CRAIG NELSON: The Champions League rules the football world

The Bolton News: Steve Bruce questioned the scheduling of his side's FA Cup tie Steve Bruce questioned the scheduling of his side's FA Cup tie

WHEN people start to whinge about our place in the European Union I must admit I switch off.

I know it is an important issue and one that gets a lot of people very upset and agitated.

But in my way of thinking, we are all far too involved now to just walk away so any argument to the contrary is futile.

The funny thing is though that, while I am relatively nonplussed about our right to rule and govern ourselves, when a similar issue arose affecting our football fixtures I felt my blood start to boil.

Something Hull manager Steve Bruce said before Monday night’s FA Cup fifth-round replay between the Tigers and Brighton brought the matter to my attention.

I have to say, he didn’t seem half as upset as I was by the fact both sets of players were being made to play the tie 48 hours after last Saturday’s league programme because of a clash with midweek matches in the UEFA Champions League.

Bruce jokingly questioned why the Eurocrats should be concerned by the potential drain on viewing figures caused by a meeting of Hull and Brighton.

But rules are rules. If they made an exception for nice Mr Bruce who knows where things could snowball?

My main bone of contention is not that UEFA have made up these rules but that the English FA has agreed to them.

There is an argument, which nobody seems to contest, that the FA Cup has lost its sparkle.

And there is little wonder if the FA agrees to a situation whereby clubs vying for a cherished place in the quarter-finals are forced to rest key players, one of a number of contributing factors blamed for the paltry crowd of just over 10,000 at the KC Stadium.

I don’t know what difference scheduling the game 24 hours later would have made to the attendance, but it would have been nice to see the FA test UEFA’s resolve by openly flouting their rules.

ITV had the rights to show both the Hull v Brighton FA Cup replay and the Champions League, and woe betide the FA if they bite the hand that feeds it.

That won’t be the case next year, however, when the BBC becomes the FA Cup broadcaster of choice.

But I do know one other way of giving the famous old competition a bit of a shot in the arm – give the winners a place in the Champions League.

That’s the only competition to be seen in nowadays anyway, isn’t it?

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