FA Cup progress bitter-sweet for Marine AFC

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FA Cup earnings have been hit by Covid-19 / Pic: Carlos Yo via Wikimedia Commons

Marine AFC have seen their FA Cup earnings slashed in half due to the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Northern Premier League North West Division side have been drawn against Chester FC in the fourth qualifying round of the competition, which is to be played on October 24.

A win for The Mariners will see them in the draw for the first round proper.

While a cup run is being welcomed by the Crosby-based club, the coronavirus pandemic means that prize money and gate receipts are not as lucrative as previous years.

The winner of the domestic trophy can earn a place in the UEFA Europa League, but that is not the aim for every team throughout the league pyramid. The competition can provide a financial lifeline for clubs like Marine while helping to raise their profile.

Marine vice-chairman Dave McMillan said: “We’ve earned nearly £16,000 in prize money alone this season, allowing for the Chester tie, even if we lose.

“That’s half of the normal levels as the FA cut the fund by 50% because of their own financial situation with lockdown. In a normal season you’d be looking at £50,000 in prize money and gate receipts for a first-round appearance against a reasonably well supported opponent.

“It generates interest in the media and local fanbase which will raise our profile.”

Any club down to the tenth level of the English football league system that meets the eligibility criteria can compete in the FA Cup.

There are four qualifying rounds, a preliminary and extra preliminary round to navigate before the first round proper. These rounds are contested by non-league clubs playing below Sky Bet League Two. Marine entered the competition at the preliminary round and defeated higher league opposition Nantwich Town 4-1 in the third qualifying round in front of 397 fans at the Marine Travel Arena.

However, due to tighter lockdown restrictions their next FA Cup tie against Vanarama National League North side Chester will be played behind closed doors meaning fans cannot attend the fixture.

Tom Clarke, who is on the media team at Marine, said: “With the next round being behind closed doors, as a media team we’ll put everything possible into place for the fans to know exactly what’s happening as it happens.”

Marine fan, Jordan, said: “The possibility of drawing a big football club, especially away and watching Marine compete with them over 90 minutes is exciting.

“It would be brilliant if the fans could follow the team to Chester and be the 12th man. I don’t really understand why we can’t attend, with it being outdoors.”

About Will Rayment, JMU Journalism