Cup replays – traditional and rewarding or timewasting and costly?

Last night’s thrilling 4-4 encounter between Motherwell and St Mirren in the Scottish Cup 5th round was a great advert for Scottish Football – goals, a comeback and lots of penalties – everything we love about a cup tie. 

St Mirren won 3-2 on penalties and progressed to face either Aberdeen or Kilmarnock in the next round – but at what cost? 

The Paisley side are currently in the midst of a relegation battle to stay in the top flight, this financially would be massive for them to stay up and be worth more than staying in the cup for a couple of rounds. 

The replay came 3 days before a crunch bottom of the table tie against Hearts in Paisley on Friday and whilst the team came through the tie without any fresh injury concerns, the risk involved in this and how it could affect a relegation battle could have been catastrophic for the Buddies. 

Many fans have asked the question why the original tie at the Simple Digital Arena could not have went to extra time and penalties on the day – with the recent bad weather that has caused games to be called off creating more fixture congestion.

This is an argument that has been going on for years. As a relevant example this year we have seen Liverpool play the Under 23’s team in cup games as they were focusing on their Premier League campaign – this has clearly worked for them as they are now on the verge of winning their first title in 30 years.

After Liverpool played their youth squad in the replay against Shrewsbury Town, a number of fans said that they were ‘disrespecting the cup’ and its traditions. 

For years cup replays have been a staple of British Football (it rarely happens in any other country in World Football) and has been seen as a tradition that makes us stand out from the rest. 

It can also be hugely beneficial in a financial sense to smaller clubs, again, the Shrewsbury Town example of getting to play 2 games against the European Champions and generating a cash windfall from it. 

Auckinleck Talbot are one of the sides that would benefit financially from a replay with a big club and UWS news spoke to Match Secretary Henry Dumigan (pictured) to discuss the impact replays can have on clubs like Talbot. 

“It’s great for smaller clubs, if you can get a lucky draw or replay with a top-flight side at their ground then it can keep clubs like us running for years to come. Look at us as for example, we played Hearts twice at Tynecastle in the last 8 years and the money made from that has been invested back into the club and the community. We’re now actively trying to get our side into League 2 of the SPFL pyramid after dominating the junior division for years and we could only have done that with the money raised from games like that. I understand that bigger clubs may not like replays but I don’t think they should be scrapped as for a smaller club like us, a replay can mean life changing sums of money.”

Whilst cup replays can be financially rewarding for smaller clubs looking for a big payday, on the other hand, it can be hugely problematic towards clubs in higher division that have bigger priorities (e.g. a title race or relegation fight). 

This is in the way not only of fixture congestion and possible injuries – but a disservice to fans who will have to pay for another ticket, travelling to another game and paying for food/drink etc when the tie could have been wrapped up on the day of the original tie. 

St Mirren Supporter’s Liason Officer John Allison spoke to UWS news to air the views of St Mirren fans on this issue: 

“(I) Spoke to a small group of fans on Friday night, this was before Saturday’s game was cancelled and the majority were in favour (60:40) of there not being any replays, this ranged from the extra fixtures causing St Mirren problems when we have so many injuries and a crucial league game on Friday, to also the cost of extra games and any travel associated with a replay.

My own take is that I think there should be a replay in the Scottish cup, as it differentiates that from the league cup and gives some teams a chance of a season saving payday.  I would however drop the extra time in the replay and go straight to penalties.”

It’s clear that despite how damaging they can be to some clubs, the rewards that a replay can bring to the smaller clubs is the main reason why fans still don’t want replays scrapped. 

Maybe it’s just us as British football fans that we see our traditions of something bigger than the cold, corporate world that football is slowly becoming. 

We can at least salvage the fact that we still see traditions like this is a positive light despite the fact there is of course negative aspects to it as well.  

by Craig Rae

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