WATCHED a team of minnows make a fist of it against the Champions League winners in the FA Cup yesterday afternoon. In the end Liverpool had too much for Luton Town as they came from 3-1 down to progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup. What's that you say, they were playing Shrewsbury Town? Yes, of course they were; I'm talking about the game the BBC was showing 'live' on the iPlayer.

I may have been duped right enough by a URL link masquerading as something else. It read 'LIVE FA Cup: Man Utd score three in six minutes at Tranmere – in-play highlights'. What I got for the most part was an FA Cup Classic . . . apparently - such a ripsnorter that I entirely wiped it from my memory banks. For the casual observer there was plenty to enjoy – notwithstanding Mark Lawrenson on co-commentary – it was played out on the trademark lower-league muck heap, with a Mitre ball no less, and there was the sight of the current Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson skipping past Sky Sports foghorn Jamie Carragher to give Luton a 2-1 lead; all played out to the dulcet tones of John Motson on mic. We also had the current Rangers manager displaying his trademark swan dive to earn a penalty, subsequently missed by pantomime villain Djibril Cisse while Dundee United legend Florent Sinama-Pongolle scored twice. Since it's a 'classic' you won't need me to tell you what happened next (Liverpool recovered to win 5-3).

What was this? A cynical ploy by the corporation to distract a whole bunch of Liverpool supporters while BT Sport was simultaneously showing a Manchester United game. Who knows?

The whole thing left me wondering what I was missing. The first question that occurred was this: who, other than me (108-odd thousand others as it happens), is watching this? Secondly screening a 90-minute game from yesteryear appeared to be a tacit admission that the FA Cup of old was now of more consequence than anything going on in the competition today.

And perhaps that is true. We had Pep Guardiola suggesting the League Cup should be scrapped in the hours before Manchester City beat Fulham as a result of fixture backlog, so why not go the whole hog and scrap both? A day earlier, we had Jose Mourinho complaining that Tottenham would have to play a replay against Southampton after conceding in the 87th minute at St Mary's, clearly missing the obvious shortcomings in his own team that led to such an inconvenience in the first place.

The Beeb signed a new four-year contract last year giving it up to 18 live fixtures from the 2021-22 season onwards. It showed three live matches over the weekend, screened two more highlights packages and had a range of radio offerings on the BBC Sport website, as well as the aforementioned Luton v Liverpool game from 2006.

The deal prompted Mark Bullingham, the FA's chief commercial and football development officer, to say: "The popularity of the competition goes from strength to strength and continues to draw some of the largest audiences in sport," he added. "The Emirates FA Cup is the best and most historic domestic cup competition in the world."

It doesn't feel that way. As a Spurs fan who grew up savouring the FA Cup wins of 1981, 1982 and 1991, there is nothing new in saying the competition has lost its lustre but its worth repeating.

Alan Gilzean once told me that it was his dream to walk out at Wembley and play in the FA Cup final and he lived that dream by lifting the famous old trophy in 1967. Those were the days when winning the cup was a close second to lifting the first division championship.

But the English FA has set about the self-styled 'greatest knockout competition in the world' with a sharp knife. As broadcast revenue increased in the Premier League and, further afield, the FA Cup became more and more of an inconvenience, the association did its best to undermine its own competition, allowing Manchester United to skip participation in the 1999-00 season, then selling the broadcast rights almost exclusively to satellite companies, playing the final on the same day as Premier League games, changing the 3pm kick-off times, limiting replays to one per fixture and now, finally, scrapping them altogether after the fifth round.

And, yet, today is one of the few ways in which those priced out of the game can watch it live. At Newcastle on Saturday, Under-12s were allowed in for £1, swelling the attendance for the visit of Oxford United to 52,221. The club had made the move after 29,786 turned up for their third-round replay against Rochdale – their lowest FA Cup attendance at St James' Park in 10 years.

But it will take more than a few extra live matches on the box, ticket incentives or reruns of classics to change the belief that the FA Cup is a dead duck. Part of that duty lies with managers of super clubs with squads to cope, who don't complain about replays or suggest scrapping cup competitions altogether. The FA, too, has a big role to play in marketing the competition better, creating greater incentives for winning it such as a Champions League play-off against fourth place in the Premier League, for example.