Moves to rebrand the FA Cup as the Emirates FA Cup have been criticised for abandoning the tradition of the world’s oldest knockout competition.
Sheffield’s former sports minister and Football Foundation director Richard Caborn labelled the move as “commercialisation gone mad” while former FA Cup winner Lou Macari said changing the name “wouldn’t sound right”.
The FA insists no sponsorship deal has been finalised but a proposal is expected to be discussed at a board meeting on Thursday.
The controversy surrounds renaming the competition as the Emirates FA Cup - previously its main sponsorship deal was referred to as the FA Cup with Budweiser.
The FA says all the money it raises is ploughed back into grass-roots football, but Caborn says the governing body should protect the name of the FA Cup and go back to the drawing board.
Caborn said: “This is absolutely crazy. It’s commercialisation gone mad. You have the greatest name in football that has so many memories for so many people and you are just selling it off.
“It is the FA’s greatest brand and they should protect it. For people like me, who walked down Wembley Way with grandad, the FA Cup is something very special.
“It is not like the Premier League - it’s something different to people who love football, and to take that away would be mad.”
“If it is about getting extra money for the grass-roots, then I think the FA needs to go back to the drawing board and have another look at this.”
An announcement will bring an end to a frustrating time for FA commercial chiefs who have seen the FA Cup run for an entire season without a main sponsor.
The competition has been without a main sponsor since the previous deal with Budweiser expired but according to reports a £30millllion three-year deal with the airline Emirates has been agreed.
An FA spokesman said however: “We remain in discussion with a number of parties in relation to FA Cup partner opportunities.”
Macari, the Scottish international who won the 1977 FA Cup with Manchester United, said he had hoped the competition would have been sacrosanct.
He said: “I just thought something like the FA Cup would never be touched.
“The one competition I thought would always be the ‘FA Cup’ and only the ‘FA Cup’, I can’t really believe that’s going to change.
“It is only changing for one reason, isn’t it? The money.”
“It just wouldn’t sound right to me. It just wouldn’t sound right at all, I’m afraid.”
Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) chairman Malcolm Clarke said he would not oppose the name-change if the income was spent in the right way.
He said: “The big difference between the FA and everybody else in football is the FA is a non-profit-making organisation.
“So, I don’t think we would oppose having a sponsor. I think the key question is how they use the money for the benefit of football.”
Asked if some fans would say the competition would lose some of its identity, Clarke added: “I’m sure there will be some people who will say that.
“There is a awful lot of football which has lost its identity since the great age of sponsorship started.”
“The question always is how do you balance tradition against how you use the money.
“Let’s have a debate about how this money is used. At what point does the extra revenue that the FA generates for football as a whole come at an unacceptable price?”