The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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FA Cup courts Hollywood image

Desperately seeking to apply some polish to the FA Cup, the Football Association are considering a proposal from American movie moguls to make a full-length feature film of a season in the life of the world’s oldest footballing trophy. Provisionally titled The Dream Factory, this emotional picture will celebrate the romance of the Cup, focusing on the popular David versus Goliath plot-line.

It’s Hereford meets Hollywood.

If they do head off to the flicks, the popcorn-munching mandarins of Soho Square will be following in Roy Keane’s footsteps.

The Irishman co-operated in a film released Monday which attempts to provide a more rounded picture of Mick McCarthy’s nemesis. If Keane’s public image can be improved by a 90-minute movie, bringing some lustre to the FA Cup should be a doddle.

Celluloid chronicling has become de rigueur among the rich and famous: Manchester United have done a film, Liverpool have one out soon and the concept has just been floated chez Arsenal.

The managers are given the last word on the final cut: Sir Alex Ferguson happily accepted the director’s version, while Gerard Houllier was concerned by any scene — or frame — that might reflect badly on Liverpool (such as a shot of a fan holding a beer).

Such films do wonderfully well on the DVD and video market, at home and across the globe, particularly in the Far East.

United and Liverpool are effectively using the films to sell their brand, knowing the merchandising spin-offs in prospect. Now the cameras are being trained on the Cup — and any publicity is good publicity. Soho Square accept they need to conduct a salvage operation on their battered silverware.

The elite’s obsession with the glamour and cash of the Champions League has lessened the Cup’s appeal to the big boys. This week United, Arsenal and Newcastle embark on another group-phase odyssey in the Champions League which will continue to distract them even when the third round of the FA Cup comes around in January.

United’s preference for the beaches of Brazil rather than the pitches of England when scheduled to defend their trophy three seasons ago will go down as one of the darkest days in the Cup’s history. The short-sighted, money-driven decision to link the competition to a sponsor — the ghastly “in association with” which stuck in newsreaders’ throats — certainly cheapened the Cup.

Yet the producers believe their film will do good business at the box office because the Cup still has a place in the public’s imagination. As Arsenal, United and Liverpool become richer and ever more distant from the rest, so grows the urge among those left behind to give them a bloody nose whenever the occasion arises.

Cup weekends offer the only opportunity for upstairs to be invaded by downstairs, for Newcastle to be embarrassed by Hereford.

It makes heroes of Sutton United and Woking. It gives butchers, bakers and degree-takers a shot at 15 minutes of fame. A goalscoring David who has toppled a Premiership giant is catapulted from anonymity at dawn to Match of the Day studios at dusk.

Film-makers relish scripts overflowing with unpredictability, with Crazy Gangs beating Culture Clubs, with Team Baths swapping notepads for shin pads and generating huge interest on the back of a Cup run.

Set to music — Another One Bites The Dust' — a film of underdogs unleashed on the pedigree Premiership could capture all that still makes the Cup so magical to many.

The Cup may have lost something in the eyes of the leading players and managers but fans adore it, love the day out at Wembley, Cardiff, wherever the Cup lays its hat.

Whenever fans congregate, talk often turns to Cup moments. Take Tottenham Hotspur: memories abound of Ricky Villa’s dribble, Ossie Ardiles’ knees and Paul Gascoigne’s free-kick.

The directors would go behind the scenes, charting the feelings of pride or trepidation of unknown players before stepping out at famous venues. They would eavesdrop on fans building up for the match, on managers explaining away humiliating results.

People love the idea of the Cup but are not going to Cup ties in the huge numbers of yesteryear.

The Cup is in decline and radical measures are required to arrest this sad development. Sending the Cup on a big-screen adventure may just help safeguard its future.

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