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Last Updated: Friday, 4 March, 2005, 14:10 GMT
FA under fire for Cup alterations
Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock is a firm admirer of Arsene Wenger
The Football Association has been put in the dock over its changes to the FA Cup format for next season.

The 2006 FA Cup final will be staged a week early on 13 May to help England's World Cup preparations.

Also, sides in the Uefa Cup will not play fifth round or quarter-final replays, and those in the Champions League will not replay quarter-finals.

Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock, whose team took Arsenal to a replay, said: "It is an absolute disgrace."

Warnock added that the changes were "an example of how authorities seem intent on messing with a competition that should be sacrosanct."

The Football Association has made the switch to give England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson four weeks to prepare his squad for the World Cup in Germany.

A Welsh club drawn in the fifth round against a Uefa Cup team could be denied a home replay to help England's World Cup cause
Two rounds of the competition will have some ties that can go to replays and some that cannot
Small clubs who miss out on a replay will lose 265,000 per club in TV money
Less live matches for television companies

Eriksson gets more time to prepare team for World Cup
FA Cup final is still on a Saturday
No teams have pulled out, as Man Utd once did
Less fixture congestion for the leading clubs

The final will be be held at the new Wembley Stadium, and as a knock-on effect the end of the Premier League season will be brought forward a week.

And in return the FA have had to scrap replays in the FA Cup fifth and sixth rounds for clubs still involved in Europe.

He said: "Can anyone who has the game's best interests at heart seriously suggest we should do away with the passion and edge-of-the-seat excitement of Tuesday when we played Arsenal at Bramall Lane?

"We have already had to put up with attempts to move next season's final to a Wednesday night, which I found utterly unbelievable. Now this."

Everton manager David Moyes also has reservations.

"I am not convinced by this, I am not sure that it will help.

"I feel maybe the FA should not have made such a decision on their own without asking the managers what they wanted.

"There are certainly some clubs who will want the replays because of the revenue - Sheffield United for example this week. Clubs do need the money from replays."

Blackburn manager Mark Hughes, the only player to win the FA Cup four times in the 20th century, said: "I feel it is a shame that arguably the greatest cup competition in the world is being changed around.

"You can understand some of the reasons but I think the FA Cup needs to be protected.

"In recent times the format has been changed a little bit too much and the importance of the Cup in this country has been weakened.

"There is a danger that the significance of the competition may change and may well become just a similar cup competition that is evident in other European leagues."

Eddie Rogers, chairman of Brentford who were beaten by Southampton in a fifth round replay, told BBC Sport: "The changes favour the Premiership clubs.

"The FA Cup is one of the opportunities that lower league clubs have got to pit their wits against glamour clubs and is also a terrific form of revenue for us.

"I think they should have done everything they could to give England the best chance while still protecting the FA Cup."

Dennis Wise, manager of last season's beaten finalists Millwall, could see both sides of the debate.

"If there were no replays against sides in the later stages of the competition, it would be disappointing from a financial point of view, because you miss out on the chance of two matches," he said.

But Wise added: "The good thing about it is that the big team might have an off day, you could draw the match and go through on penalties. The best teams don't normally have a second off day."

Football Supporters Federation co-chairman Malcolm Clarke told BBC Sport: "At first sight this appears to be a really botched up arrangement but what most upset us is there has not been adequate consultation, indeed no consultation at all, with supporters.

"Many supporters will regard this as yet another nail in the FA Cup's coffin and we are seeing the FA Cup dying by a thousand cuts and many supporters regard that as a great pity.

"The FA Cup is one of the great traditional features of the British game and we are astonished the FA are so willing to keep making deleterious changes to it which will eventually completely reduce its status."

Interview: FA spokesman Adrian Bevington

Interview: FSF co-chairman Malcolm Clarke

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