The Lost Magic of the Cup: The Great Social Media Revival

At this point in the football season, most fans have a lot of things going on. Their position in the league table may well be a reflection of what it will be at the start of May. Meanwhile there could be other cup competitions stacking up, with some clubs having the potential to still be in three other competitions. So it’s a hard decision for a club to prioritise which tournament they want most success. The heavy fixture congestion has come at a cost of lack of interest for the oldest association football competition in the world.
Before the internet was even thought up, let alone social media, the Football Association Challenge Cup or the FA Cup as it’s more commonly known enjoyed its glory days. It was seen as the biggest footballing event of the domestic season. Originally the FA Cup final was the only televised live football match of the year in the UK. This put the event up as one of the most popular sporting events of the calendar alongside the Grand National and Wimbledon.
Through time the evolution of sports coverage on television has opened the door for a whole new world of sporting competitions for the public to enjoy. When the Premier League was devised in 1992 Sky Sports had a wide vision of how to monopolise the UK football coverage market. They pumped huge sums of money into each clubs for the right to broadcast live matches in the league. This obviously created a huge buzz around this revolutionary move from Sky making the Premier League a modern and a lot more glamourous competition. For a team to win the league it would result in a lot more prize money than what they would receive for being the winners of the FA Cup. It wasn’t just about winning the league that Premier league clubs could target. For finishing within the top four places in the Premier League a club can qualify for the UEFA Champions League. By winning the FA Cup a team qualifies for the less prestigious UEFA Europa League. This incentive is not as enticing as playing the elite of world football in the Champions League.
So it’s no surprise that the football managers now would rather field their best players in the league and rest them in cup competitions. This unfortunately is reflected on the spectators.

It would seem that football fans also see the league title as the footballing Holy Grail. Anything other than this, unless it is a European competition, is a distraction. Fans would sooner leave cup competitions so that they could focus their attentions on achieving league success.
The FA Cup is not now seen by the latest generation as an important competition. The Premier League generation who have grown up watching their favourite players star on television up to three times a week. For example a Chelsea fan can watch their team on Sky in the 5.30pm kick off on a Saturday, to then see them play a midweek European clash, to then have them feature on Sky Sports Super Sunday as part of a double bill of football fixtures. With this generation also being the one of the main demographics who regularly use social media it can be said that it has a huge influence on their experience as a fan. Could this be the solution for the modern broadcasters and even the Football Association’s attempts to recapture the popularity and excitement of the FA Cup?
As of the 2014–2015 season the BBC bought back their television rights for the FA Cup, ending a five year absence where ITV got the free to air games. The BBC clearly still recognise the competition that they first reported on in 1926 was still a worthwhile and popular competition to show live coverage of. For the fifty days before the first game being shown, the BBC posted through their Facebook and Twitter accounts links to the fifty all-time best FA Cup goals. The feature was ran on their website but had a brief description of the clip on the social media platforms, with a link to the video. Each day there was a new clip of about a minute put up on their pages. The BBC Sport page on Facebook has 6.1million likes, whilst on Twitter it has 3.03million followers. This huge number of people means that BBC Sport is one of the most influential sports broadcasters in the world. People who like or follow them also allow them to be fed information to them. By having this daily remainder through the form of the clips of the best goals in the FA Cup has to intention to strike a chord with football fans, reminding them that they still have this famous competition to view and follow for free.
With this campaign ran by the FA Cup a lot of the footage of goals was from the days before the Premier League was created. This was potentially done to make fans feel nostalgic about the days when the cup really was the competition everyone wanted to win. The buzz of a giant killing, the glory of making the trip to Wembley or the just the spectacle of teams playing in the oldest competition on Earth is what the BBC were trying to create with this daily feature, and they were in a strong position to make such an influence with social media being so highly used as it is.

