FA Cup 4th Round

Rule revelation threatens FA Cup tradition

January 23, 2009

The Football Association are confident England's major clubs will not start using a little-known rule to undermine the tradition of FA Cup replays.

It has emerged Manchester United and Tottenham, both severely hampered by injuries and with a fixture backlog looming, could have agreed to play extra-time in their fourth-round tie at Old Trafford on Saturday in the hope of getting a result.

Although such a scenario could not have completely eradicated the need for a second game, as a penalty shoot-out would not have been allowed if the teams were level after 120 minutes, the FA would have been powerless to intervene if the two clubs had decided it was a route they wanted to go down.

As it turned out, Spurs boss Harry Redknapp would not have agreed, while Sir Alex Ferguson was only lukewarm to the idea, which was not possible anyway as the FA had not been notified within seven days of the fourth-round draw taking place.

The rule exists to aid smaller clubs in the very early stages of the competition who might be facing financially-draining replays they cannot afford to stage.

As it has not been used in the competition proper for over half a century, clubs in similar positions have not exploited it in the past.

And even though everyone now knows about the existence of the rule, the FA do not feel many clubs would look upon it as a viable option, partly because it would deny them extra revenue in gate receipts as well as the possibility of being chosen as a lucrative TV game.

Redknapp said: ''I didn't know about it and would not want to try and change the traditions of the cup anyway.''

Ferguson suggested he was going to consult chief executive David Gill, believing, incorrectly, the rule could be invoked today.

''I'm going to speak to David and ask him first of all if this is actually correct because I have never heard of it,'' said Ferguson.

''The criticism would be that we are not adhering to the principles of the FA Cup or the spirit of it - but why have the FA got it in there?''