The BBC and new UK pay TV operator BT have won the rights to broadcast the FA Cup for five years from the 2014/15 season, beating a joint bid from ITV and Sky who currently broadcast the games.
What the happy couple paid has not yet been revealed although some rather wild speculation suggests it’s £100m each, making the FA Cup worth £40m a season.
Is it worth it? Not in a month of Sundays (even with Sunday football).
The FA Cup has been dying on its feet for years; it really only means something for the smaller clubs, who see it as much-needed payday. Big Premier League sides play the reserves in the early rounds and aren’t that fussed whether they win it or not (last season Wigan won it). Neither are the supporters who, mostly, choose to stay away.
When did this process start? When Greg Dyke (left), now boss of the Football Association and the man who brokered this deal, was running ITV broadcaster London Weekend Television.
Dyke persuaded the clubs in the old First Division to allow live coverage of league matches on ITV, at which point the FA Cup ceased to be the only source of live club games for armchair fans. He later, foolishly (as he’s admitted), allowed Sky to pinch the rights from ITV with a bigger bid. Sky’s card was marked by Alan Sugar, then chairman of Tottenham Hotspur and the main supplier of Sky boxes.
From that point on the FA Cup mattered less and less and the formation of the Premier League in place of the First Division – assisted by wall-to-wall Sky TV – just about finished it off. Fans knew that the money their clubs needed to buy over-priced Carlos Kickaballs (a Sugar expression) only came from the Premier League so doing well in that/staying in it became the overriding priority.
Greg Dyke knows this as well as anybody. Only the muppets at the BBC and BT Sport remain in wilful ignorance.