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Clubs join forces to fight controversial decision Derby County didn’t know was coming

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There will be no replays in the FA Cup next season. (Image: PA)

The controversy surrounding the decision to abolish FA Cup replays has prompted 27 clubs to demand they be reinstated in a letter to the Culture Secretary.

The group has backed a call from football reform body Fair Game for an amendment to the Football Governance Bill, which would require a majority of eligible clubs to approve the scrapping of replays.

The Football Association announced last month replays were being abolished from the first round proper from next season, in light of calendar changes caused by the expansion of European club competitions.

It means Derby County, who have just been promoted back to the Championship, will play extra time should they be held to a draw in a third round tie next season. A number of clubs in the EFL and lower down the pyramid criticised the move and said they were not consulted. Derby were among those not to be asked for their opinion.

The letter to Lucy Frazer, the Cabinet minister responsible for sport, began: “We want to save the FA Cup. The FA Cup is the oldest football competition in the world and the decision to remove FA Cup replays from the first round proper further undermines its prestige and does nothing to help protect our cherished football pyramid.

“The Premier League’s influence in this decision is yet another example of football’s growing divide that has seen the gaps between and within divisions grow at all levels.

“Participating clubs in the FA Cup were not consulted. Our clubs as well as the fans have been let down. We are determined to see this decision reversed and fully support amending the Football Governance Bill to make sure such a move can never happen again without the backing of a majority of eligible clubs.”

As part of the decision to axe replays, grassroots funding will be given an extra £33m by the Premier League for a minimum of six seasons. But critics have hit out at football selling its soul and the letter added: “This decision has become totemic for how the game is being run.

“Decisions are being made behind closed doors. There is a lack of transparency, a lack of consistency, and a lack of fairness. We, the undersigned, call for an immediate reinstatement of FA Cup replays and are encouraging all supporters to lobby their MPs to back the Fair Game amendment.”

The FA, the Premier League and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have been contacted for comment. Frazer has previously said the decision on replays was a matter for the FA and the football authorities.

The FA said in the original announcement that its Professional Game Board, which features four EFL representatives including its chairman Rick Parry, had approved next season’s domestic calendar, which included an FA Cup without replays.

The EFL said in response: “PGB is there to make technical decisions across the game as opposed to key policy decisions such as competition changes or formats.

“Any decisions taken on the calendar involving EFL representatives are in no way an endorsement of the joint deal agreed between the FA and Premier League that imposes changes to the FA Cup competition format in isolation.

“As part of the discussions the EFL representatives did challenge the position and were told that clubs would be comfortable with no replays. They were effectively advised that, as a result of it being an FA competition, the fixture list needed to be agreed as presented.”

What do you make of the FA Cup changes? Have your say in the comments section.

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