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Ebbsfleet United chief executive Damian Irvine and Maidstone United co-owner Oliver Ash sign letter calling for reversal of decision to scrap FA Cup replays

Two prominent figures in Kent football have signed a letter calling for an “immediate reinstatement of FA Cup replays”.

Ebbsfleet chief executive Damian Irvine and Maidstone co-owner Oliver Ash are among 23 signatories of a joint-club letter to the FA.

Ebbsfleet chief executive Damian Irvine. Picture: Simon Hildrew
Ebbsfleet chief executive Damian Irvine. Picture: Simon Hildrew

Earlier this month, it was announced that first-round replays would be scrapped from next season.

The move was roundly condemned by Football League and non-league clubs, who said they had not been consulted on the measures, although the National League themselves backed the decision in a letter to their clubs.

While the Premier League big boys get their way, smaller clubs are denied potentially money-spinning replays and a lifetime of memories.

The Fair Game group of clubs, of which Ebbsfleet and Maidstone are members, along with four-time FA Cup winners Bolton Wanderers, have urged the FA to reverse their “flawed” decision.

They have also called for parliament to intervene via an amendment to the Football Governance Bill to stop such a decision from being taken again without the backing of the majority of clubs.

Here is the letter in full:

“The FA Cup is the oldest football competition in the world and the decision to remove FA Cup replays from the first-round proper further undermines its prestige and does nothing to help protect our cherished football pyramid.

“The Premier League’s influence in this decision is yet another example of football’s growing divide that has seen the gaps between and within divisions grow at all levels.

“Participating clubs in the FA Cup were not consulted. Our clubs as well as the fans have been let down.

“We are determined to see this decision reversed and fully support amending the Football Governance Bill to make sure such a move can never happen again without the backing of a majority of eligible clubs.

“FA Cup replays create lasting memories for generations of football fans – and it is those memories that are priceless.

“Go to any club and there will be photos on the walls of great Cup memories, while their fans will be able to recall those magical FA Cup nights.

Maidstone United co-owner Oliver Ash. Picture: Steve Terrell
Maidstone United co-owner Oliver Ash. Picture: Steve Terrell

“We all remember ties like Cambridge United v Manchester United (2015), Hereford United v Newcastle United (1972), Leeds United v Wimbledon (1975), Arsenal v Leyton Orient (2011), and Watford v Tranmere (2020).

“This whole flawed process has devalued the most prized domestic cup competition in the world.

“It is not just about finances, it is about the power dynamics within football. That needs to be overhauled.

“Concerns about a packed calendar also do not stand up.

“In the last 10 years, there have been fewer than 10 occasions when a club playing in European football has been taken to an FA Cup replay.

“Meanwhile, a Premier League club that qualifies for the Champions League – and there will be only four of them in the 2024/25 season – will play a minimum of 50 matches.

“That includes 38 league games, at least one in the FA Cup, one in the EFL Cup, and 10 Champions League group-stage fixtures.

“However, League One and League Two clubs – and there are 48 of them – will play a minimum of 51 matches (46 in the league, a minimum of one FA Cup and one EFL Cup tie, and three EFL trophy group games). That’s 11 more than Premier League clubs that don’t qualify for Europe.

“In the National League the situation is also packed with a minimum of 48 matches for their 72 clubs (46 in the League, and a minimum of one each in the FA Cup and the FA Trophy).

“This decision needs to be overturned.

“This decision has become totemic for how the game is being run. Decisions are being made behind closed doors. There is a lack of transparency, a lack of consistency, and a lack of fairness.

“We call for an immediate reinstatement of FA Cup replays and are encouraging all supporters to lobby their MPs to back the Fair Game amendment.”

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