Scottish Cup: Fans vote in favour of scrapping tournament in BBC Sport poll

By Andrew SouthwickBBC Scotland
Scottish Cup
This season's final is due to be played on 8 May

The League Cup may have been decided on Sunday, but plenty of uncertainty remains surrounding this season's Scottish Cup.

And, according to a BBC Sport poll of supporters, the verdict is that Scotland's showpiece knockout tournament should be scrapped this season. Well, sort of.

By now, the fourth round should have been played and the quarter-final draw made, but instead the second round has not even been finished as teams below the Championship are not allowed to train, far less play.

BBC Sport Scotland conducted a poll last month to find out what fans thought should happen with Scotland's showpiece competition.

Over 10,000 votes were cast in an incredibly tight contest, with 38% saying they would cancel the tournament, while 37% preferred adapting the format to a finals-style event. Moving the games to next season got a share of 19%, and throwing out smaller teams was the least favoured option with just 6%.

Still unsure? Read on for an explanation of the various options as the future of this season's Scottish Cup remains uncertain.

How did we get here?

All football below the top two divisions of the SPFL was stopped in early January.

No date for a return has yet been decided, which has meant the dates reserved for the third and fourth rounds have been and gone without any matches.

We had the unfamiliar feeling of playing last season's Scottish Cup in December. Indeed, Celtic completed a quadruple treble having already been knocked out of the 2020-21 League Cup.

This season's competition was supposed to conclude on 8 May. But regardless of whether that happens or not, the Scottish FA is determined there will be a cup final and a Scottish Cup 2021 winner.

So what are the options?

Throw the 'wee teams' out?

The cup is about more than just the final. It's the chimney sweeper facing off against Scotland internationals, and European stars having to chase sheep off the pitch to get the game on. Well, not quite, but you get the point.

Throw the smaller sides out of the cup and you deny Brora Rangers a home tie with Hearts, Huntly the chance to host Aberdeen, and Cove Rangers the trip to Ibrox to face Rangers.

But with only 22 teams currently still playing each week, should the Scottish FA re-do the draw with just those sides? It might feel wrong, but would mean just four rounds of fixtures to get through.

Play a mini-tournament?

Now that Scotland are back in a major finals, we should all be aware of how tournament football works. Group stage, knockout, final.

With the likelihood of no fans being allowed, selling tickets wouldn't be an issue and there would be no worrying about stadium capacities. To save teams travelling, they could even have a host city for each group with teams staying within their own bubble.

There are even currently two weekends in April without league football in which ties could be played.

Uefa completed the latter stages of last season's men's and women's Champions Leagues, plus the Europa League, in mini-tournaments hosted by one country, so it has been done before.

It wouldn't be the Scottish Cup as we know it, but as long as there's a final on a sunny day in May, and the oldest trophy in world football gets held aloft at the end of it, then it still counts.

Play what we can & bump the rest to next season?

They did it last season. The semi-finals were moved to October, and Celtic's dramatic penalty shootout win over Hearts went ahead at a near-empty Hampden five days before Christmas.

Moving the latter stages again may not be ideal, but it also has its benefits. The Scottish government has now vaccinated over 1.4 million of the population. By May it may still be too soon to have fans at games, but by December we could - as hard as it is to imagine - have a full Hampden.

For some teams, it may work in their favour. Hibs currently occupy third place in the Premiership and, if the cup is not completed this season, they could be the ones to secure a Europa League play-off place. Win or lose, that would put give them continental group-stage football of some sort.

Give it a miss entirely this year?

Is it all just too much hassle? Is playing cup finals in front of no fans just wrong? Would kicking smaller teams out through no fault of their own not be against everything the Scottish Cup has come to represent?

Surely we can survive a year without the Scottish Cup? It'll save most of us a lot of angst when our team inevitably don't win it.

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