The FA Cup’s third and fourth rounds will once more do without replays, the Football Association confirmed.
After replays were suspended throughout the 2020-21 season, they were scheduled to return for this season’s edition.
But as the number of games 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 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 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, 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.