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This season's FA Cup is going to experiment with a bizarre new rule

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The FA Cup has been under fire from all quarters in the past decade or so but, thanks to a concerted effort from the FA and broadcasters, it seemed that the love for the old trophy was coming back. While winning it wasn't enough to save Louis van Gaal's job at Manchester United, he certainly seemed delighted to get his hands of the famous cup, and it gave the club their first trophy of the post-Fergie era.

However, a bizarre new rule change could lay the competition open to accusations that it is losing its integrity.

The Football Assocation is going to trial a new format next season which allows teams to make a fourth substitution, if they have already used their initial three in normal time, during extra-time in games - but only from the quarter-finals onwards. This follows on from the decision back in May to adopt a straight knock-out format from the quarter-finals, meaning that drawn games will go straight into extra-time and penalties, and those classic late-stage replay tussles will be a thing of the past.

FA chief executive Martin Glenn said that, "The introduction of a fourth substitute in extra time will bring extra intrigue and interest... The Emirates FA Cup is renowned for its great history and tradition but, as the game's governing body, it is important The FA continues to look at how it can further add to the drama and spectacle of a competition loved by millions around the world. Also, from a technical point of view, it will be interesting to see how managers use the chance to make an additional substitution in such high-profile games and the impact it has on the final result. Player welfare and being mindful of the number of games people play at the elite level has also been a consideration."

The move immediately seems to throw up the suggestion that the competition is now operating under different rules in the early and later rounds, which seems somewhat strange. A drawn game in the Third Round will thus go to a replay, which could then have extra-time - but no extra substitute - while a semi-final will be settled on the day, but allow teams an extra sub, but only in extra-time.

In addition, the move seems likely to aid the big clubs, who will often have a galaxy of stars sitting on their bench - if a minnow who has made it deep into the tournament is holding them at bay, they'll have an extra option to bring on a big-name player to swing it their way in extra-time. With the FA Cup pinning its hopes ever more on upsets from the plucky underdog, this seems a counterintuitive move.

However, the rule is not without precedent - the recent Copa America trialled the extra sub in this year's final - although neither Chile nor Argentina chose to deploy their 'spare man' in extra-time.

(Image: Rex)

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