Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl) Fri 15 August 2008
The FA Cup starts here
We begin with an apology.
When we said yesterday that these were exciting times and that various football competitions were going on around the world except for one which was about to start (i.e. the Premier League), we were being slightly economical with the truth.
Not that these aren't exciting times, etc, etc - it was just the bit at the end about 'one competition remaining that hadn't exploded into life yet'. We should have mentioned another one that you might have heard of - a competition that gets a bit of publicity from time to time and occasionally raises an eyebrow or two. We speak, of course, of the legend that is the FA Cup.
Believe it or not, the 2008/09 competition began tonight at 6.20pm (BST) with the very first match of them all - an Extra Preliminary Round tie between Wantage and Brading Town.
Now usually an event such as this involving two teams playing eight rungs below the Premier League on the football ladder would barely impact on the lives of the common man or woman, but this season is different. That's because the 2008/09 FA Cup is being covered by ITV and unlike the BBC who had the previous broadcasting rights, they'll be showing all the action from the Extra Preliminary Round onwards - not just from the start of the First Round Proper.
That means dozens of lower league clubs around England and Wales will finally get the publicity they deserve as they show the world who they are and the vital role they play in the fabric of the national game.
We think this is a bold and utterly fantastic move on the part of ITV, a move which leads us to wonder why nobody ever thought of doing it before. It's exactly the shot in the arm the competition needs, and if it doesn't motivate even more people to go along and support their local teams, nothing will.
So how are ITV able to cover so many matches involving so many teams at a stage of the competition when even the mere suggestion of the term 'league club' seems out of place? The answer lies in ITVLocal.com - a new website aimed at bringing news and information to people at a local level, because let's face it, if there's been an upsurge in crime in your area, you don't want to turn on your TV to hear what Robert Mugabe's up to in Zimbabwe or which parts of Georgia have been reclaimed by the Russians.
Again, it's a brilliant idea that keeps people right across the UK up to speed on the things that are going on right outside their front door, and as a part of that remit, sport is being covered in a similarly relevant way. Via the ITV Local website (plus ITV.com and TheFA.com), anyone anywhere can catch up with all the goals and all the excitement from the FA Cup games taking place at local team level.
A whopping 762 teams are hoping to reach Wembley this year and tomorrow afternoon will see 380 of them entering the field of battle, all hoping that they might one day do a giant-killing act on one of the professional clubs.
ITV will be sending its cameras out to cover as many of the games as possible - one of which will be Wembley FC v Royston Town, and that's where we'll be going tomorrow to soak up that unique atmosphere for SPAOTP.