FA Cup replays to be scrapped from the first round onwards in 2024-25

FA Cup replays will be scrapped from the first round onwards in the 2024-25 competition, writes BBC Sport.  

All rounds of the Emirates FA Cup will also be played on weekends, including the fifth round which has been played in midweek for the past five seasons.

The changes come as part of a new six-year agreement between the Football Association (FA) and the Premier League.

The Premier League has also removed its mid-season break from the calendar. 

Matches will start in mid-August following a consecutive three-week summer break instead of a shorter spell of rest in the winter, with the decision coming from “expert advice from medical and technical departments”. 

In its current format, the FA Cup has no replays from the fifth round onwards, but the FA says the move to eliminate them from an earlier stage has been made “in light of changes to the calendar driven by the expanded Uefa competitions”.

Uefa launched the Europa Conference League in 2021 and the number of teams in the Champions League group stage will rise from 32 to 36 next season, while Fifa has announced an expanded 32-team Club World Cup for 2025.

What are FA Cup new rules?

The FA Cup qualifying rounds – where teams from the fifth to the 10th tiers of English football compete for 32 spots in the first round – will still have replays when ties are level after 90 minutes.

EFL chief executive Trevor Birch said the decision to scrap replays from the first round is “frustrating and disappointing” and that the EFL will be “seeking appropriate compensation arrangements”.

He added: “This represents another lost traditional revenue stream for EFL clubs at a time when the financial gap between the biggest clubs and those further down the pyramid is growing bigger than ever.”

The winners of this season’s FA Cup get £2m, while non-league and lower league clubs get prize money and potential broadcast revenue with each round they progress.

The first round of the FA Cup sees professional teams from League One and League Two enter, with Championship and Premier League teams joining from the third round.

Other changes will see the fourth and fifth rounds, and the quarter-finals, played without clashing with any Premier League fixtures for the first time. 

The fourth round will be played in an extended window from Friday to Wednesday. 

The FA Cup final has also been moved to the penultimate weekend of the Premier League season. 

It will be played on a Saturday, and will also be independent of any Premier League matches, as will the Friday before the final “to allow focus on the build-up to the showpiece event”. 

The agreement also sees the Premier League increasing its funding to grassroots football, with an additional £33m being provided.

“The FA Cup is our biggest asset,” said FA chief executive Mark Bullingham. 

“This new agreement between the FA and the Premier League strengthens the FA Cup and gives this very special tournament exclusive weekends in an increasingly busy calendar.”

‘A short-sighted move’ – reaction

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder said he would have liked the structure of the FA Cup to remain as it was.

“As always, the game is dictated and dominated by the big boys and the big boys don’t want FA Cup replays, do they?” Wilder said.

“I am a traditionalist and I would have liked to have seen it kept the same but the game is moving on and more minutes [are being played] in the game, which people are trying to push back against.”

Tranmere Rovers vice-chair Nicola Palios accused the FA and the Premier League of reaching an agreement “to suit themselves further at the expense of the rest of the football pyramid”.

“Seven hundred and twenty-nine teams compete in the FA Cup. Why is its format being dictated by the Premier League who represent circa [about] 3% of them? Protest is needed!” Palios added.

Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Maheta Molango said football needs “a collective approach” to the global fixture calendar and “not a fight for available dates”.

He added: “The current unsustainable approach to the calendar needs to be seen as an issue for every club at every level if we want to continue to protect our domestic competitions.”

Fair Game chief executive Niall Couper said the decision “deprives lower league clubs of a much-needed source of revenue” and is a “short-sighted move that does nothing to strengthen the game”.