This FA Cup has become one of the most unpredictable soccer tournaments in England. Major upsets have littered this year’s tournament and Chelsea and Manchester City, the top two clubs in the Premier League, have both been knocked out in the fourth round by lower level clubs.
Big clubs seem to be indifferent toward the FA Cup, often playing their second-string lineup. The revenue they can generate from this tournament is not comparable to the prize money, TV money and ticket revenue they can bring in by winning the Premier League or the Champions League.
But for smaller clubs, the lower they are in the league system, the more critical the FA Cup is to their bottom line. Look no further than today’s match between Manchester United and Cambridge for an example.
Cambridge United, a fourth-division English club, tied with Premier League power Manchester United in the fourth round last Friday. The home draw earned Cambridge a replay with Manchester United, this time at the 75,000 seat Old Trafford.
According to Cambridge United’s Chairman Dave Doggett, the club is estimated to earn as much as $2.28 million when United hosts the club at Old Trafford, a number close to the club’s entire annual turnover. . . . and $300 million less than United’s $657.66 million.
The revenue Cambridge United receives by advancing in the FA Cup is crucial to their survival. In order to capitalize on its home match against United, Cambridge required fans to buy half-year season tickets in order to attend the game. Cambridge’s stadium has barely over a tenth of the stadium capacity of Old Trafford, so earning the replay was monumental.
Cambridge receives 42.5 percent of the gate receipts, and although Old Trafford is predicted to not sell-out, they do have 52,000 season ticket holders that have already paid for tickets. And unlike Manchester City’s decision to decrease ticket prices for their game against Middlesbrough, United has decided not to reduce ticket prices and keep them between $50 to $80 a piece. In regards to the TV rights, Cambridge is receiving $109,000 for the game. In addition to the prize money they have received from the FA Cup thus far, they will receive an extra $138,000 if they beat United and advance to the next round. Here is the FA Cup prize money break down for this season:
|Extra Preliminary Round winners||$2,278|
|Preliminary Round winners||$2,922|
|1st Round Qualifying winners||$4,554|
|2nd Round Qualifying winners||$6,830|
|3rd Round Qualifying winners||$11,384|
|4th Round Qualifying winners||$18,973|
|1st Round Proper winners||$27,321|
|2nd Round Proper winners||$40,982|
|3rd Round Proper winners||$102,455|
|4th Round Proper winners||$136,606|
|5th Round Proper winners||$273,212|
|6th Round Proper winners||$546,424|
Cambridge United is desparate for money, even charging its players $60 to replace swapped jerseys, and the money the club receives from its next match against the Red Devils will go towards renovating the stadium. Cambridge’s annual wage bill is a mere $1.5 million, compared to Manchester United’s $304 million.