Is There A Point To The EFL Cup Anymore?



English football has a long and proud history of cup competitions. It gave us the FA Cup, which is the oldest cup competition in world football. Years later, it also gave us the Football League Cup – a competition that is similar to the FA Cup in all ways other than the fact that entry is limited only to those teams in the top four divisions in English football. Back at the time it was invented, it gave clubs an extra piece of silverware to compete for, another route into Europe, and another chance to play at Wembley.

Today, top teams are playing more games than they’ve ever played before. As well as a challenging league season, the teams at the top also have to compete in the FA Cup, the League Cup, and also the Europa League or the Champions League. As Liverpool has found out this season, the price of success is even more games, with the FIFA World Club World Cup to play for, too. Every single one of those games requires training, travel, and playing. That’s more minutes on the legs of footballers who are already tired and more expense for fans who want to see their team play. Given the fact that complaints about fixture congestion are becoming ever louder, is it time that the EFL Cup was put out of its misery?

The Case For Canceling The Cup

When the League Cup was founded in 1960, English and European Football were in a very different state than they are now. English football was seen as unglamorous and out-of-touch with the more attractive style being played on the European continent, and the system felt stale. A new cup competition was thought of as a way to bring in more money, and provide teams with a new way into Europe. On both fronts, it was briefly successful.

If we fast forward to today, the route into Europe is no longer needed. Four English teams qualify for the Champions’ League, as opposed to the one who would get a spot back in the 1960s. Beyond that, the FA Cup winners and up to three more teams from the Premier League will gain entry to the Europa League. In the majority of cases, the League Cup winner is one of the top seven sides in the Premier League. For the past two seasons Manchester City has won it, and last year’s victory over Chelsea came in a game that was more notable for Chelsea keeper Kepa’s refusal to be substituted than anything else. Both teams ultimately qualified for the Champions’ League, and neither would have welcomed a Europa League place anyway.

There’s also the small matter of the prize money on offer. The winner of the competition receives a total of £100,000. To a Premier League club, that’s chicken feed. All Premier League clubs receive millions of pounds worth of television money each season, millions more than that in prize money based on their final position in the league table, and in a lot of cases, more than £100,000 in ticket sales for each home game. The lack of an incentive to win has repeatedly led to youth or reserve teams being fielded in EFL Cup fixtures, which has, in turn, devalued the competition in the eyes of fans.

league cup logo

Aside from the above, the cup is also viewed as a sponsorship arrangement more than a footballing competition. In recent years its been called the Carabao Cup, The Capital One Cup, the Carling Cup, and the Worthington Cup. The constant re-naming has deprived the competition of a sense of identity and adds to the feeling that it’s a money-making exercise more than a prestigious football event.

The Case For Keeping It

Perhaps the biggest case for keeping the EFL Cup lies in one of its perceived weaknesses – the fact that larger teams often field weakened sides allows smaller teams to make more progress in the tournament. The likes of Bournemouth, Brighton, Watford, and Norwich City stand little to no chance of winning the Premier League or the FA Cup, but a friendly set of fixtures could see them go all the way in the EFL Cup. Bradford City, Cardiff City, Sunderland, Birmingham City, and Swansea City have all made the final in recent years, with Swansea winning the competition in 2013.

From a fan’s point of view, an EFL Cup final is a chance to see their team at Wembley – and unless you support one of the top six clubs, such chances come around very rarely. The opportunity to land a place in Europe is still appealing to clubs who rarely experience continental football, and for whom a Europa League campaign would be a step up rather than a step down when it comes to exposure and prestige.

league cup trophy

Aside from that, there isn’t much to say in favor of keeping it – and yet we suspect it will probably stay on the fixture list. As is evidence by the plethora of sponsors and the lack of concern for fixture congestion, football tournaments like the EFL Cup are little more than a game of online slots for the English football authorities – one which they own. No matter if you win or lose when you’re playing games on casino websites such as Amigo Slots, the bigger winner is always the company that owns the online slots website you’ve chosen to play with, and that remains the case for those who profit from the television and sponsorship money that the EFL Cup brings in. So long as there’s a paying audience – even if that audience is diminishing – there will still be a financial incentive for them to stage the contest even if that financial incentive doesn’t exist for the teams playing in it.

We expect to see the EFL Cup back on the fixture list for next season, the season after, and the season after that. For all that high profile figures such as Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, Frank Lampard, and others complain about it, there are too many people making too much money out of the tournament’s existence to pull the plug on it just yet. It isn’t popular with managers, it isn’t popular with players, and it isn’t particularly popular with the majority of football fans, but for better or worse, the EFL Cup is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

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