Friday, 30 November 2007

If I had a little money

Of course, the FA Cup is not only about the romance, the giant killings, the glory, the fans or the myriad of hopes and dreams up and down the country. There is also the money. The hard cash, the lolly, readies, greens, dough, moolah, bread, rhino, spondoolicks, motsa, beer tokens, boodle, dosh, poppy, wonga... whatever your name for it is, money will always play it's part.

For the smaller clubs, this can be a pretty important part. Actually, a hugely significant part. For many clubs, a decent FA Cup run can be a saviour. For others, it can be the foundation for greater things.

On the eve of the FA Cup Second Round Proper both Cambridge United and Weymouth will, without any shadow of doubt, have one eye on a potential money spinning game in the Third Round, the stage at which the big clubs enter the fray. Without either team underestimating their opponents on Saturday, both clubs and fans will have that thought lurking somewhere in their minds.

It is one of the ingredients that makes the FA Cup such an exciting dish.

The Second Round begins this evening when Horsham take on Swansea City, live on Sky TV. The Sussex club have had a fantastic cup run already, disposing of Arundel, Bury Town, AFC Wimbledon, Chippenham and Maidenhead United. The run has netted them £37,000 from the FA Prize Fund. They will receive an additional £75,000 from the FA Broadcast Fund for tonight's Sky coverage. With Horsham planning to leave their Atspeed Stadium in the near future, some of this extra income will go towards the funding of their new ground.

This kind of FA Cup income swelling the coffers can make a real difference. Back in 2004, Exeter City of the Conference were in financial ruin, several million pounds in debt. They were managing to stay alive through the considerable efforts of the Exeter City Supporters Trust yet the future looked bleak. But then, Exeter City were pulled out of the velvet bag to play Manchester United in the Third Round of the FA Cup. The game at Old Trafford (in January 2005) finished 0-0 in front of over 67,000. This single match alone was worth £653,511 to Exeter. The replay at Exeter was televised which netted the Devon outfit a further £150,000. Their debts were settled in December 2005.

It is not only non-league clubs, or clubs facing an uncertain future, that can benefit. In February 2006 Colchester United, at the time in the upper reaches of League One, were drawn away at Chelsea for a Fifth Round game. They had already seen off Sheffield United and Derby County. Their reward for reaching the last sixteen was £60,000 but with the Chelsea tie, they hit the jackpot. With TV coverage, gate receipts and merchandise sales, Colchester United netted close to £1 million from the competition. This income paid the wages for the squad for the remainder of the season which meant they were able to keep their squad together. They won promotion to the Championship and went on to have a successful first season (2006-2007) at that level.

The money associated with a decent FA Cup run can, and will, make a difference to many clubs. For some, it may be the difference between survival or extinction. So good luck to all clubs this weekend, the Third Round awaits. Plus at least another £24,000 for getting there.

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