FA Cup third and fourth round replays could be scrapped to ease fixture backlog

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FA Cup third and fourth round replays could be scrapped this season as clubs look to catch up on games postponed following the death of the Queen.

The replays were ditched in each of the last two seasons, and the PA news agency understands this is one solution under consideration to solve the fixture backlog.

Last weekend’s Premier League programme was called off as a mark of respect and two more high-profile fixtures, at Chelsea and Manchester United, have been postponed this coming Sunday.

It leaves clubs facing a potential fixture pile-up later in the season, exacerbated by the pause in the campaign caused by the World Cup in Qatar.

Seven top-flight matches will take place over the weekend, with Brighton v Crystal Palace the other game off having already been postponed due to planned rail strikes.

“Following extensive consultation with clubs, police, local Safety Advisory Groups and other relevant authorities, there was no other option but to postpone the three fixtures,” a Premier League statement read.

“The Premier League would like to thank the UK Football Policing Unit and other police forces across the country, as well as our broadcast partners, for their support during this process, and will continue to liaise with them ahead of the weekend.

“For the matches being played during the period of national mourning, tributes will be paid to the Queen at Premier League stadiums.

“New dates for the postponed matches will be announced in due course.”

The kick-off times for two of Sunday’s games have also been altered, Brentford v Arsenal now starting at 12 noon rather than 2pm and Everton v West Ham starting at 2.15pm.

Thursday’s Europa League game between Arsenal and PSV has been postponed with police resources in London stretched in the build-up to the Queen’s funeral on Monday, September 19.

But Chelsea’s midweek Champions League game against Red Bull Salzburg will go ahead as planned, and the midweek EFL programme is unaffected.

Chief Constable Mark Roberts of Cheshire Police, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s football policing lead, said: “I am grateful for the discussions we’ve had with the Premier League, English Football League and Football Association.

“These talks have supported us in our commitment to police the national events following the death of Her Majesty the Queen, whilst also enabling the majority of games to take place this weekend as scheduled.

“It is unfortunate that a small number of fixtures have had to be postponed, but I am sure fans will understand the reasons why this decision has been taken.”

In Scotland, Rangers’ Champions League tie with Napoli has been put back a day to Wednesday, September 14, due to “severe limitations on police resources and organisational issues”.

However, professional domestic football in the country will resume this weekend, the Scottish Football Association said on Monday. The Football Association of Wales said all its competitions can resume from Tuesday.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke began his press conference on today’s squad announcement for forthcoming Nations League ties by paying tribute to the Queen.

Clarke said: “The first thing, from myself, on behalf of everyone connected with the national football team is to offer our condolences to the royal family on the death of Her Majesty the Queen. That’s the most appropriate way to start.”