FA Cup Betting: Indifference to the competition is as strong abroad as it is at home
Dan "The Betting Man" Fitch was in Paris during the fourth round of the FA Cup and surprised to see that the locals were as unenthusiastic about the FA Cup as we are back home. Why is this once-glorious competition seemingly losing its appeal, he asks....
This weekend saw me travel to Paris. It was all on the menu. The Notre Dame cathedral, the former haunts of Hemingway and Miller, beautiful women, moody men, the Sorbonne, the Seine, American tourists at the Eiffel Tower, the heavenly food, the intoxicating wine, the jazz clubs and the obsession with Jerry Lewis. It was all here to feast upon.
For me though, there was just one thing that I had to experience in Paris. Ever since the trip was arranged, I had set about planning for it. Everything else I could stumble upon, as I explored the winding streets, but this was the one thing that I could not leave to chance.
So on Saturday at 18.15 local time, I settled down to watch Manchester United play Tottenham in the FA Cup. The television feed keep freezing and my wife was no longer talking to me, but I was happy.
There were not many people watching the game. A few English and Irish men watched, whilst their long-suffering wives pondered the naivety of hoping that they would be going to the Moulin Rouge, when their spouse had told them that they had a surprise in store that evening.
The French certainly weren't taking an interest. It got me to thinking how as a youth, I had grown up with tales of the world being fascinated by our FA Cup. There seemed scant evidence of such devotion here.
It was certainly an FA Cup fourth round, which had all the ingredients of the classic rounds of yesteryear. There was the local grudge match between Liverpool and Everton, non-league Kettering putting up a plucky display against Premier League Fulham and the continuation of a family saga, as Clough's Derby faced his former team.
All the ingredients were there, but if the Monday newspaper reports that I read on my return to London were to be believed, the soufflé fell flat. Somehow the FA Cup seems unable to capture the imagination as it once did.
It was also the weekend of the French Cup. Most of the bars were showing the action live, but it scarcely seemed to capture the Parisian imagination, any more than the clash between Manchester United and Tottenham had managed.
As a youth, I'd also been force-fed the notion that the European nations held their domestic cup competitions in scant regard. I pitied them, that they were robbed of the excitement, which our own FA Cup provided. Now I don't see that much difference.
It seemed as if Paris gave a collective shrug as Toulouse beat their lower league opposition 8-0. Who can blame them? They were instead, far more interested in what was going on in the rugby.
Now we have yet to reach such a sad state of affairs in our own country, whereby the general public are more interested in a rugby match than an FA Cup tie. The upper-classes may do a lot of inter-breeding, but they are still vastly outnumbered by the proletariat. In England there still exists an appetite for our cup competition. It just needs to be served correctly.
I haven't met a single football fan that welcomes FA Cup matches on a Friday and a Monday night. Monday should be when the draw takes place and nothing else.
We also need to find some way of ensuring that the winning of the FA Cup, is once again important. Twenty years ago, a team would rather finish tenth and win the cup, than finish fourth. The Champions League has changed all that. Michel Platini's idea of the domestic cup winners earning Champions League qualification would reverse the priority between league and cup for many teams.
Portsmouth finally wrestled the FA Cup away from the 'Big Four' last season. If they had earned qualification to the Champions League, then they may have been able to keep hold of the likes of Diarra and Defoe. Pompey are now [4.5] to be relegated.
This season the 'Big Four' remain intact and are the favourites in the FA Cup betting. Manchester United are [4.1], Chelsea , Arsenal [6.2] and Liverpool . You can back the fact that one of these teams will lift the FA Cup at just [1.37], in the Big Four v The Field market.
It seems like a pretty sure bet. No wonder then, that we're becoming as bored with our cup competition as our cousins on the continent. This is one European union that we must not become part of.
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