By Ed Krarup
The Premier League is awash with money thanks to its TV broadcasting deals. Its current three-year contract with Sky and BT Sport is worth £5.1bn.
Much of that is shared equally, but clubs also gets more cash for featuring in live TV matches and payments based on their final league position.
Aston Villa finished bottom in 2016 yet still pocketed £66.2m. This season’s worst-placed club will still earn £99m.
Then there’s the additional wealth on offer for teams who finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.
So where does all of this leave the FA Cup? Lifting the trophy earns the winner £1.8m, plus a share of TV revenue and gate receipts.
Even accounting for the payments for winning through each round, the prize money on offer is paltry compared to the Premier League’s riches.
But that doesn’t mean the competition has completely lost its fabled ‘magic’.
Cup cash matters to small clubs
For clubs further down the English football pyramid, the revenue from a good Cup run can prove pivotal to their future.
This season, two non-league sides, Sutton United and Lincoln City, have reached the last 16.
Both have earned around £450,000 by getting to the 5th round, with TV revenue and gate receipts bringing in extra cash.
Without enormous fan bases or huge TV payments to rely on, success in the Cup can have a truly magical effect on small clubs.
For some it means improving facilities, but for others it guarantees stability – or even survival.
Cup giant killers
But enough about money. Surely the real magic of the Cup comes when smaller clubs get the chance to topple big names.
Lincoln visit top-flight Burnley in the 5th round, while Sutton will host 12-time FA Cup winners Arsenal.
Sutton beat Leeds United in the 4th round, while Lincoln dumped out another Championship side, Brighton & Hove Albion.
Can either pull off another upset? Inevitably, both Arsenal and Burnley will field weakened sides – the Premier League is their main focus.
For some, this is a sign of the FA Cup’s diminishing importance.
Young talent in Cup games
Premier League and Championship clubs have been criticised for resting their first-choice XIs for Cup games against weaker opposition.
Liverpool played their youngest-ever team against Plymouth. They paid the price as they were held 0-0 at Anfield, and manager Jurgen Klopp was accused of disrespecting football’s oldest knockout competition.
But surely for a club’s future to be bright, they must bring through a steady stream of young players into the first team?
The FA Cup gives managers a chance to hand aspiring first-teamers the intense, physical challenge they need to really test their potential.
The Cup still matters. It raises the profile and boosts the bank balance of smaller clubs. It puts their best players ‘in the shop window’.
At larger clubs, it gives young players a chance to impress – or not if their team suffers an upset.