The FA Cup – beerless, but peerless?

It was reported last week that the American beer makers Budweiser have chosen not to renew their sponsorship of the FA Cup, leaving the competition searching for a replacement.

The FA Cup – beerless, but peerless?

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February 12th, 2014

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Having been the last of the major English trophies to procure sponsorship – starting in 1994 with Littlewoods in a move which the New York Times described as “finally succumbing” at the time – the deals became progressively more lucrative as the Premier League rose in popularity alongside it. As a competition open to any club in England of any level, the FA Cup is traditionally the place where magic can happen – and has. It was a worthy addition to any trophy cabinet; not least when combined with the league to create a much sought-after Double for any dominant team.

However, the decision by Budweiser not to renew their three-year deal adds fuel to the fire as the debate of the competition’s prestige continues.

With the FA Cup Final having once commanded huge television audiences and a full day’s worth of coverage on Grandstand once the league is awarded – this writer himself getting particularly psyched up at the age of ten for a match between Everton and Manchester United in which he had no particular emotional investment – the tournament’s showpiece final now finds itself plonked unceremoniously at 5.15 before the end of the season as the third tie of the competition to take place at Wembley rather than, traditionally, the only one.

What happened to the FA Cup? Cup Final Day used to be a thing. As is customary in TV coverage, moving the kick-offs benefited TV advertisers who found it more difficult to sell to the husbands who had been dragged out to do the shopping at 3pm than the ones who returned and crashed out on the sofa for the manly pursuit of sport at 5.15.

But with the TV rights moving back to the BBC from next season, could we see a more traditional format return? I for one am hopeful that this will be the case, although the FA’s announcement that they are willing to sell naming rights to the competition to the Cup’s next sponsor worries me greatly – especially if there’ll be nothing left to gain through TV advertising by that point.


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