FA Cup replays will be scrapped for the 2020-21 season to ‘ease pressure’ on a packed football calendar with prize money for the competition also reduced. It comes as the first four rounds of the Carabao Cup are set to be played before the end of September as the EFL desperately tries to squeeze in the tournament.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which disrupted the 2019-20 campaign, is having a knock-on effect with traditional matches having to be culled to fit everything in next season. Carabao Cup semi-finals will be reduced to a single leg, while replays will be replaced by extra time and penalties if ties end in a draw after 90 minutes.
And the FA Cup prize fund paid to clubs will revert to 2017-18 levels after two years of increases as the financial impact of coronavirus is felt. The early start to the Carabao Cup will allow teams also competing in the Champions League and Europa League, which begin in October, to participate.
The first group stage fixtures in the 2020-21 Champions League and Europa League are scheduled for October 20-22. Teams taking part in those competitions will enter the Carabao Cup in either Round Two or Round Three.
The Carabao Cup won’t then pick up until just before Christmas with the fifth round followed by semi-finals – over just one leg – in January and the final on February 28. The draw for the first round of the Carabao Cup, featuring EFL sides, will be on August 18 broadcast live on Sky Sports News. Sportsmail revealed last week that Premier League clubs have agreed to fund a £25million rebate to Sky Sports after abandoning two-legged Carabao Cup semi-finals.
Sky believe that removing the fixtures results in the competition being devalued. Top-flight clubs will underwrite the majority of a refund with the FA also making a contribution. The round dates for the 2020-21 FA Cup broadly follow their usual pattern with the extra preliminary round on September 1, the first-round proper on November 7, the third round on January 9 and the final on May 15.
But some of the qualifying rounds and the fifth-round proper will be played midweek in order to fit around league commitments. Prize money has been halved at each stage compared to last season. So, clubs that reach the first-round proper will be paid £18,000 instead of £36,000. The winners stand to earn £1.8million instead of last season’s £3.6m.