Replays are an FA Cup tradition. Does a knockout match end in a draw after 90 minutes? Then the visiting team earned the right to stage a rematch at a later date.
COVID-19 is putting that tradition on hold, at least for a couple of rounds in 2021-2022.
With the COVID-19 omicron variant causing game chaos in England, forcing postponements and letting clubs accommodate more games in a shorter period of time, the English Football Association, which runs the FA Cup, has decided to discard the Replays of Round 3 and Round 4 to avoid further forcing the schedule.
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What happens if the FA Cup matches end in a draw?
The English Football Association (FA) announced By the end of December 2021, repeats of the third and fourth rounds would be eliminated for this year’s competition, to avoid further stress on the English calendar.
Instead, overtime and a penalty shoot-out (if necessary) will be used to determine a winner in those rounds, giving a decided advantage to the club that was selected to host the knockout match.
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There have already been 13 replays in the first and second rounds of the competition involving lower-tier clubs. But with the FA’s decision, there will be no repeats for the rest of the tournament, as the quarterfinals (Fifth Round, March 19-20), the semi-finals (April 23-24) and the final (May 14 ) will already be free of repetition for the last years.
Replays of the semi-final stage were canceled from 1999-2000, and since the 2007-2008 season they have been played on consecutive weekend days at Wembley Stadium in London. In 2016-2017 the repeats of the quarterfinals were also erased.
The FA announcement made it clear that replays will return for the third and fourth rounds of the 2022-2023 competition, although any lingering impact from COVID-19 could obviously cause a similar move to be considered in the future.
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“This exceptional decision was approved by the FA Board on Friday December 17th and has been taken in the broader interest of English football to alleviate the possibility of match congestion following several postponements in recent days and continued uncertainty over ahead due to COVID-19 “, the FA statement read.
A total of 17 Premier League matches have already been postponed, while many others have been pushed into the first four tiers of English football. The EFL Cup (Carabao Cup) has also been affected, with the rescheduling of the Liverpool-Arsenal series. Each game reserved for COVID-19 issues leaves another match needed to adjust later in the schedule, leaving authorities concerned about the number of games that will come together in a short period of time.
What is an FA Cup replay?
Unique to the FA Cup is the concept of replay.
In most knockout tournaments around the world, a winner from each game is required as one team must be eliminated and one team must advance. Extra time and, if necessary, the penalty shoot-out are normally used to break ties after 90 minutes, although some tournaments around the world go directly to penalty kicks.
In the FA Cup, historically, things are done a little differently. In the event of a tie after 90 minutes in Round 1 to Round 4, the game ends and a replay is scheduled at the visiting team’s home stadium for a later date, when the two teams will play another 90 minutes. If that match also ends in a draw, only then will extra time and penalties be applied.
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The concept, which has existed since the start of the competition in 1871, was initially in effect for all rounds, including the final. As recently as the 1990s, there were no penalty shootouts in competition, meaning that teams would play as many replays as necessary to find a winner. The last repeat final took place in 1993.
After ruling out repeats for the semi-finals in 1999-2000, the competition organizers also made it for the quarter-finals starting in 2016-17, citing match congestion. That only leaves replays in case of ties from round one to round four. These replays potentially represent a boon for lower-tier clubs that could benefit financially from hosting Premier League opposition.
Premier League clubs enter the competition in the third round, so there are typically only two rounds in which, in theory, Premier League clubs may be forced to repeat, although that will not be the case in 2021. -22 given the FA’s decision.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.