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Gillingham chairman Brad Galinson condemns a “closed door meeting” as FA Cup replays from the first round onwards are to be scrapped from next season – Fans’ group call it a “disgraceful decision”

Gillingham chairman Brad Galinson has added his voice to the growing anger at the decision to scrap FA Cup replays from next season.

Replays in the FA Cup competition will no longer take place from the first round onwards as from next season, a change that has come about as part of a new six-year agreement between the FA and the Premier League.

Brad Galinson.Gillingham FC new owners press conference.Hessenthaler Suite, Priestfield stadium, Redfern Avenue, Gillingham, Kent.Picture: Barry Goodwin
Brad Galinson.Gillingham FC new owners press conference.Hessenthaler Suite, Priestfield stadium, Redfern Avenue, Gillingham, Kent.Picture: Barry Goodwin

Fans and clubs reacted with anger at the shock announcement. Replays in the competition have for so long brought additional revenue and many memorable matches for supporters.

Gills chairman Brad Galinson said: “The FA Cup is the oldest national football tournament in the world, spanning over 150 years.

“It is made up of less than 3% PL teams.

“Nonetheless, the governing body chose to change material rules in a closed door meeting for their 30 pieces of silver. Shame on them.”

Gillingham’s managing director Joe Comper has also criticised the decision, saying: “It’s a sorry state of affairs when a small minority at the top of the game can dictate to everyone else the direction of travel for the greatest cup competition in the world.

“It can only lead you to believe the decision to take away replays has been made by people that have never felt what it’s like to experience the emotional rollercoaster that is battling out a draw, then doing it all again on a Tuesday night a few weeks later to see who progresses. Yes, there’s financial benefits, but more so it’s the memories made over a two legged battle.

New Gillingham managing director Joe Comper. Picture: Kent Pro Images
New Gillingham managing director Joe Comper. Picture: Kent Pro Images

“For me it’s 2002, Crawley going from the 2nd Qual round to the 1st round proper. Travelling to Tiverton with my dad, mum and brother to watch a nail biting 1-1 draw. Back at the Broadfield for the replay, 2-0 down, coming back to win it 3-2. A local PE teacher scoring the winner.

“Football isn’t a TV programme. It’s the emotion of a giant killing. It’s hugging strangers when you score.

“It’s being there with your dad when the PE teacher scores the late winner after 180 minutes of battle.

“Don’t let people who don’t get it ruin it for the rest of us.”

Gillingham FC Supporters’ Club said that: “It’s absurd that this was decided by only Premier League clubs and allowed to happen by the FA!”

Like most clubs in the lower divisions of the EFL, Gillingham released a statement on the subject, mirroring Mr Galinson’s thoughts.

The statement said: “Gillingham Football Club is deeply disappointed to learn of the decision taken by the Football Association and Premier League to alter the format of the FA Cup which will include abolishing first, second and third round replays starting in 2024/25.

“We join the wider Football community in condemning the path forward chosen by the elite minority.

To have seemingly made this decision without consulting EFL member clubs, nor those in the National League and at grassroots level, shows a complete disregard and contempt for the traditions of the competition and our football pyramid.

“729 clubs entered the FA Cup this season, but it appears the views of only 20 of those clubs were of importance to the FA when deciding the way forward for this historic competition. Football belongs to us all, not just the elite.

“Football fans deserve better.

“We hope the FA will consider reviewing its decisions and, in future, include everyone in their thought processes, not just those with the largest bank balances.”

Gillingham’s League 2 rivals Tranmere Rovers had led the way with condemning the decision, labeling it as “ disgraceful”.

Their statement added: “There was no consultation with Football League clubs, National League clubs or grassroots clubs to whom the competition represents not only their best opportunity to create life-long memories for supporters but also a hugely important source of income. We also understand that FA Council members were not consulted about the changes.

“The decision, and the way it was taken, demonstrate a total lack of respect for the football pyramid and its fans. Football belongs to all of us and decisions should not be taken in back room deals in which only the very wealthiest clubs are allowed to participate. It is yet another eloquent example of the 19th-century governance that means that football simply cannot regulate itself and needs the Independent Football Regulator to have real teeth.

“We condemn the changes wholeheartedly and urge The FA to suspend them immediately until all stakeholders in the game are properly consulted.”

One supporter up for the cup as Gillingham take on Sheffield United in the FA Cup third round at Priestfield this season Picture: @Julian_KPI
One supporter up for the cup as Gillingham take on Sheffield United in the FA Cup third round at Priestfield this season Picture: @Julian_KPI

The Football Supporters’ Association have said: “It’s clear (the) announcement has not gone down well with a lot of fans up and down the country.

“Supporters are concerned that the changes to the FA Cup will further diminish what makes the competition enduringly popular – namely its history, heritage and tradition.”

They have shared their concerns with the FA.

Gillingham manager Stephen Clemence admitted he had no prior knowledge of the news ahead of speaking to the press on Thursday.

He said: “The magic of the FA Cup is sometimes earning a replay and taking them back to your ground or going back to a big stadium and that’s pretty special, especially for players playing in the lower leagues, to get that opportunity to play at Old Trafford, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium or the Emirates.

“I am hoping it doesn’t lose that (magic) and there are the finances too, games in the FA Cup for the smaller clubs is nice if you can get a replay, I am sure it is the bigger teams that have been asking for it and they have probably got their own way, as normally happens.”

FA chief exec Mark Bullingham said: “The Emirates FA Cup is our biggest asset and generates over 60% of our revenue to invest into the game, so it is critical to secure a strong format for the future.

"This new agreement between the FA and the Premier League strengthens the Emirates FA Cup and gives this very special tournament exclusive weekends in an increasingly busy calendar.

"The new schedule ensures the magic of the Cup is protected and enhanced, while working for the whole of the English game. The longer summer period also allows a much-needed player break before the start of the next season.

"We have also agreed new funding for the grassroots game, disability football and the women’s and girls’ game. All football begins at the grassroots, and this is recognised by the Premier League with very welcome additional financial support."

The agreement was approved by the FA Board and the Premier League Board and shareholders.

Premier League chief Richard Masters added: "The FA and the Premier League have worked in partnership to deliver more exclusive weekends without compromising the excitement of knockout football and this has been achieved at the same time as allowing us to ease fixture congestion generally."

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