The 2021/22 Emirates FA Cup is now underway. The first games in the competition, in the Extra Preliminary Round, were played last night. The majority will be played today. With the competition starting, Mark Bullingham, CEO at the FA, wrote the following open letter:
To all those involved in the 2021-22 Emirates FA Cup, which kicks-off up and down the country on Friday, I would like to wish you the very best of luck on behalf of The Football Association.
As many of you may already be aware, this season marks 150 years since the world’s longest-running knockout football competition was born on 20 July 1871. We will be celebrating the competition’s rich history and traditions throughout the season, and look forward to seeing you create even more in every round.
To the 729 clubs competing across ten levels of the English football pyramid, we as the competition’s organiser are extremely proud of you all. Despite the difficult times experienced by everyone over the past 18 months, we have seen not just grit and determination, but many clubs shining as beacons of hope to their staff, players, supporters and local communities.
The Emirates FA Cup has supported the transformation of numerous clubs throughout its 150 years and hopefully this season’s £16m prize fund can help to tackle some of the issues you may be facing as we move out of the pandemic.
To those local communities, you often represent the true magic of the Emirates FA Cup. Whether it is an extra preliminary round game this weekend in front of 100 people, or the Final at Wembley Stadium next May with 90,000 fans, you are a key part of a national institution that continues to capture the imaginations of football fans all over the world.
The fact that everyone has the chance to progress and compete at the highest level is a powerful force that has sustained this competition for 15 decades and we can’t wait to hear new stories of how you have come together to support your local teams this season.
To all of the invaluable club officials and volunteers, you are the lifeblood of the game in the National League System and beyond. Whether it be preparing the pitch, cleaning the changing rooms, making the teas and coffees, or any of the other essential jobs that are required each season to ensure your team is ready to play, we take our hats off to you. No one will understand or appreciate the significance of this season’s competition more than you and we hope your involvement goes some way to make up for all of those early mornings and late nights spent preparing.
To the fans, we are delighted that you will be able to return and cheer on your teams from the outset of this season’s competition. It has been said many times in recent months, but football truly is nothing without fans, and this competition wouldn’t be what it is today without you. From the first six figure football crowd at Sheffield United v Tottenham Hotspur in 1901, to an estimated 300,000 at the old Wembley Stadium’s infamous ‘white horse final’ in 1923, the interest and passion you have for the competition have driven its development and created atmospheres that will always be remembered.
To the thousands of players who are set to take part, we hope you can look back on this season’s competition with pride, regardless of the level you play at or the stage you reach.
No other football competition offers the chance for amateur or semi-professional players to take on the very elite or turns dreams into a reality by offering the opportunity to walk out at Old Trafford or Anfield every season.
Fittingly, this will also be the first season a top scorer is crowned, and someone that gets off the mark this weekend could actually end up beating the likes of Mason Greenwood or Mo Salah to our new Golden Ball in partnership with Mitre.
To the small but invaluable group of match officials without whom none of this would be possible, we would also like to pay tribute. As well as being the people ‘in the middle’, you are also at the heart of this competition and the wider game in general. More often than not, you don't receive the credit or respect that you deserve for your time, expertise or patience, but we will always be incredibly grateful for your efforts.
To each and every one of you, we extend an enormous thank you and hope that you enjoy this season’s historic competition.
Mark Bullingham, Chief Executive Officer, The Football Association