“We are not going to win the FA Cup and I do not give two s***s about it, to be honest. I care about staying in the Premier League, as does everybody at this club. Our Premier League status is not protected by winning the FA Cup and it is as simple as that. It is a fantastic competition and perhaps one day we will be in a position where we can compete for it but not now.”
So said the Reading striker Dave Kitson a couple of days ago.
“One day we will be in a position where we can win it”? It’s six games, Dave. Six games at a chance of glory and immortality. You would think the FA Cup is an ideal opportunity for a club like Reading to win some silverware, surely? Let’s be honest – it’s extremely unlikely that Reading will ever win the Premier League.
But does that matter? Are medals enough these days? Is playing in the Premier League and then if you’re lucky, the Champions League, the pinnacle of a player’s career? In a career lasting fifteen years tops where even the most average of top-flight players can pick up a million or two per year maybe it is.
I still love the history, the memories and the emotion the cup brings to me and many others. When I was a kid playing in the street or the park, I wasn’t dreaming of scoring the winning goal (or in my case saving a penalty) in a Premier League game on a Monday night between Bolton and Portsmouth, or between Fulham and Blackburn. It was the cup final.
It’s a sad indictment of the English game but Kitson’s attitude – and the attitude of a lot of clubs towards the traditional cup competitions – is becoming more commonplace. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard managers, players, supporters etc. refer to a cup game as a “distraction”?
But is it any wonder? Assuming the eventual winners of the FA Cup enter at the third round stage they will earn just over £2.4m in prize money, which works out at around £400k per match on average.
Compare that to the Premier League. Last season £2.4m was awarded to the club who finished 16th (Fulham).
This season the club finishing bottom (or Derby County as they are affectionately known) will pocket an estimated £30m, an average of £790k per game.
This before gate receipts, TV revenue, sponsorship deals and in the Premier League’s case ‘parachute payments’.
To the money-men, there’s no value there anymore. And as for the prestige, it doesn’t matter. It’s amazing what an extra £30m can buy (Ipswich Town for example).
But that’s just the upper echelons of the football pyramid. The majority of football takes place in the real world, and to a club like Chasetown – who have already played eight matches to reach the third round – the £100k or so they will pocket from their cup run will be enough to keep the club going for a good few years.
And that’s where the modern magic of the FA Cup hides. It may not be worth as much to the ‘big’ clubs anymore but to a club like Chasetown, or Havant and Waterlooville or even Norwich City it can be priceless.