On Friday 7th November the BBC got the ideal result to back up the campaign. Warrington Town of the Northern Premier Division One beat Exeter City, a team who are 100 places above them in the football pyramid. This had been what the BBC’s social media made buzz had been about. The nostalgic feeling of the giant killing which had been glorified in its online previewing was shadowed on the pitch in its very first game back. Throughout the live coverage of the game the BBC offered the viewers to vote for their man of the match by tweeting the name of the player they believe deserved the accolade whilst using a hashtag of the FA Cup. This made the coverage of the game by the BBC multi-dimensional as the viewer could comment and interact with the BBC itself as well as other fans watching the game via social media. This got the FA Cup trending in the UK on Twitter. When a big news event happens, very shortly after it trends on Twitter, with people beginning to take notice of it and comment. The man of the match award was show at the end of the match showing what percentage each player received from the Twitter users vote. In the second round, the last round before the big teams from the top two division play, the BBC got another upset as Blyth Spartans beat Hartlepool United. These results couldn’t have gone any better for the BBC after their drive of getting people back in love with the FA Cup.
In both rounds the BBC have also asked for the fans to share pictures on Twitter using #getcarriedaway. The idea of this would be that the BBC could pick the very best pictures from fans on the road following their team from Twitter to share or put on a separate article.

Mark Carruthers, Blyth Spartans Press officer, celebrating their giant killing of League 2 Hartlepool

After the games from the weekend of the second round the BBC used pictures with the hashtag on an article titled ‘Story of the second round as told by #getcarriedaway’. From this they were able to use pictures taken by fans, as oppose ones taken by professional photographers. They then matched the images up with They matched the images up with a short description of what happened in each game played. The benefit of doing this on twitter is that all the editors from the BBC Sport website had to do was search for #getcarriedaway and the idea was that there would be a lot of people using this. With a lot to choose from they could find the pictures that they felt really reflected the game and atmosphere. This is also a form of citizen journalism as normal people have collected images that the BBC have gone on and used in their actual article. By doing an article which is quite like having the fans perception of the game you get a real sense of the FA Cup atmosphere that the BBC have been promoting where normal small clubs can make in impact.

Non-league Warrington Town’s dressing room after beating Exeter City 1–0 in the first round.

The Football Association, the governing football body in England, have run a similar hashtag campaign on their Twitter feed which promotes people sending pictures in. Their alternatively named #FACupAdventure was also wanting people travelling to games, preferably away from home, and send a picture in of the place they were going. They then retweeted a lot of them which the people in charge of social media at the FA deemed good enough to promote their own competition. With the FA also having over one million followers on Twitter a lot of people would see these pictures that are in a way a promotion of their competition.

For the FA, the FA Cup is seen as one of our national events that we can be proud to call ours. They are extremely proud of the event and the historical significance of it. There is a feeling that the cup belongs to the people of this country — and it could be seen in this social media picture forum that the cup is really for everyone in the football community. Every individual will have their own adventure and their own story. This is one of the beautiful aspects of the cup that not many other tournaments can create, and the FA are successfully using social media to capture that sense.

The third round of the FA Cup has just been drawn, meaning the giants of the Premier League, and some of the most famous footballing names on the planet have been matched up with semi-professional players. This is the main event as far as the BBC would consider it, with stars earning over £100,000 a week are forced to play men who juggle other professions as well playing the game they love. With this being their first third round in five years they have set the stage for this years competition with a buzz about it which could be argued hasn’t been quite the same for over a decade. This is a direct correlation of the advances in the use of social media in todays world. Before the invention of websites where fans could share, view and comment on things there was never so much of a build up to events, like a football match, other than a preview in the newspaper. The way that things have evolved however have meant that there is now a pre match build up created by companies like the BBC or Sky Sports where fans can comment on things and build up the stories themselves. In English footballs 150 year history social media really has to be one of the most significant changes since the game was first ever broadcasted on television.

So how about the future? Has the BBC and other online organisations social media revolution made football fans fall back in love with the FA Cup.? Early suggestions show that in its return to the BBC more people have tuned in to watch the first two rounds of the FA Cup. This will largely be down to its many online features promoted on all the accounts it has on social media. The nostalgic elements may well have really struck a chord with the elder generation who grew up watching their minnows beat the so called big boys on a horrifically chewed up 70's pitch. But if the BBC were to really succeed in making the competition what it was before it will have to continue finding ways to advertise it on social media. They will also have to aim it at a certain demographic; younger people. Not only are there more and more young people who are growing up in love with the game, they also appear to be in love with social media. There is nothing saying that the BBC won’t succeed in their quest to make this tradition the much loved beast it used to be, but they will have to keep up there innovative and ground-breaking social media experiments, and hope that the magical stories of giant killings help them out.

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