Football in Berkshire

FA Cup entry: Is it time to change to opt out?

The current system to enter the FA Cup involves clubs having to confirm their intentions with the governing body

In view of the news that Bracknell Town failed to enter the FA Competitions, there’s been lengthy discussion in our WhatsApp group about the matter.

We have to be clear that pretty much every club who is eligible for the Emirates FA Cup wants to partake and it’s purely an accidental administration error which saw Bracknell not enter the 2018/19 competitions.

As soon as the error was realised the club reached out to the FA who allowed them entry to the Buildbase FA Trophy and the FA Youth Cup but not the Emirates FA Cup which was already full at that point.

One suggestion made in our WhatsApp group was that clubs should be entered automatically if they play at the required level (all clubs down to Step 5 are guaranteed entry) and clubs should have to ‘opt out’ if they don’t want to enter.

With that in mind we look at the arguments for changing to an opt out system or keeping the current opt in system.

Yes – change to an opt out system

Bracknell Town are not the first and certainly won’t be the last side not to enter due to an administration error so let’s take that risk out of clubs’ hands.

When clubs are affiliated with the Berks & Bucks FA they are automatically entered into the relevant county cup for each team. If clubs decide not to take part in a cup they have to opt out and pay a fee for doing so – which is why you never see Reading in the BBFA County Senior Cup as they ‘opt out’ and pay the fine.

All clubs registered with their relevant County FA’s are known to the FA so it must be simple to automatically enter all clubs or make them opt out.

The actual cost to enter the competitions is £75 for FA Cup, £50 for either FA Trophy or FA Vase and £40 for FA Youth Cup.

The prize money has been doubled this year with the losers in the Extra Preliminary Round and Preliminary Round also getting money.

Any losing club in the Extra Preliminary Round would still take home £750 and as the Robins would have entered at the Preliminary Round they were guaranteed a minimum £960 which is not bad for a £75 cost.

No club in their right mind would not enter by choice so take the risk of not entering out of their hands by automatically entering clubs and making them opt out not to enter.

No – keep the opt in system as it works fine

While we did not receive the FA bulletins concerning entering the 2018/19 FA Competitions, the FA usually send a bulletin advising when the entry window is as well as two more ‘reminder’ emails as the deadline for entering nears.

In addition, the Uhlsport Hellenic League also email all members clubs at least the original FA bulletin (maybe all bulletins) so you could argue that all clubs will have received at least four emails reminding them to enter the FA Competitions.

There are 736 clubs entered into this year’s Emirates FA Cup (which is the maximum number allowed) so there are at least 736 clubs who have entered correctly. In truth there will be more as some step 6 clubs were not accepted despite entering due to not being placed high enough and the competition being full.

The FA can also argue that the current entering system has been in place for a number of years and that the entering window is always the same period so clubs should know this.

You can certainly argue for both cases and whilst there’s no definitive right or wrong way we’d love to know your views.

Darrell Freeland

Darrell is the co-editor of FootballinBracknell. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of local football, it's teams and leagues and was previously club secretary at Bracknell Town FC. 'Duds' sadly passed away in April 2019 - this website is dedicated to his memory.

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