Gift Horse: Short Selling the FA Cup

by Absolute Thai Football

Any football association has mundane parts of its portfolio. In England last night the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy match between Barnet and Swindon Town wasn’t widely reported. The Barclays Premier Reserve League gets its coverage through in house television channels and not much else. And then there are the Crown Jewels. A country’s Premier League delivers its elite product to the world. The FA Cup illuminates the rich variety of ways that lower league clubs can bloody the noses of top teams.
The English FA Cup has a cache and history no one else can match. Its 140 years of history and the league’s 149 deserve reverence (despite giving naming rights to a beer and struggling bank.) FA media power polishes these two jewels, but the other competitions have clear structures, relevant promotional profiles and strict timetables.

And so to Thailand. The time between FA Cup rounds one and two was nine weeks. Whilst no one (other than the man with the keys to Bhumibol Dam) could have predicted the devastating floods that were to arrive in July, the gap between rounds in England was two weeks. Round Three lasted for fifteen weeks and any momentum of interest began to dissipate, partly (but not completely) due to the ongoing national disaster. Round Four not only lasted seven weeks, but overlapped the previous round by six weeks. Again in Round Five an eight week overlap with the previous round was compounded by a stage lasting thirteen weeks. By the time it came to the final rounds, we lurched from meander to reckless sprint. The quarter finals were played over two days and gave a two or three day rest before the semis, whilst the four day gap to the finals was not only too short but it ended on a Wednesday evening.
Treating the FA Cup with disdain is short sighted. Buriram arrive fresh after a regulation two nil victory over Army, but Muang Thong’s penalty win over Songkla 96 hours ago brings them heavy legged to the game. A first time Thai football viewer could see league champions Buriram destroy third place Muang Thong United. Why would he or she want to watch next season if it appears a league with only one decent team? And why a Wednesday evening? It’s the King’s Cup tournament on Saturday watched by one man and a dog. We could never mess with such a prestigious event.
Priorities are the key. Whilst there were delays, the Toyota Cup travelled more efficiently to its conclusion. Making it a two legged competition from Round Three was madness for any fledgling competition but, apart from Terro against Suphanburi, the first legs at that stage were played over two days and the second legs over three weeks. The cynics might argue that the sponsored competition got bumped up the organisational priority chain at the expensive of its less noisy neighbour. For the sake of Thai football’s future let’s hope they are wrong.