This week’s main report talks about the English FA Cup competition. Explanations of key vocabulary (in bold) can be found at the foot of the post. You can read a transcript for this podcast below, while you can also check out our glossary of footballing phrases here and visit our site to access all our previous posts and podcasts. If you have any suggestions or questions then you can contact us at

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The English Football Association are looking to make changes to the oldest cup competition in the world the FA Cup. The FA Cup competition is about 140 years old: the first tournament was first held in the 1871-72 season. Teams playing as low as the ninth tier of the league pyramid take part in the opening rounds. It is a knockout tournament with a replay and extra time and penalties if the first game is drawn.

On one side, are traditionalists that want to keep the competition as it is, and those on the other side, who believe it is becoming a distraction to the real business of the League and European competitions.

For the current format

Really there is only one argument for keeping the FA Cup as it is. Tradition! Supporters of the status quo argue you shouldn’t mess with history, and if you change it, the Cup will lose its significance. They love the minnows up against the giants and the glory of a cup run.

The FA Cup needs to change

People who say the FA Cup should change point to falling attendances at FA Cup ties, big clubs not taking the competition seriously and fielding reserve teams in some ties, the pressure on league schedules particularly for teams in the Premier League who may be involved in Europe, The FA Cup, the Carling Cup and League games.


  1. Drop the replay. Games go to extra time and penalties if there is a stalemate after 90 minutes. Pros – potentially reduces the number of games teams might have to play. Cons – smaller teams may be denied the chance to play a replay at a big club’s ground and therefore lose money.
  2. Play games midweek instead of at the weekend. Pros – the league schedule does not have to change to accommodate the FA Cup. Cons – attendance may fall further for week day games, there will still be a fixture pile up, and FA Cup games may clash with European games.
  3. Include FA Cup games in season tickets. Over the last few years many clubs, especially higher in the league pyramid, have dropped FA Cup games from the season ticket package. Pros – it will encourage more fans to attend the games. Cons – some teams may lose some ticket sale revenue.
  4. Give a Champions League spot to the FA Cup winner. Pros – this would encourage all teams to take the competition seriously, and fans will be more likely to come and watch their team fight for a potential spot in Europe’s biggest competition. Cons – it may dilute the quality of the Champions League if a lower league club wins the FA Cup (although this hasn’t happened since West Ham beat Arsenal in 1980). Also, the FA Cup place will mean another team fails to qualify even though they finished in the traditional Champions League places.

As for me, well I grew up when the FA Cup was one of THE sporting highlights of the British calendar, played at the end of the season as the grand finale. The TV had special programmes starting early in the morning, spotlighting the two teams and players, going to their hotel, interviewing key squad members and so on. After the game, everyone was outside in the park or on the street playing football and pretending to be the star who scored the winner and won the FA Cup. So, I’m a bit biased and don’t want to see big changes, but I do recognise the Cup is not what it once was. But then neither is the whole game of football.


  • knockout: not a group or league competition. Two teams face each other and only one team goes to the next round.
  • status quo: as it is, (keep) the same
  • minnows: small, less famous teams from the lower divisions or even non-league sides
  • a cup run: wining several matches in a cup competition, advancing to the later stages of the tournament
  • falling attendances: fewer fans coming to watch the games, lower ticket sales
  • stalemate: deadlock, a draw, no winner
  • clash with: be scheduled at the same time as
  • spot: place, berth, position
Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here. If you have any suggestions or questions, contact us at
Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

Free football language podcast for learners of English brought to you by Damian and Damon. Interviews, match reviews, predictions all with full language support for football fans around the world who wish to improve their English language skills.

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I was born and brought up near Chester in the north west of England. I have always loved playing and talking about sport, especially football!
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2010-11Episode 232