Head to Head: Is the FA Cup truly superior to the League Cup in the eyes of Premier League clubs?

Team 33 look at the comparisons between England's top two cup competitions

BY Raf Diallo 16:11 Wednesday 3 February 2016, 16:11 3 Feb 2016

A replica FA Cup trophy on display outside Anfield before the Emirates FA Cup, fourth round match between Liverpool and West Ham United (Nigel French/PA Wire)

As kids, we were all hooked in by the pageantry of FA Cup final day, from the sight of hordes of fans arriving at Wembley to the players on the pitch taking in the inner view of the stadium pre-match.

The League Cup (or Capital One Cup to give it its current name) does not have that sense of history, given the fact that it is not open to non-league clubs and is significantly newer as a competition. 

We are all keenly aware that the magic of the FA Cup does not cast as much of a spell over most of us as it used to do, which almost leads to the question: what truly separates it from the League Cup for the modern football Premier League club apart from tradition?

The decline of the Cup and the value of the Capital One Cup was our talking point on Part 2 of this week's Team 33 podcast as Joe Coffey, Conor Neville, Derek and I looked at the pros and cons of both tournaments:

But how do both competitions compare tangibly in the eyes of Premier League clubs? Let's take a head-by-head. 

What's really at the end of the rainbow?

First off, tradition dictates that an FA Cup win outranks a League Cup victory through status alone.

Football clubs value history, but not as much as they are in thrall to money these days.

In 2013-14, Arsenal ended a trophy drought of nine years by beating Hull City in the FA Cup final. In terms of morale, it was vital for the Gunners.

But they earned 'just' £1.8 million in prize money as a result, which is a tiny drop in the ocean in comparison to what they earn from TV rights and Champions League participation.  

Granted it is more than the £100,000 that League Cup winners earn in prize money, but for Premier League clubs, the difference lends itself to a shrug of the shoulders.

As Joe said on the podcast, the expansion of the Champions League hurt the status of the FA Cup because more teams are involved in elite and far more lucrative European club competition than in the old days where it really was a Champions League in the sense that reigning league winners qualified alone.

The carrot of a Champions League spot (either directly or through a playoff) would boost Premier League clubs' interest in the FA Cup.

But as it stands, both it and the League Cup offer a Europa League spot for the winner (or also for the FA Cup runner up if the winner has already otherwise qualified for Europe) which hardly separates the two.

And the winner is: Little to choose for an elite Premier League club, with the FA Cup marginally more lucrative financially.

Picture by: Andrew Matthews / PA Archive/Press Association Images


Big clubs might play weakened teams in both competitions but due to history and the participation of non-league clubs, the FA Cup would fare better than the League Cup on a dating app.

But for a Premier League club, the romance is something given away if they are the victim of a giant-killing - and those clubs are hardly the benevolent sort.

And the winner is: Romance resides in the FA Cup but not in a way that favours Premier League clubs.

Timing of games

One point touched upon by Joe is the fact that League Cup games take place in midweek, when football is less prevalent as a showpiece and punctuates the week nicely.

Added to the fact that games take place at night-time under the glare of floodlights, they capture the imagination of those of us who appreciate the unique atmosphere of nocturnal fixtures.

Plus, the two-legged nature of the League Cup semi-finals actually seem to have added some excitement to the competition.

Bar the Friday night and other non-weekend fixtures, the FA Cup is still very much based around the traditional Saturday and Sunday afternoon slots, which almost encourages some of us to switch off and do normal non-football things on those weekends until the return of the normality of the Premier League.

As the FA Cup and Premier League are run by different entities, a switch between the two that allows the FA Cup to move midweek after the third round seems unlikely to ever occur.

But it would add an extra level of excitement if it ever did.

And the winner is: Its lesser status notwithstanding, the League Cup's midweek home does give it a special place.


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