Newcastle and the FA Cup . It goes together doesn’t it?

The 1950’s we practically lived at Wembley and our roll of honour reads 6 times winners and 7 time runners up.

Most people cant remember the last time we won the famous trophy of course and Ashley and various managers in the last 15 years have given the FA Cup as much respect as the pigeon lying dead in the net in the stand at St James’. Our cup wings have been clipped.

Now though, after being took over we could be back and dare we say it, the FA Cup is something we could win over the next five years. Its too much to ask for the club to turn from potential relegation to Championship winners overnight , but its not too much to ask for a few additions to make us competitive in a brilliant competition which you only need to win/ be lucky in 6 games to win the thing.

The new owners will be pinpointing the cups as our ‘in’. Look what Alex Ferguson achieved at Manchester United after surviving by the skin of his teeth because of the 1990 cup win, Manchester City, I’m sure, needed the 2011 FA Cup win to set the ball rolling.

The FA Cup is back on the agenda.

The good thing is , everyone can now watch us in this competition. As of last week ITV have took over from BT as the second rights holders of the FA Cup and with the BBC continuing to operate with the other half of the rights , the Cup is now entirely on free to air television. In fact more games will be on the television than ever before. This has to be good news for the vast majority of supporters as the winter bite takes hold and people simply can’t afford pay television.

ITV has been a desolate landscape for football in the last 5 years. The “crown jewels” rule the only thing keeping them competitive with England internationals and big tournament games the only games on after losing the Champions league around 5 years ago.

Their was a reason for that. ITV had better value for money in other places. The shrug of the shoulders at losing money spinning Wednesday night European matches coincided with the reality Simon Cowell boom times and why would Arsenal playing Shakhtar Donetsk matter when you had some chump singing Katy Perry out of his arse. The choice is stark.

That particular ship is sailing however and the European Championship flicked a switch inside ITV for sport again. They were not completely useless. The commentary was poor and very Partridge , yes.

However the big money rentals of Neville, Keane, Wright et al paid off, for the first time many had a choice to watch the final on ITV rather than the go to BBC who in contrast, didn’t hit the heights.

Ok the 6 million who watched the final v Italy was dwarfed by the BBC but ITV  made a hell of a lot of money out of advertising on the back of being well, not shit.

Carolyn McCall joined as chief executive in 2018 and this FA Cup grab was talked about soon after, the ex- easyJet chief seeing that getting football, especially relatively cheap football had to be done.

The euros were a trial as to whether folks would go for it , and whether ITV could do it themselves anymore.

The 4 year deal means ITV and the BBC will both show the finals, like the euros , in tandem again and the commercial channel will be hoping the gap is closed once more .

The deal sees the possibility of almost every Cup game being shown live from the 4th round onwards. ITV  have first pick on the 2nd and 4th  rounds and Quarter Finals but could feasibly show up to 28 games in the season.

BBC keep everything they’ve previously had which in the last few seasons has almost seen blanket coverage from. iPlayer games have been popular with over 5 games at a time being shown last season, though that may have been pandemic forced. Either way, expect no stone unturned in the competition.

The success of highlights, goal clips on iPlayer has also attracted ITV. They are desperate for visits to its ITV Hub and can really go to town on this and knock ‘Midsomer murders’ off the top streaming spot.

The bad news with this is expect kick off times to be all over the place. The craze of a batch of online friendly games kicking off on a Sunday dinner time on BBC might be repeated by ITV on a Saturday night.

Its even less fun getting knocked out in the sleet by Portsmouth if your not getting back until the Sunday dinner time game kicks off.

Where does this leave BT? Essentially they left the football building a long time ago and this latest sale echoes the direction that they are going in.

The FA cup joins the premier League(rumours persist they wont fight the next bidding rights after a cosy recent one), German Bundesliga and the NBA as leaving BT as they end the fight with Sky.

BT lost four fifths of its market share in 5 years up to last year and though they have 2m subscribers, it costs £80m a year to run BT Sports…they get nothing out of that.

According to the financial times , it costs BT 6p per minute more than Sky to show an English football match. They just don’t see the benefit of the FA Cup.

They did try and the coverage good, but often had to settle for scraps after the BBC and the games were not popular. 46% of people watched the final in 2020 on the BBC despite BT producing the game. It wasn’t worth it.

BT jumped into bed with fierce rival Sky a few years ago, calling a truce and they now freely sell each other’s products on rival platforms. Its Champions League coverage very popular on Sky’s now tv streaming platform, which in turn boosts BT’s broadband sales.

The FA cup isn’t the future and its stock is as low as its ever been, but a new way to watch it, free , will attract a new audience, especially with the mixture of upsets and big games like we had last year.

Miracles can happen, we might actually watch us win a game in the thing this year.

SCOTT ROBSON