Jurgen Klopp has come in for criticism after announcing he will not attend Liverpool’s FA Cup fourth-round replay against Shrewsbury Town, during the World and European champions’ winter break.
The 52-year-old has also stated that no senior players will be involved, and that Under-23s manager Neil Critchley will lead the side at Anfield on February 4.
This will be Critchley’s second game in charge of the first team this season. He oversaw a weakened Liverpool side’s 5-0 defeat at Villa Park in the Carabao Cup quarter-final, while Salah, Alisson and co. contested and lifted the Club World Cup in Qatar.
The Reds added their first Club World Cup trophy to what is currently the biggest trophy cabinet in English football. Three trophies in 2019 saw them overtake bitter rivals Manchester United.
It’s no wonder that Liverpool and other top English clubs field weakened sides, when you take a look at the meagre prize money on offer. Excluding television rights, 2017/18 FA Cup winners Chelsea took home just short of £3,400,000 over the course of the competition after entering in the third round.
For some perspective, Stoke City were relegated from the Premier League that season and received £3.9 million in prize money, not to mention the £80.4 million equal share each top-flight club received.
Manchester City won £36.5 million in prize money when they reached the 100-point barrier in 2017/18.
Klopp has been criticised by some for bringing the competition into disrepute, but the German is adamant he needs to make a point against fixture congestion. This has led to a media frenzy around the options, such as using extra time and/or penalties to decide FA Cup ties in the event of a draw.
Klopp admitted all Premier League clubs were told fourth-round replays may interfere with their winter breaks, but has said “I know the FA said that all the clubs agreed but no sports-responsible people were there… There was not a manager or sporting director – that’s what we need and has to change as well. Otherwise, we will have the same situation next year.
“Shrewsbury can win against us – I love that in the game. I really love that and they have another chance, but the solution cannot be that we try to squeeze the schedule and really play that.”
Accrington Stanley chairman Andy Holt has thrown his hat into the ring and criticised Klopp’s decision on Twitter, saying
Gary Lineker and many other high-profile journalists and broadcasters have spoken out in support of replays being scrapped from the FA Cup. In my opinion, this is a slightly elitist view.
In 2016/17, Lincoln City were in the National League, having finished no higher than 13th in the fifth tier after relegation. Their FA Cup run became the stuff of legend, and its legacy is manifested not only in its new £1.4 million Elite Performance Centre, but its rise, under Danny and Nicky Cowley, from non-league football to League One. The Imps cleared their debts, and secured an EFL Trophy victory in their first season back in the restructured competition.
The Cowleys’ side overcame Oldham Athletic, Ipswich Town (in injury time in the replay at LNER Stadium), Brighton & Hove Albion and Burnley (also in injury time). Their fairytale ended at the Emirates with a 5-0 defeat to eventual champions Arsenal, but the momentum, prize money, television money and a rejuvenated fanbase that dared to dream again have transformed the club.
That is to say nothing of Sutton United’s run to the round of 16 the same season. Paul Doswell’s men defeated Dartford, Cheltenham Town, AFC Wimbledon (after a replay), and Leeds United, before Arsenal won 2-0 at a sold-out Gander Green Lane.
The prize money on offer from the FA Cup isn’t even a drop in the ocean for Premier League clubs, but the impact it can have on lower league sides’ fortunes and finances can transform a club for years to come. A high-profile cup run can put players such as Sean Raggett (Norwich City) and Roarie Deacon (Dundee FC) in the shop window and push careers to the next level.