The FA Cup resumes this weekend. Having also been put on hold along with the rest of football and other sports in the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic. This has been especially difficult for sports fans, who have had literally no sporting action to watch for more than three months, and it is thus no surprise that the number of people who play online casino games has gone up during this time, as fans wait for games to return and for some other way to pass the time.
FA Cup rule changes
With the Premier League having begun a week or so earlier, the quarter-finals of the FA Cup are set to go ahead, although there have been a couple of rule changes in light of the new playing circumstances that we now see ourselves in. The International Football Association Board (IFAB), which is the rule-making body for football globally, had approved the use of five substitutes instead of the usual three when football resumed, in order to cope with the likelihood of more frequent injuries to players due to the long break from football. Therefore, in the FA Cup, there can now be six substitutes in a game if it goes to extra time. This is a logical extension of the existing rule which allowed teams to make a fourth substitution in extra time of FA Cup games – basically one additional substitute in extra time, and so there could be six substitutes now on the pitch in an FA Cup game this season.
Other changes, while not to the rules but important otherwise, will see teams take part in a minute’s applause this weekend, in recognition of the NHS and their supreme efforts to battle the pandemic in the UK. Teams will also be wearing the NHS logo on their shirt, along with a Black Lives Matter badge, as they have been doing in the Premier League since it resumed, in recognition of the ongoing struggle and protests happening in the United States and globally around racial injustice.
The five substitutions can be made across three opportunities during the game, so that teams and coaches do not use this increase as a way to waste time during a match. The sixth substitute only comes into effect if a match goes into extra time.
This weekend’s quarter-finals see Manchester United travel to Carrow Road to face the bottom team in the Premier League, Norwich City, while Sheffield United take on Arsenal, Leicester City play Chelsea and Manchester City play Newcastle United. These are all extremely intriguing fixtures, with their own sub-plots and possibilities. Leicester and Chelsea are locked in a battle for the Champions League spots, while Man City will want to win the FA Cup and prove a point after being dethroned as Premier League champions by Liverpool. United will want to continue their upward trajectory and form, while this is a chance for further progress for Sheffield United as well, who can defeat Arsenal and sow further chaos at the Emirates Stadium.
Impact on football
It will be interesting to see the impact of these rule changes on football. Already, we are seeing the bigger clubs dominating, as the five substitutions allow them to make use of their deeper and more talented squads, making it even more difficult for smaller teams to pull off an upset. It remains to be seen if this will be the case in the FA Cup, with all eight teams in the quarter-finals from the Premier League alone. Nevertheless, it will take something special for the likes of Norwich and Newcastle to progress, while Leicester vs Chelsea is probably the standout fixture of the round.