FA chief defends cup's pulling power

Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn has defended the FA Cup after a host of Premier League clubs let their star players sit out the third round.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger with PNE manager Simon Grayson
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger with PNE manager Simon Grayson

A number of sides altered much of their starting line-ups in a move which some deemed to be disrespectful to the world’s oldest cup competition.

Plymouth held Liverpool to a draw at Anfield after Reds boss Jurgen Klopp named the youngest-ever starting XI in the club’s history – while Bournemouth changed their entire team as they slumped to a 3-0 defeat at League One side Millwall.

Both Manchester clubs made nine alterations apiece, although City thrashed West Ham 5-0 and United eased passed Reading with a 4-0 success.

Arsene Wenger limited himself to five changes for Arsenal’s 2-1 win over PNE.

The Gunners boss rested Alexis Sanchez, Laurent Koscielny, Hector Bellerin and Petr Cech, Francis Coquelin was injured, while he did not risk Mesut Ozil who had missed the previous two games because of a bout of flu.

Glenn told the Sportsweek programme on BBC Radio 5 Live that top-flight clubs still value the competition.

“Rotation is a good thing,” he said.

“Giving a chance for young players to get real game experience is not a bad thing.

“It doesn’t upset me. The Premier League teams really understand the value the FA Cup brings them.

“You’ll get more viewings of your club on free-to-air television than you will on paid satellite.

“It’s good for them because they get noticed and everyone wants to get to Wembley for a special occasion.

“People want to do well in the cup, but the positive side is that all of these bigger clubs have big squads, you want to give people game time and that’s really important.”

While some sides could be accused of indifference towards the competition following a host of changes, supporters up and down the country also showed deference by staying away, with some attendance figures dwindling.

The sparsity at Hull, where just 6,608 spectators watched new boss Marco Silva win his first game at the helm with a 2-0 victory over Premier League rivals Swansea, may have been down to a protest against the club’s owners.

But the lack of crowd at the KCOM Stadium was by no means in isolation.

Barely 5,000 people turned out to see Fulham win at Cardiff, with less than 12,500 attending Norwich’s last-gasp draw against Southampton at Carrow Road.

Sunderland have averaged crowds of over 40,000 so far this season but less than 18,000 saw the Black Cats’ goalless stalemate with Burnley.