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FA Cup | Third Round TV picks prove authorities are still out of touch

Just weeks after the Tracey Crouch fan-led review concluded more has to be done to protect football clubs further down the pyramid, the FA Cup Third Round television picks prove those making the decisions have very little regard for non-league.

FA Cup TV Picks Third Round

By Amos Murphy

Giant killings keep the FA Cup magic alive

We all love a giant-killing, right? Along with the tinfoil FA Cups and the Match of the Day theme tune, it’s one of the things that make England’s biggest domestic cup competition as great as it is.

Whilst the so-called magic of the FA Cup may dwindle a little bit more each year, the early rounds of the competition still throw up some storylines that make us all remember exactly why we love it so much.

This season, National League leaders Chesterfield were one of four non-league sides to breach the barricade and progress into the FA Cup Third Round. Their reward for knocking out League Two Salford City at the previous stage? European champions, Chelsea.

Surely a televised pick, right? Wrong. Along with their fellow non-league counterparts, not one team from tier five or below were picked for the six television slots.

Instead, the match everyone can’t wait to watch (again), Manchester United vs Aston Villa…

Smaller clubs shunted for coverage time and time again

It isn’t the first time non-league sides have been shunted for coverage this season, with Bowers & Pitsea boss Rob Small left frustrated when his side’s trip to League One Lincoln City wasn’t picked to be on television.

Managing a team in England’s seventh tier, Small told Non League Daily back in November that he was “deflated” by the picks for the First Round, with the all-League One affair between Sheffield Wednesday and Plymouth Argyle selected ahead of Bowers & Pitsea.

Small argued that the £50,000 handed to the two third-tier sides for being selected would’ve had little impact on their finances, whereas that money could’ve instead secured the future of a non-league club like his.

Fast forward one month and the same issue has resurfaced. Of the 12 clubs selected for television coverage in the Third Round, six of them are topflight sides, whilst four are involved in all-Premier League ties.

All of them will receive £85,000 in broadcast fees, which for context, would just about cover the wages of United’s summer signing Cristiano Ronaldo for one day’s work. Money well spent.

Ratings reality but narrative still necessary

Of course, the singular reason behind the likes of West Ham United vs Leeds United being selected over Chesterfield’s trip to Stamford Bridge is television companies require viewers to stay ahead.

Any football purist may crave seeing a non-league side lock horns with the reigning European champions, but the reality is most others won’t. With a finite number of opportunities for both the BBC and ITV to televise United each season, it no surprise they squabble to get their cameras in front of the 20-times Premier League winners.

But, at the same time, it’s the narratives created by those non-league clubs when they pull off a giant-killing that the television companies are quick to salivate over. You can't pedal the 'magic of the FA Cup' tagline, if you then proceed to ignore those same ties before they've even taken place.

Chesterfield won’t win the FA Cup, nor will any other of the non-league sides left in the competition, but the Third Round has often been considered the promised land for clubs outside the top four tiers.

That promised land may as well be nothing but a glorified car park if non-league sides are to be neglected television coverage by broadcasters for the matches that matter.

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