FA Cup replays scrapped for third and fourth rounds to ease fixture congestion amid Covid outbreak

 FA Cup trophy
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The previous decision to allow games to be repeated has been reversed for at least the next two rounds

The FA Cup's third and fourth rounds will once more do without replays, the Football Association confirmed on Monday.

After replays were suspended throughout the 2020-21 season, they returned for this season's edition.

But as the number of games postponed due to the latest Covid-19 outbreak continue to pile up, the FA has moved to ease the fixture backlog for affected clubs.

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What was said?

"We can today confirm that 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 on Monday.

"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 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."

The bigger picture

Replays are a traditional feature of the FA Cup, and are notably an opportunity for lower-league clubs to secure a 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 format was dispensed with in favour of ending each tie in extra time or penalties on the same day.

In July the FA announced that replays would make a return for 2021-22, and several 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 six Premier League matches postponed last weekend.

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.

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