By Tom Walker | Head of Sport
Success in English football always seems to be defined by three trophies: the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League – yet there are four competitive tournaments in the English game.
The Carabao Cup, previously known as the Capital One Cup, the Carling Cup and even the Milk Cup back in the 1980s, has generally been disregarded by the teams competing in it over the recent decades.
The cup’s legitimacy was again called into question recently after UEFA’s president Aleksander Ceferin said “it would be better for everyone” if the competition was scrapped completely.
Since the introduction of the Premier League in 1992, and the gradual expansion of the European competitions into something involving up to seven English teams, the priorities have changed for the teams in the top division, meaning the domestic cups have taken a back seat.
Even one of the competition’s serial winner of the last decade, Pep Guardiola, has been on record saying that the League Cup should be dispensed with for the good of English football.
The problem with the League Cup is that it lacks the identity and prestige of the FA Cup, whilst also not being able to offer the teams competing the same financial incentives as winning their league, getting promoted or simply staying in their current division.
The format probably requires a rethink, whether that is to make it something more interesting for the fans, or to quiet the likes of Pep and Jose Mourinho who seem to be whining more and more about fixture congestion, despite having access to more resources than most in the Football League.
On this issue, West Ham manager David Moyes had an interesting proposition, saying “My opinion on it is I’ve always thought we should have included Scotland.
“Call it the British Cup. A couple of teams from Northern Ireland, maybe two of the Welsh League clubs. That would give us something different.”
The only meetings in recent times between two British teams not from the same countries have come in European competitions. Most recently, Wolverhampton Wanderers travelled to Northern Ireland to face Crusaders in the Europa League qualifying stage. More memorably, back in 2016 Manchester City travelled to Celtic Park to take on the Scottish champions in a Champions League group stage tie that proved to be a scintillating contest, finishing in a three-all draw.
Whenever anyone attempts to evaluate the quality of the likes of Celtic and Rangers, the credibility of the Scottish league is always called into question and arguably rightly so. The British Cup format would certainly prove a good indicator for the quality of the Scottish teams as well as Welsh and Northern Ireland teams alike.
In much the same way the FA Cup does, the new format would give more clubs the once in a lifetime opportunity to host one of the Premier League or Championship’s elite, not only creating a great footballing spectacle for the fans and neutrals and a potential chance of an upset or memorable result, but the huge financial purse that comes with that sort of occasion.
I believe it is only a matter of time before there are major changes to the League Cup, but whether this comes in the form of a British Cup remains to be seen.
But it is an idea that holds real substance and the potential footballing narratives that could arise are something extremely interesting to consider. Who would turn down a local derby between Barry Town vs Cardiff City? Not me.