This week, Derby County’s manager, Steve McClaren called on the Football Association to consider abolishing replays after Leicester City’s extra-time victory over Derby County.
After the draw at Pride Park, Derby brought 5,000 travelling fans to the away, FA Cup 4th round replay against Leicester. McClaren made eight changes to the team that had played in their previous game despite claiming “I didn’t want to make eight changes”!
More significantly though, how out of touch with the supporters is McClaren, Derby County and other football chiefs when it comes to the FA Cup? He clearly wasn’t speaking on behalf of the 5,000 travelling fans when he said “We didn’t need this replay. I don’t think Leicester needed this replay and I think maybe the FA have to look at this competition and say, ‘Let’s just have one tie,’ because nobody wanted this replay. You could see that.”
“…nobody wanted this replay.”
If nobody wanted a replay, why sell tickets to your supporters? Were the 5,000 away fans who turned up, as part of the 31,648 overall attendance, simply nobodies?
Whether or not Derby fans thought they were going to win the FA Cup is irrelevant, they made an effort and spent hard earned money going to support their team, to live the dream. It’s little wonder the FA Cup is losing its prestige and romance if those running the teams treat it as little more than a distraction. The overriding issue here is that the manager is talking on behalf of the club without consideration of the fans. Football is all about unbridled emotion, as much about the days of pre-match anticipation as the days of post-match autopsy.
Finances dictate footballing decisions and league positioning impacts prize money yet ask the supporters if they would exchange a place or two for the thrills and memory of a good cup run. Clubs should take less of a short-term view and get the fans truly behind them long-term. Take the time and trouble to listen to them, understand their audience; what inspires, influences and motivates them. Social media research, through reading and interpreting their social media conversations, provides evidence to support and influence behaviour. A quick search across social media for “#FACup” demonstrates the passion of the fans for this 145-year-old competition. Long may it continue and the sooner the clubs learn to harness the fan data, the sooner they can acknowledge the benefits it brings, embrace the romance and even make a few quid…