Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

The Carabao Cup – farcical, archaic and a down right waste of time

Posted on 24 October 2017 by Matthew Horsman

What do you get when you mix the second most popular energy drink in Thailand, Charlton Athletic and John Salako? An absolute balls-up.

In what should come as a surprise to absolutely no-one, selling the sponsorship rights to a company based well over 5,000 miles away from where the competition takes place has not been a great success.

In the first round draw a lack of audio on the Facebook live feed combined with the seemingly impossible outcome of Charlton Athletic being pulled out of the hat twice – much to the bafflement of the bizarrely chosen Emmanuel Petit – left British viewers far from satisfied with this most blatant of advertising gimmicks.

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Far from allaying fears in the draw for the next round – uprooted from Bangkok for the apparently more professional surroundings of the Sky Sports studio – things went from bad to worse.

Not only did special guest John Salako not have any idea how the draw worked, but this latest version of the old League Cup was so all over the place that official twitter pages from the clubs drawn were tweeting in to confirm who they were playing.

The relatively uneventful but bizarrely timed (4:15am GMT) third and fourth round draws passed by before the announcement today that ‘British sporting royalty’ in the shape of Matt Dawson and Phil Tufnell would be drawing the teams for the quarter final. Why? No-one is quite sure.

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PR gimmicks aside, my serious gripes begin to take shape with the actual football on show.

As farcical as the rebranding of the tournament has been, I come from a country where there is a stadium legitimately named the ‘Toni Macaroni Arena’ after the chain of restaurants, and so I lost my faith in the integrity of naming rights a long time ago.

But why on earth, in an age where we refuse to allow our domestic players a winter break (we wouldn’t want them being well rested and successful during international tournaments would we?) do we persist with a second domestic cup? Out of the five major European leagues (England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy) only the French have an FA Cup bridesmaid equivalent, but they also enjoy the second longest winter break.

Not only do we persist with increasing the fixture list for already over-played players, but we also uphold the most bizarre of traditions in having a two-legged semi final despite not even holding replays for drawn matches in all of the preceding rounds. The presence of this second domestic competition is unnecessary, bordering on harmful and its structure is archaic.

This can’t only be my opinion, and in the third round we saw football grounds up and down the country half full to watch uninteresting games as fans showed their indifference to English football’s equivalent to the colour beige.

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West Ham’s attendance was 20,000 less than their Premier League average for the visit of Bolton, Palace’s a mere quarter of theirs. The Emirates recorded its lowest ever attendance and Spurs could only tempt a paltry 24,000 fans into their new 90,000 seater home. At West Brom 10,000 of their 24,000 average didn’t fancy it.

If the competition doesn’t even appeal to mid-table Premier League clubs as a viable option for a good cup run and an outside chance of silverware then what is the point anymore?

No-one talks about the magic of the Carabao Cup. They didn’t even when the name was less ridiculous.

Managers are even losing sight of the necessity of the tournament as both Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho spoke out against it after their third round games.

Guardiola called it a “waste of energy” and Mourinho, who watched his Manchester United side dispatch Burton Albion in front of a relatively impressive fifty-four thousand at Old Trafford in the third round, admitted the cup’s expendable nature to the footballing calendar.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live Mourinho said “if you ask me ‘could English football survive or be even better without this competition?’ Maybe.”

A ‘maybe’ from a man as calculated as Mourinho speaks volumes. The footballing world is beginning to get wise to the need for change, but I’m not holding my breath.


Feature image credit: Wikimedia Commons