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Why Conor Gallagher cannot play against Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinal

Rules are rules

Leicester City v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

When the FA Cup semifinal draw was made a couple weeks ago and Chelsea got paired with Crystal Palace, the first question that came to mind almost immediately was whether Conor Gallagher would be able to play against us?

Loanees are not eligible to play against their parent clubs in the Premier League, but cup rules are often different. We did allow Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori to play against us with Derby County in the League Cup a few years ago, for example. And of course UEFA ensured that Thibaut Courtois, at the time on loan at Atlético Madrid, could play against us in the Champions League, now nearly a decade ago.

But as it turns out, and as we already found out shortly after the draw, it’s not Chelsea’s choice this time around. The FA amended the competition rules for this season to explicitly prevent on-loan players from playing against their “lending” clubs, even if they were given permission by the lending clubs to play in the competition. The FA rules used to make an exception for “season long” loan agreements, but that is no longer the case.

(j) Temporary (loan) Transfers

(i) A player on a domestic temporary (loan) transfer (including a player on loan either to or from a Welsh Club that competes in the Competition in the current season) is ineligible to compete in the Challenge Cup Competition unless permission to do so is given by the lending Club in writing


(iv) The Association will not give permission for players on loan or work experience to play against the lending Club.

-FA Challenge Cup 2021-22 revised rules

The clarity of this situation has been thrown into a bit of narrative disarray however, with a report this weekend claiming that Chelsea have rejected Palace’s request for some sort of “special dispensation” to allow Gallagher to play. It doesn’t seem like the rules would allow for any such dispensation, even if we were willing to cooperate, but apparently Palace asked anyway.

Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira was asked about this ahead of their match this weekend as well, and his response has been added to the narrative thread against Chelsea as well — even though it seems pretty clear based on this answer that he’s criticizing the rules themselves, not Chelsea.

“It’s not the best rule because the only one who will lose is Conor. [...] It’s an experience the player is missing and I’m disappointed for him.

“[...] The decision for Chelsea to send him on loan is to play these kind of games. We have as a group an opportunity to play an important game [and] I feel for him because he wanted to play in that game, every player would want to play in that game.’

-Patrick Vieira; source: Metro

Vieira thinks this is unfair, especially as Gallagher has been their most important player all season, and he’s probably right. But rules are rules!

As far as Gallagher himself, I guess he’ll just wait until next year, when he’s back with Chelsea, to play in an FA Cup semifinal!

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