Sir Keir Starmer lambasts decision to scrap FA Cup replays

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has spoken out against the removal of replays from the FA Cup  (PA Wire)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has spoken out against the removal of replays from the FA Cup (PA Wire)

Sir Keir Starmer believes it was “the wrong decision” to scrap FA Cup replays, believing it denies clubs at lower levels a crucial “revenue raiser” at a time when there are still so many financial issues ahead of the implementation of the independent regulator.

The Football Association announced the controversial decision on Thursday, which has led to huge debate in the game. The Labour Party leader has now come out on the side of those wanting replays continued.

“I think was the wrong decision,” Sir Keir told BBC Radio Derby. “I mean, the thing about the cup is, it's a great leveller, you are going to be playing teams outside of your division. That is a brilliant opportunity, and replays have been a big part of that tradition for a very, very long time.

“If you have drawn with a team, particularly a bigger team, and earn the right to a replay, that is a big moment. And what then happens is the club the town or city wherever it may be gets really excited about the replay. But also it's a really serious revenue raiser for clubs that desperately need that revenue. So I actually think it's the wrong decision. Replays are part of the game.”

The decision has generated even greater controversy because it is perceived to have been implemented at the behest of the Premier League, at a time when England’s elite competition is still holding out in negotiations over football’s “new deal”. This is a new financial figure that the Premier League is supposed to redistribute to the wider pyramid, on the back of the crisis caused by the pandemic.

This controversy has only been given further impetus by crises like the European Super League plan from April 2021, which led to calls for an independent regulator to resolve the English game’s economic issues in the first place.

A proposed European Super League sparked outrage among fans (Getty Images)
A proposed European Super League sparked outrage among fans (Getty Images)

With football’s financial model still so dysfunctional, Sir Keir pointed to the example of Derby County. The two-time English champions were, in 2021, put into administration after briefly going into freefall, all primarily due to the game’s systemic demand to constantly spend. Abolishing replays becomes all the more important in that context.

“Derby County is a really good example, because of the financial difficulties in the past,” the Labour leader added. “We just drove past the ground, Pride Park, this morning. It is part of what it is to be proud of your city and your place. A great, great club, great history, great tradition. Nobody wants to lose these clubs across the country. And some of them have gone very close to going under or gone under, your Burys, okay, back now but your Wigans were struggling. Derby had their issues.

“So we're in favour of an independent regulator to make sure that there's more stability in the financing of football, also to give the clubs that aren't in Premier League a better footing in this because it is a struggle. It’s to make sure that we can't have a sort of breakaway of the top six from the Premier League which would have such a bad knock-on effect to the whole of football. So it's important for all those reasons but Derby is a very good example of place-based football and why it really matters.”