Published: July 5th 1999
FA Cup Special
- The Devil May Care -
I thought I'd add my bit to the great FA Cup debate by posting an open
letter to our dear beloved Sports MInister who seems to be more interested
in his own self esteem than the future of the game in this country.
I write to register my protest at the withdrawal of Manchester United from
this coming season's FA Cup. I believe this to be the first major step in
the devaluation, denigration and ultimate destruction of our national game.
The FA Cup is the oldest Cup competition in the world with a massive
following worldwide culminating in a Final at Wembley which attracts a huge
TV audience and is a football showpiece of which this country can be proud.
The new competition is a mere glint in the eye of it's organiser and in
time will quite possibly be a desirable one for the European Champions to
enter, but not yet and definitely not in preference to the FA Cup.
On the FA's website it lists reasons why England should be considered as a
host for the 2006 World Cup. It states: "In 1871 a 'Challenge Cup' was
established. Today, The FA Cup continues to be the most prestigious club
competition in the world." Oh the irony of that statement in the light of
Acting Chair David Davis said, "We at the FA care desperately about the FA
Cup and it's history, it's tradition and it's excitement. That's our
heritage. We won't sell it short." Well obviously words come easy to Mr
Davis, especially considering the statement on the FA's website and I think
you'll find that if you asked anyone who actually cares about football
whether forcing the FA Cup holders out of the competition was not
"sacrificing" the competition itself, they would laugh a hearty laugh in
It is perfectly obvious that Mr Davis does NOT care a jot for either the FA
Cup, Manchester United or in fact the future of football in this country
and consequently, not a jot for supporters either. And because you as
Minister for Sport, have also argued in this respect I would suggest this
must also apply to our elected Government. So as supporters of Manchester
United we are now expected to be the latest sacrifice on the altar of
personal advancement that "New Labour's" politicians have become symbols
for are we?
Keith Cooper, the FIFA Head of Communications was interviewed on Radio
5Live last week and categorically denied that it made any difference
whether Manchester United entered the tournament in Brazil or not as it
would have no bearing on which country gets the 2006 World Cup.
So what is going on?
The FA and yourself are saying that you are only asking Manchester United
to make this sacrifice because it affects Englands chances of getting the
World Cup and FIFA are saying that isn't true. So which of you are telling
the truth because someone obviously isn't?
What price the world domination Blatter bandwagon now, and where do you
suppose it will stop?
The vague possibility of England gaining the World Cup in 2006 is no reason
for the sacrifice of Europe's leading club in order to kiss the arse of
FIFA who's President seems intent on further disrupting the football
calendar by pushing through the notion of a World Cup every two years. And
then what will happen to our domestic game? How will our top clubs cope
with an extra series of games to contend with if this ridiculous notion
gets the vote?
Surely we should be thinking ahead with respect to our own country and our
own football. Yes, the World Cup would benefit the country, but should
Manchester United be sacrificed for the mere possibility? I think not. And
what happens if you do not succeed in tempting the FIFA panel to give
England the 2006 World Cup? Won't Manchester United and their supporters
feel just a little angry and won't you look just a little foolish? I think
you know the answer to that one.
Mr Davis also said, "We will be discussing the future of the FA Cup
ourselves because we cherish it and we are going to carry on cherishing
it." Empty words yet again. If the intent is to "cherish" then you DO NOT
sacrifice. Yes, we could "lose away at Stockport" and that IS the magic of
the FA Cup, but can we do it ourselves please and not just think of it as a
Anyway aren't United already playing in Tokyo against Palmeiras for the
World Club title? We've been down this road before in 1968 when I stood on
the Stretford End and watched our players get kicked into submission by
Estudiantes. This was supposed to be the World Club Championship back then
and I was under the impression it still was, but it appears they have
renamed it the Toyota Cup - how convenient. So it's just another TV
friendly spectacular now then, just another meaningless fixture played
purely for financial gain and the voracious appetite of television. So are
we getting into a situation where no-one knows who the real champions are
and all the so called Titles are meaningless, just like in Boxing?
The sacrifice goes far beyond missing out on the FA Cup though. Manchester
United are being asked to play in Brazil in the height of their summer, in
searing heat and high humidity. The Dutch team went out there recently and
came back decimated by injury and illness that took some of them weeks to
recover from. Where would that leave Manchester United's season and their
quest for another European Cup if they were to be similarly struck down?
Not only have you taken away the possibility of Manchester United competing
for another Treble but who knows what the long term consequences will be by
playing in such an environment against teams who are hardly world class.
So, exactly who IS going to gain from Manchester United toeing the 'Party
line'? Well, ultimately probably no-one unless of course Manchester United
win the competition. And you may say that is enough, but I'm afraid I and
tens of thousands of other Manchester United supporters wouldn't agree. We
can't be there and probably won't even be able to watch, not that anyone's
interested in televising it anyway. Not only that, we don't get to see our
team defend the FA Cup, and make no mistake, last season's campaign was the
best I have ever seen, and I refer back 40 years.
Ultimately Blatter's baby will more than likely develop into a fully grown
adult competition and by then both you and the Labour Government will have
been tossed out of it's pram with the rest of the toys along with England's
2006 World Cup bid.
Finally, did anyone consult the Manchester United players? Judging by their
reaction to the club's withdrawal from the FA Cup, it doesn't look like it.
An appearance in an FA Cup Final is every players dream and you intend
taking that away from them.
I know that no supporters were consulted either even though we are the wage
payers - the lifeblood of the game etc. So does anyone care about football
supporters? It's obvious you do not, nor the FA, or FIFA and neither do the
Labour Government it would seem. You are the football public's
representative. We depend on you but all you have done is sold us down the
river for personal and political gain. Thanks, but no thanks.
Football has it's roots in this country - look after them and the game will
prosper - ignore them and it will die.
Yours sincerely - hoping for a better future.
I'd like to have added a question like, isn't blackmail illegal, and maybe
something about the FA etc reminding me of the International Olympic
Committee, but I didn't think I'd better!!!
And briefly on another topic, it seems United are opening a chain of stores
in the Middle East.
Peter Kenyon, United deputy chief executive, said the club was committed to
delivering its retail concept to the Middle East.
"We understand how passionate the people of the Middle East are about sport
and football in particular and in any case they've got to have something to
spend their money on - they can't spend it on drink" Kenyon said in a
statement which continued, "anyway at least it should keep Terry Dale
The Devil May Care - DMC.