While during this week most discussions were about Carling Cup worth and sense, Poland had its own Cup to be played. 1/16 final round of the Polish Cup was played on Tuesday and Wednesday and this is more important than earlier rounds because 14 teams from Ekstraklasa entering the competition. The scores were mostly obvious, we had some surprises, few good goals and even some of them were watchable. But for everybody this was a test for our Cup that the competition did not pass. Once again, this specific round showed that Polish Cup is in decline and Polish FA does nothing to make it worthwhile for sponsors, televisions, clubs and fans.
Some stats to prove my point at first. Four years ago, one company (Remes) wanted to make Polish Cup famous and up to its history and standards. Fighting with Polish FA in every term and detail they helped it but it seems now that their three year plan can be easily destroyed by the federation. Why? Four years ago, in similar round, every game was watched by, average, 2900 people. In season 2008/2009 attendance was smaller - average 2450, but it was up to the draw mostly as small towns were involved with lower fan base obviously. And last year we had a break - finally the Cup was worthwhile, some great games, TV coverage and stadiums filled with (average) 3400 fans each game which as You see is great result for this round in recent years. So how was it this year? Unfortunately but predictably it was the lowest average number in years recalled - only 2300 people attended per game.
Why? Once again federation was involved and showed how they simply don't care about this competition. We had games on Tuesday and Wednesday with starting hours that barely were understandable and preferred by fans - most of the games started at 5 P.M., so just an hour after most of the fans ended their work. Those games that started later (7 P.M.) had better attendance but still it was to early for some, especially fans from the regions. One mid-week game started even at 14:45 which is by any means, not understandable. How could they do such things to thousands of fans involved? People that even wanted to attend the game were shocked by the hours of games and obviously will not take free day in their jobs to watch a game that is probably less important for the team than for the fans.
In Poland, we don't complain about too much of football every year. We had just thirty rounds of Ekstraklasa, no League Cup and some teams are involved only once in Polish Cup, going out very early. As You see, season is pretty short with long breaks between every round. Why not make it longer by playing Polish Cup during the weekends? Will it be so tough to fill all those weeks of football? And during the weekends hour of game is not so important - it can be played midday or in the evening. Also it will be much easier for the clubs to involve fans in the game - make cheaper tickets, organize 'fan days' and similar ideas about game promotion. Unfortunately, Polish FA doesn't see the problem in playing on early hours in midweek. They even made problems when it was about Cup big final and after long negotiations accepted to play it during weekend. Not once, they did it twice in last years. That forced Remes decision to stop sponsoring the competition, actually.
You must also know that Polish Cup is played for two years. How is it possible? Well, the competition starts every year in every region (sixteen of them) and lasts a season - with only the winner of this qualifications (involving teams from fourth division and lower) able to compete in national Polish Cup next season. Nobody knows why it is made like that, it is not the question about strict football calendar (as said), it is not the question of organization (as evidence show in England, Germany and 95% of other nations), it is not the question of money (as federation has high budget, they're spending it stupidly though). Also current Polish Cup regulations are not helping its name - rarely we see 'Goliath vs David' scenarios, Cupsets are limited to few in decade, and most importantly, the Cup time is not saint, it is not something we wait for weeks, we look for, shamefully.
It is not only the fault of the federation though. Clubs had their voice but don't want to change anything. What is more, last season clubs decided not to take part in League Cup and allow to cancel the competition, cause it made them play (at least) six more games per season. The effects can be seen now - our players are not able to make a step forward to better league and compete for whole, much longer season, fans have less football to watch, youngsters chance to gain first-team experience are limited to none, cause every round of Ekstraklasa is important.
Polish Cup will never rise to its name with people involved in organization and deciding about its future wanting to sustain status quo, that, as You see, makes this once glamorous competition completely useless waste of time. And they don't even make an effort to hide their intentions.
Stats about average attendances in 1/16 final round of Polish Cup in last years (attendance in thousands/games, season, average in thousands per game)
35.5/15* - 2010/2011 - 2,34
54.4/16 - 2009/2010 - 3,4
36.7/15* - 2008/2009 - 2,45
43/15* - 2007/2008 - 2,9
* - one game not included because: played without fans or no data available about attendance