WE CAN always count on the FA Cup to throw up memorable and unusual stories each season for Non-League clubs.
So far this is the season for Chichester City. The Step 4 club have made it all the way to the first round for the first time in 60 years – and then got a bye straight into the second!
For those who missed it, the bye came because of League One Bury’s demise. There were an odd number of clubs in the first round proper draw so it was decided the final ball in the hat would progress straight through, with the £36,000 prize money cheque thrown in for good measure.
Of course, no football club or fan wants to be seen benefiting from someone else’s misfortune but it seemed fitting that the lowest ranked club left in the competition were the lucky recipients.
They’ve even made a donation to the Bury start-up club, which they didn’t have to, showing they understand the importance of the football family.
The players celebrated wildly on TV and fair play to them. They now get the chance to draw a plum tie in the second round and even dream of reaching the third round – what a story that would be.
Like many others, Chichester City will be grateful for the financial benefits of the FA Cup too. The FA recently doubled the prize fund and this season we saw losing money in the qualifying rounds.
The FA see the competition as a great way to put the money from TV deals back into football and it is certainly huge for clubs providing they spend it right.
And that’s one of the big talking points – how does a club spend their money wisely? For some that might mean signing that striker that will win promotion. For others it’s purchasing new equipment or renovating the tea bar.
Our friend from The Non-League Show, Tim Fuell, penned a column in last Sunday’s NLP on the very subject. As someone involved at Hayes & Yeading he is seeing first-hand how big a cup run can be with their first round proper tie against Oxford United selected for live TV.
Check the column out if you can, but Tim brings up the idea of how money can be best spent – how about a voucher to be used by clubs at FA recommended outlets? So instead of the money being wasted on the team, an investment is made into the club’s infrastructure or is used to improve the ground.
You’ll no doubt have your own views but anything that can be to the benefit of a football club long term is surely the way to go?
We’ll enjoy telling the FA Cup stories over the coming weeks and plenty of clubs will soak up the national spotlight.
While the actual games are great in the moment, it’s important the cup money leaves a lasting legacy too.