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FA Cup is still important for non-League clubs

South Park aiming for first round

icon southpark11 October ~ Monday's FA Cup fourth qualifying round draw has given a number of sides from far down the football pyramid the opportunity to progress to the first round. There they could meet League One's heavyweights, such as ex-Premier League teams Sheffield United or Coventry City. The 32 ties will see a minimum of six clubs from a league lower than the Conference regional divisions make it through to the "proper" stages. South Park, based in Reigate in Surrey, only played in the FA Cup for the first time two years ago.

They are going well in the Combined Counties Premier, the same division as Wembley FC who were soul-sellers to Budweiser's ex-pro experiment (see WSC 308) earlier in the campaign. While Wembley fell at the preliminary round, South Park are a home win away from a place among League clubs, having already won five matches to get this far. Their 3-1 win over Brentwood Town last weekend was watched by 255 people, the highest ever attended game at their King George's Field. Their next opponents will be Metropolitan Police of the Isthmian League, who themselves have only reached the first round twice since the Second World War.

They are not the only side from step five – eight promotions away from the Premier League – to have reached this stage. Blackfield & Langley, near Southampton and playing in the Wessex League, reached the first qualifying round for the first time last season but have also beaten five opponents en route to an away tie with Hastings United. Having started their FA Cup quest a week before the Football League season began they could now face Portsmouth, winners of the competition in 2008 and only 15 miles down the road. Whoever wins will be making club history; Hastings have only reached the first round once since 1981 and haven't faced a League team in the competition since defeat to Northampton in 1960.

Last season was a good one for non-League clubs as four sides made it through to the third round. Conference champions Fleetwood were rewarded with a home tie against neighbouring Blackpool, Tamworth travelled to Everton and Wrexham were beaten on penalties by Brighton. Salisbury of the Conference South also made it through, losing 3-1 at Bramall Lane. AFC Totton reached the second round having dispatched Bradford Park Avenue 8-1 and benefitted from television revenue as well as prize money when they were drawn at home to Bristol Rovers.

The £72,000 they earned in television rights, and the £33,500 Stourbridge received after taking Plymouth to a televised replay, are enormous sums of money for clubs at such a level. The FA Cup is viewed as an unwelcome distraction for many Premier League clubs but the oft-marketed magic of the competition is far from dead for hundreds of lower-league sides, for whom one good Cup campaign can go a long way towards securing a sustainable future. Matt Ramsay

On the subject...

Comment on 11-10-2012 12:50:29 by rckd #719136
Also amazingly this year, there are EIGHT all-Conference Premier ties in the Fourth Round Qualifying. That means there will be at least eight of the 'bigger' teams dumped out - clearing a path for more of the smaller clubs to get a foot in the first round and share a bit of the wealth.

The Conference Premier is comprised of a lot of teams that have fallen from League football (ie. huge favourites against amateur teams) so to have them batched together means that there'll be more minnow clubs than usual set for a windfall.
Comment on 11-10-2012 18:46:36 by Seven Saxon Kings #719313
Hopefully South Park knock Met Police out, the latter being a stain on the non-league game. Although at least if they get on TV and we have the cliched list of all the squad's day jobs it will be quite enlightening as to how few (if any) of their players say, "Policeman".
Comment on 12-10-2012 11:43:43 by Peter_Bateman #719547
Good luck to the minnows tomorrow, I hope at least one of you makes it through and that the draw is kind. I well remember the thrill of seeing Bromsgrove Rovers beat Buckingham Town at this stage in 1986 and so reach the First Round Proper for the first time in thirty years. Three days later I stood in the pouring rain to see an absorbing replay between the now defunct Oldbury United and Halesowen Town and saw close up how much it meant to the players. Sadly, these days, many Blue Square Premier teams seem to regard the Cup and even more the Trophy as an irritation. It's down to the likes of South Park to give this once great competition the respect it deserves. Good luck to them all!
Comment on 12-10-2012 13:56:53 by pashley #719633
The money that can be gained throgh the FA Cup is a lifeline for many clubs and is one of the reasons given by non-league Welsh clubs who have elected to stay in the english pyramid rather than join the Welsh Premier League. The money that can earned from the Welsh Cup simply doesn't compare. There's not even a sponsor.
Comment on 14-10-2012 13:10:38 by heedmaster #720378
Peter Bateman is wrong to suggest that Blue Square Bet Premier sides view the FA Cup as an irritation, but probably right when it comes to the FA Trophy.
Reaching the 3rd or 4th Round of the FA Cup is a financial windfall, even for non league's big boys. It has only a minor impact on fixture backlog given that there is still several months of the season left to play those rearranged fixtures.
The latter stages of the FA Trophy, however, can get in the way of either a promotion push or a relegation battle, so several BSP clubs are not too upset when they are knocked out. It's all about priorities, although York City secured both the FA Trophy and promotion to the Football League (via the play-offs) last season, so the non-league double of sorts can be done. The lesser lights, those comfortably in mid-table in their respective leagues, show greater keenness as a day out at Wembley is not too sniffed at.

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