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Feb 18, 2011

Fourth place fear over FA Cup revamp

The FA Cup will undergo the biggest overhaul in its history, but will the new plans not see the winners given the fourth Champions League slot.

The Football Association board is considering proposals to revamp the competition, including seeding the competition at the Third Round stage to ensure more potential giantkilling clashes, and a 17.30 BST kick-off time for the final to suit television coverage.

Plans are almost ready to be put forward to the full FA counsel for final approval, but a source told ESPNsoccernet that there is stubborn resistance to the idea of allowing the Cup winners to qualify for Europe.

"The big problem is the concern that the four places might one day become three if the FA Cup winners are not strong enough to progress past the qualifying round,'' he said. "English football would then be in danger of losing its coefficient rating which give it four places instead of three.

"Portsmouth [now relegated to the Championship] reached the final and might have won it, so everyone has to be very careful about this. The other reason, of course, is that the Premier League wouldn't give up the fourth place in any case!"

Portsmouth won the FA Cup final in 2008 as a strong club, but in 2010 they were in financial meltdown.

UEFA president Michel Platini has previously given his backing to the idea - having first proposed it himself two years ago - claiming in March 2010 that trophy winners should be given a chance among Europe's elite; although he concedes it would be tough to implement.

"It's difficult to change the tournament because it's a great success," Platini told Fox Sports. "The access list is something we can think about for the future, and I am always feeling and thinking that the winners of the Cup perhaps have to participate in this competition. They are champions as they have won a trophy and this is the Champions League. But it's complicated and very difficult."

Stoke boss Tony Pulis fears the Football Association is in danger of killing the competition if they continue to tinker with it too much.

"Everything is going towards what the big clubs want. They are dictating the way football is run in England, and we have to accept that,'' said Pulis. "The national teams are taking up more room to play games, and then you've the Premier League, and the Premier League will look after the Premier League. All part of the food chain.

"But we should keep the luck of the draw otherwise you might not get fixtures like we have this weekend, with Brighton coming to us, and in particular Crawley at Manchester United. Crawley supporters could wait a lifetime for something like this to happen again, so I don't think it's something we should take away from those football clubs.

"But I understand what's going on. There are a lot of European games, we've international fixtures in March, so the FA have to find room for it somewhere. But it's dropped down in priorities, and they'll kill it if they mess around with it too much.

"The chairman is more traditional than me, so he will be devastated if they do mess about with it.''

Pulis feels the FA Cup this season has again failed to attract the respect it deserves.

"I've not been too happy with the way they've done it. I don't think anybody is,'' added Pulis. "Everybody talks about respecting it, yet they've almost pushed it back when you look at the fixtures. The fourth round was in a three-game week, and that is not right and proper in my mind.

"They will say they have to look after the top clubs due to the European games they play in. Having said that, you are damned if you do, damned if you don't, so I understand where they're coming from.''

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