Why no FA Cup replays: Explaining what will happen in case of draws

By | January 8, 2022

The FA Cup’s third and fourth rounds will once more do without replays in 2021-22, the Football Association confirmed on Dec. 20. Matches that end in a draw for the remainder of the tournament will go to extra time and a penalty-kick shootout, if necessary.

After replays were suspended throughout the 2020-21 season, they were scheduled to return for this season’s edition up to and including the 4th Round. But this decision does away with replays for both the 3rd and 4th Rounds and it comes after there were 13 replays played across the 1st Round and 2nd Round of the competition.

As the number of league matches postponed due to the latest COVID-19 outbreak has continued to pile up, the FA has moved to ease the fixture backlog for affected clubs.

“Replays have been removed in both the third and fourth rounds of the 2021-22 Emirates FA Cup,” the FA signalled in a statement released Dec. 20.

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“This exceptional decision was approved by the FA Board on Friday 17 December and has been taken in the wider interest of English football to alleviate the possibility of fixture congestion following several postponements in recent days and continued uncertainty ahead due to COVID-19.

“Ties in the third and fourth rounds of this season’s competition (Round of 64 and Round of 32) will be played to a finish on the day, with extra-time and penalty shootouts if required.

“Replays will return up to and including the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup from the 2022-23 season onwards.”

Why no replays in the FA Cup is a big deal

Replays are a traditional feature of the FA Cup, and are notably an opportunity for lower-league clubs to secure a second money-making return match should they take a draw against one of the Premier League giants in the early rounds.

In 2020-21, however, given the need to condense the season due to the pandemic, the replay format was dispensed with in favor of ending each tie in extra time or penalties on the same day.

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In July the FA announced that replays would make a return for 2021-22 through to the 4th Round, and a total of 13 matches in the first and second rounds were decided in that fashion.

Recently, however, a spike in coronavirus cases has caused upheaval in the schedule, with no fewer than 17 Premier League matches postponed.

As those games will have to be rescheduled in the coming weeks and months, removing potential replays may help to stop the fixtures piling up for affected teams.