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 www.red11.org REDitorial

Published: 28 October 1999

www.red11.org REDitorial

That FA Cup debacle
by Simply Red

As if I'm not ranting over a dead issue and a foregone conclusion, but it seems in many ways the end of the world, the day that FA Cup holders Manchester United set in stone the decision to withdraw from the competition altogether. They and other teams like them have compromised the rigours of their demanding fixtures list this year as in years past by fielding a squad of reserves in such less esteemed tourneys as the Football League's Worthington Cup, and have no excuse for not following suit here by fielding the reserves in the fourth round of the FA Cup. The FA Cup as a vital complement to the domestic league has traditionally provided entertaining, competitive ties and there is no reason to assume that this is going to change in the near future, or ever.

Failure to so much as make a valliant effort to defend the FA Cup means that MUFC plc (read the fine print) has breached the limits of sports propriety and is quite clearly damned to eternal hell, metaphorically speaking. Manchester United are the most daring and determined club in the world, and have never balked in the face of a great contest, as this would be at odds with their staunchly never-say-die character. As such, we take the initiative and always, regardless of the harsh conditions on or off the pitch, fight our darnedest to win. With our traditional emphasis on a solid youth foundation, we should not shy away from this opportunity to let the kids rise to the challenge and show the cynics in our own camp just what we are capable of achieving.

At the same time and more to the point, a solution needs to be found to tackle the ever-increasing problem of fixture congestion. It is the international football structure that needs at some point to be scrutinized and reformed before it absorbs sufficient attention to the detriment of the domestic structure. What the club needs to work on, and this is by no means a small or short-term pet project, is firstly to campaign with UEFA for both a less crowded UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup competition, as well as hold ambitious FIFA at bay, while Keeping the Existing Footballing Structure Intact. The Premier League and the FA Cup are ample instruments for the demonstration of domestically proven talent in England, as are the both the domestic league and major cup tournament in other European nations. Secondly, the club needs to formulate an approximately definitive standard according to which teams may qualify for European competition in the first place. Any discriminant viewer can see that the Mighty Reds do not need to go gallavanting around with the herd of television and commercial entities whose entirely irrational aim is the maximization of revenue alone.

It would be appalling for the historically rich foundation and edifice of the domestic contests, which provide the necessary colour, spectacle and moments of sheer drama for the larger context of European or otherwise international contests, to be swiftly eroded in the unprincipled aim of 'expanding the brand.' Or as Pink Floyd would put it, 'How ken yoo hev eny pudding eef yoo don't eech'yer meeet?!' There is absolutely no sense in pursuing international glory at the expense of the domestic game. While the two tiers of competition are evidently not co-existing in a beneficial sort of mutual complementarity at the moment, this is the determining factor which decides whether the football that we loyal fans are taking great expenses to follow is in reality a reputable contest or, by sharp contrast, merely (largely) just another vapid instrument of corporatate enterprise.

In closing, if Martin Edwards really wants to act on the long-term interest of all concerned with the club, he'd better ignore the temporary whims of the shareholders with whom he is so sympathetic and re-instate United in the FA Cup. Not only is the integrity of the Cup at stake, but the merit of Manchester United itself is seriously in question. Mr. Edwards, before the 11th hour expires, I should tell you that your boundless avarice is more than a little misguided. Far from inheriting universal popularity, United in its present manifestation is a world-wide turn-off among informed Reds and fans of English and European football alike. We may lack the financial and administrative resources to reverse your fatal decision, but be warned: we are not deceived, the Revolution will oust you from your easy seat, we will regain control and restore some trace of dignity to the Mighty Reds.

Red to the bitter End,
Simply Red

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