Arteta backs scrapping of FA Cup replays as Accrington posit boycott

<span>Mikel Arteta believes elite players, such as <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Bukayo Saka;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Bukayo Saka</a>, need protecting and supports the idea of scrapping FA Cup replays. </span><span>Photograph: David Klein/Reuters</span>

Mikel Arteta insisted that the scrapping of FA Cup replays was necessary to “protect our players” as Accrington Stanley’s chairman said he would support a boycott of the tournament if there was widespread backing.

As the backlash against the abandonment of replays continued, the EFL said clubs lower down the pyramid were being marginalised. Accrington’s Andy Holt tweeted that it was important to fight the change “with all our might” and said: “I would support a boycott if enough clubs feel the same.”

The Football Association has been heavily criticised after confirming that replays after the qualifying rounds will be scrapped as part of an agreement with the Premier League on the format and funding of the competition. Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer were among those to question the decision, which it is understood was taken after pressure from the top six clubs in the Premier League, who are concerned about the workload on their players before the introduction of an expanded Champions League format next season.

Related: FA Cup replays fall victim to scramble for cash and chaotic decision-making | Paul MacInnes

Last week the Manchester City midfielder Rodri said he “needed to rest” after a gruelling schedule led him to make more than 45 appearances for club and country this season. Arteta, whose Arsenal side were knocked out of this season’s FA Cup by Liverpool in the third round, believes the current situation is “not healthy” for top players.

“We can’t look at that in an isolated way, but with the calendar that we have in the next few seasons, we have to take the game out for the players,” he said. “I think it’s a very good possibility.”

Asked whether he could understand the complaints about replays being scrapped, the Arsenal manager said: “I understand every point of view. Ours and mine is to protect our players. When I looked at how many minutes and games they’ve played in the last two years with no breaks, how many they’re going to have to play in the next two years, that’s not healthy for sure. Somehow, somewhere, we have to reduce the calendar.”

The FA released a statement on Friday saying it understood the concerns of clubs lower down the pyramid and would share details with them about how any shortfall in lost replay revenue may be made up. But the EFL responded by saying it was the most recent example of how the league and its clubs were being sidelined after Premier League clubs also decided to halt discussions over a new financial settlement.

“This latest agreement between the Premier League and the FA, in the absence of financial reform, is just a further example of how the EFL and its clubs are being marginalised in favour of others further up the pyramid and that only serves to threaten the future of the English game,” it said. “The EFL today calls on both the Premier League and the FA, as the governing body, to reevaluate their approach to their footballing partnership with the EFL and engage more collaboratively on issues directly affecting our clubs.”

The prime minister’s deputy spokesperson said: “David and Goliath fixtures are a part of the magic of the cup and we know that replays have been a welcome source of income for smaller clubs throughout the years.” Meanwhile, the Labour leader said it is the “wrong decision” and that replays are “part of the tradition of the FA Cup”.

Arsenal and City exited the Champions League this week, meaning there are no English clubs in the last four for the first time since 2020. Arteta suggested the Premier League could do more to assist its clubs in Europe.

“When you look at the schedule Bayern [Munich] had and we had, the amount of games they had and them resting 10 players nine days ago and again three days ago, it’s different,” he said, although that related to Bayern falling out of contention for the Bundesliga title. “In these leagues, they cancel the games or bring them forward to have more rest for the Champions League. We [the Premier League] are not doing that and are putting even more pressure on ourselves. It’s not an excuse, it’s the reality.”

Arteta called on his players to not “feel sorry for yourself” as they attempt to get their season back on course against Wolves on Saturday night. Arsenal, who then face Chelsea on Tuesday, could be four points clear at the top by the time City play at Brighton on Thursday and Arteta believes his side will have learned from successive defeats against Bayern and Aston Villa.

“I think the players are all very lucky to have had the week that we’ve had. Because these are the weeks that we want and have been seeking for many years to have at Arsenal. You have to deal with that. If you want to be in this position, you have to go through it and it’s going to be tough. Against those opponents, the margins are minimal and you have to try to compete to be better than them.

“But maybe even if you are better, you don’t win. Like what happened at home against Bayern and against Villa. Are you ready to react to that? If not, you’re not ready to be living these kinds of weeks and we want to be living these kinds of weeks. Don’t feel sorry for yourself – if we want to be here we have to be prepared because this is a possibility.”