and Premier League making the decision on a competition that is precious to the whole pyramid? What about consultation with the Football League, National League and other leagues lower down the pyramid?

The whole point of the FA Cup is the potential glory it offers to all teams. The 2023/24 FA Cup started in August with 640 clubs lining up with the opportunity to achieve something special.

If a competition is going to be completely fair, the views of all participants should be equal. There should be no distinction between the wishes of Exmouth Town, Truro City, Taunton Town, Weston-super-Mare and those expressed by Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool.

All teams start as equal, that is the whole point of a fair competition.

And it is a safe bet, apart from perhaps the top 30 to 40 clubs in the country, nobody wanted to see changes to the FA Cup format. That means at least 600 clubs would have voted against the proposals if there had been a vote.

Fair enough, Exmouth, Falmouth, Wells City and all clubs at that level have a very small chance of reaching the first round, where these non-replay plans will be implemented, but that’s not the point.

It is the hope that makes the FA Cup so special, the hope of progressing through the rounds, of earning a replay against a relative giant of the game. Can you get a draw and take a big team back to your home ground, or get a draw to earn a trip to a big stadium?

Move a bit further up the chain, and the highest-ranked South-West clubs have their own tales of glory that only happened because of FA Cup replays.

In 2005, Exeter City produced an unbelievable display to draw 0-0 at Manchester United. This was a United team at the peak of their powers and the replay brought Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and more to St James Park.

Skip forward to 2017, when Plymouth Argyle battled to an incredible 0-0 draw at Anfield. The Home Park replay was a wonderful occasion, with Liverpool greats Trent Alexander-Arnold, Phillippe Coutinho and Jurgen Klopp all descending on Devon.

Ask anybody at clubs lower down the football pyramid, probably even from the Championship, and their response to an increased UEFA calendar, more teams in the Club World Cup will be: Who cares?

Nobody watches the Club World Cup anyway, even the current holders, Manchester City, didn’t want to play in the competition. 

What football fans do care about is their local team and the FA Cup is the greatest opportunity for grassroots football clubs to forge their own moment of history.

Please leave your comments on our social media pages or you can email them to me on