There are three things always said about the FA Cup. It’s the world’s oldest cup competition; it has a magic to it; and it isn’t what it once was. But few people actually manage to quantify how or why the cup’s importance is in decline.
The Guardian’s secret footballer promised to do so, citing Freakonomics as an inspiration, but then trotted non-economic analysis such as how the timing of the final (amongst normal Premiership games) and other factors such as Manchester United pulling out for the World Team Cup in 2002 had undermined it. There’s also the argument that the prestige of playing at Wembley is devalued by holding Cup semis there.
All true, but not really the point. Then, tucked away towards the end of the piece, the Secret Footballer hit the nail on the head:
Stoke City or Manchester City will pick up £1.8m for winning the FA Cup, which is the difference between finishing 15th and 17th in the Premier League.
And then in the next paragraph: “£30m is on offer to reach the Champions League [for finishing in the top four]”.
It’s a trophy, but not one financially worth winning if you take your eye off Europe or the league.
In a world where football is ALL about money, that tells you everything you need to know.