OxVox on play-off run-in, FA Cup replays and heads of terms

AS we enter the last week of the regular season, supporters will be reflecting on what has been, what might have been, and what still may be yet to come.

Last week’s results illustrated how far the squad has come, with the scarcely believable 5-0 demolition of Peterborough, only to be brought rudely down to earth with a single point from the home games against Lincoln and Stevenage.

We go to Exeter perhaps in hope rather than expectation, but a win there and a slip up by Barnsley or Lincoln in their final games could still see us in the play-offs. Many fans will be pleased to be in this position after the near relegation of last season, but there is much to do before we can emulate the Portsmouths of this league.

READ ALSO: Heads of terms for proposed stadium agreed between U’s and county council

Through it all, the incredible support of the fans has been paramount, and we wanted to celebrate that, and point to one or two issues which challenge our devotion.

First, the celebration. The displays at recent matches have been nothing short of fantastic and have contributed hugely to everyone’s enjoyment and encouragement to the team. Even the Kassam Stadium, with all its shortcomings, can at times like these be a special place.

Now a couple of concerns, one national and one local.

Nationally, we are appalled by the decision by the FA and Premier League to abandon FA Cup replays, a decision taken without reference to the EFL and its clubs, or indeed the FA Cup organising committee or the Football Supporters’ Association, if media reports are accurate.

We stand with Des Buckingham and the club, and many other clubs and trusts up and down the country, on this issue. Chelsea, Leeds and Newcastle are just three of our recent FA Cup draws which have resulted in replays, and significant cash windfalls for Oxford United.

And whilst those windfalls are vital to help with survival for any club outside the Premier League, replays bring lifetime experiences that we as lower league fans can normally only dream of.

The recent decision to abolish replays has not only cut off a source of income which could be a lifeline towards sustainability for many clubs, but it has deprived us as fans and the players we support of rare and special opportunities. In short, it is a disgrace.

READ AGAIN: U’s boss feels for fans and players after FA Cup replays scrapped

Locally, hundreds of fans have put on record with Cherwell District Council their support for the stadium project. We all recognise the fundamental importance of the stadium to the club, the fans, and the wider community.

However, like the FA Cup situation, this is another area where fans have little real influence beyond their individual opportunity to comment, or to talk to councillors.

For example, while we are delighted to hear that the enabling heads of terms land lease document, on which we have been working hard with the club, councillors and key stakeholders to encourage progress, is now agreed by the county council, there has been little public discussion of the issues during an extended period of uncertainty following three council meetings at which agreement to proceed was clearly established.

While appreciating the need to maintain a level of commercial confidentiality, the average fan is left frustrated and confused by this apparent lack of transparency in the process.

Let us hope that decision-making by the powers that be, on these and other issues, comes to recognise the need to take care of the interests of the supporters, who are the lifeblood of football. That almost mythical creature, the much-heralded Football Regulator, is sorely needed!

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