The growth of the Premier League and European football since the turn of the century seems to have worn the gloss off the FA Cup for fans of elite clubs. From time-to-time ‘the magic of the cup’ is revived – the 94th minute equaliser of Jamal Lewis being a timely reminder last Wednesday. These moments are rare however and typically two teams from the top level of English football reach the FA cup final. Millwall and Cardiff are the only two teams from outside the top flight to make the final this century and the last second tier team to win the competition was West Ham. Trevor Brooking gave the Hammers a 1-0 win against Arsenal in the 1980 final. Given the progress of the Premier League, I wonder will this ever happen again.
The economic value associated with avoiding relegation from the Premier League or earning a Champions League spot, has resulted in managers prioritising league ambitions, often resting key players for Cup matches. This makes economic sense for the elite as, over time, the sums associated with Premier League success have dwarfed FA Cup payments.
The payments for this year’s competition are below:
Extra preliminary round winners (185) - £1,500
Preliminary round winners (160) - £1,925
First round qualifying winners (116) - £3,000
Second Round Qualifying winners (80) - £4,500
Third Round Qualifying winners (40) - £7,500
Fourth Round Qualifying winners (32) - £12,500
First Round Proper winners (40) - £18,000
Second Round Proper winners (20) - £27,000
Third Round Proper winners (32) - £67,500
Fourth Round Proper winners (16) - £90,000
Fifth Round Proper winners (8) - £180,000
Quarter-Final winners (4) -£360,000
Semi-Final winners (2) -£900,000
Semi-Final losers (2) -£450,000
Final runners-up (1) - £900,000
Final winners (1) - £1,800,000
Of course, there is another side to this. For smaller clubs a draw against a Premier League team can lead to a windfall and a good cup run can be very lucrative.
The last 32 is decided next weekend with two David vs. Goliath clashes. Newport County AFC take on Tottenham Hotspur and Yeovil Town play Manchester United. The competition rules state that “matches played in the Third, Fourth, Fifth Rounds and Quarter-Final of the Competition Proper, the net gate receipts of each match shall be divided as follows: 45% to each Club competing in the match. 10% to the Pool.” Newport County ground Rodney Parade has a capacity of 7,850 (and the club are trying to install additional seats). Yeovil town’s Huish Park has a capacity of 9,565 (5,212 seated). Surely both will be full houses and both clubs can also expect their revenues to be boosted by TV money.
As the old joke goes, the board of directors of these minnows may prefer a draw to scooping the £90,000 for winning the tie. If either Yeovil or Newport do achieve a draw, the economic value of a replay should not be understated. Although the take of gate revenue is lower for replays (42.5% to each Club), this would represent a major windfall. Here’s some very very casual estimates
-Tottenham attracted 47,527 fans to Wembley to watch Tottenham vs. AFC Wimbledon in round three. If the same number watched a replay at circa £15 a ticket (the round three price) Newport would take approximately 300k away.
-Manchester United had 73,899 fans at Old Trafford for their match against Derby in round three. At circa £40 a ticket, Yeovil could leave with over a million pounds.
While the magic of the Cup may be wearing off for fans of big clubs, the (economic) magic for small clubs is alive and well. With Premier League teams expanding stadiums, and building new ones, the value of a good cup run for small clubs could be more attractive than ever.