Minnows get a shot at A-League clubs

The FFA Cup: How it will work 

Amateur footballers across Australia can dream of toppling the giants of the A-League in a meaningful competition with the introduction of a national knockout competition, the FFA Cup, beginning in July.

The tournament will provide a definitive link between the grassroots level of the game and the elite clubs with a meaningful national and cross-tier competition.

There’s a resemblance with the oldest competition in football, the FA Cup in Britain, though the first few years of the Australian version are unlikely include such an abundance of romantic runs of amateur clubs. Storylines such as Blyth Spartans and Hereford from the 1970s may not be a common occurrence as just 22 teams from the lower leagues will compete against A-League clubs and all must qualify through their respective state competitions, such as the Waratah Cup in NSW.

More than 600 teams will enter the tournament in the qualifying phases with the best from the eight state and territory federations earning the right to face the 10 clubs from the A-League in the first round. The competition will begin on July 29, with the final contested on December 16. Future years could include a final on Australia Day.

”Today, the FFA Cup comes to life as a very tangible link between community football and the professional tier,” FFA chief executive David Gallop said. ”It’s a unique sporting link from the locals to the legends. We all grew up with the romance of the English FA Cup and well remember the history of upsets. I’m sure the FFA Cup will bring the same fascination to fans across Australia.”

The model has been tried before in various measures, forms and regions in Australia. While the history of knock-out competitions can be discussed at length, there are claims that the FFA Cup is perhaps the first fully national cup-style competition spanning from the top-tier to amateur level.

There are even attempts to recognise this with the silverware – a large traditional trophy – inspired by that of the first national cup competition, the Australia Cup, which existed from 1962 to 1968.

”The FFA Cup has taken on an almost mythical status among football fans who have longed for a national knock-out cup competition to fill a void in the football calendar,” Gallop said.

The FFA will cover all travel costs of the competition as well as providing prizemoney beginning at the round of 16 stage, increasing exponentially up to the winner.

The FFA Cup will not be a profitable exercise, at least in the short-term, but there is a belief from within the governing body that the return on investment will be measured in the growth and development of the game.

”We’ve had to make it a sensible business decision but also recognise this is a very important part of the future for Australian football,” Gallop said. ”It’s something that can only happen in football because of the nature of the game, so we see at as a very important investment for the game’s future.

”I think we’ve got it to a point where it’s affordable. It’s been in the pipeline for a number of years.

”The holy grail for football is making a true connection between the grassroots and professional level and you can hardly think of a better way to do that than creating a cup knock-out competition like this.”

The competition will strengthen the relationship between the FFA and former NSL clubs as state league teams will host all their own games, except the final, and will likely retain the bulk of gate receipts for FFA Cup matches.

The FFA Cup: How it will work The four A-League semi-finalists will form Pot A and play opponents from the state leagues in the first round.The remaining six A–League clubs will form Pot B and will play each other in the first round, meaning at least three A-League clubs will be knocked out.22 teams from the eight state and territory football federations will qualify through their respective competitions.At least one state league team will qualify for the quarter-finals.Aside from games between two A-League clubs, all matches will be hosted by state league teams who will retain the bulk of gate receipts.The final will be on Tuesday, December 16 with a venue to be confirmed.Fox Sports will televise at least 10 games; the final, semi-finals and quarter-finals, one round of 16 match and one first-round match.Prizemoney will be awarded to all teams beyond the round of 16 with figures to be decided.

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