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NLP Column 25th October 2016

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THE first round of the FA Cup is one of the biggest days in the Non-League calendar as the world’s oldest cup competition gets thrown into the spotlight.

While many media outlets will lead you to believe that ‘the FA Cup starts here!’, we all know that is complete and utter rubbish.

I spoke to Taunton Town striker Jordan Rogers last week following the Step 4 club’s replay win at Hemel Hempstead that sent them through to the first round for the first time since 1981.

He, understandably, laughed at suggestions that the competition was only ‘really’ kicking in now – after all he and his team-mates have already played seven Cup ties!

While Taunton missed out on live TV coverage, along with Midland League Premier side Westfields, just making it to this stage of the competition has swelled the coffers to the tune of over £30,000.

Considering the Championship and Premier League clubs who come in at round three receive £67,500 for winning one game, it doesn’t seem very fair to me.

Of course, we’ll never get completely parity and nobody in Non-League really asks for or expects it.

But I don’t think many would argue that money shouldn’t filter down to the qualifying rounds from the end of the competition.

I don’t think Manchester United particularly needed the £1.8million they got from winning last year’s final. Let’s also remember that the Cup is held in such high regard by boardrooms such as the one at Old Trafford, that United boss Louis van Gaal was sacked just two days after his side beat Crystal Palace to lift their 12th FA Cup.

Considering the real interest in the Cup – the big giant killings, the fantastic grass-roots stories – disappears when the last Non-League team is knocked out, there really needs to be a redistribution of the wealth.

The point was extremely well made by journalist and Salisbury FC vice-chairman Ian Ridley who can obviously look at the situation from both media and football sides.

It’s not just the FA Cup that has this issue either – the FA Vase desperately needs, in my opinion, to have its prize fund increased.

Clubs at Step 5 and 6 primarily look at the Vase as their only chance of making it to Wembley and fulfilling a childhood dream.

The money in play in the Vase is most definitely not life changing. Winning the final under the famous arch nets you £25,000.

Sholing manager Dave Diaper told me that his side barely made a profit from their victorious Vase campaign in 2014.

The FA should be applauded, however, for introducing a slice of the pie for losing teams in this year’s Vase.

For the first time, clubs who are knocked out will get a share of the overall prize money for that round. Of course, that means winners now take home less, but with some of the costs that can rack up in travelling up and down the country, some cash for the losing clubs is most welcomed.

The FA will point at their overall contribution to the Cup, Vase and even FA Trophy as being a sizeable sum but for individual clubs, they often feel they don’t get the rewards they deserve – which is why a televised game is seen as the holy grail.

 

These are hard times at the FA, where staff have been made redundant and income has fallen, but surely rewarding grass-roots clubs – the lifeblood of our national game – should be very high on their list of priorities.

Unfortunately, I think we can all accept that that is not the case. And while clubs rightly continue to feel that they’ve been shortchanged, just remember that poor Sam Allardyce has to scrape by with just the £1million he was given as a pay off by the governing body for one game’s work.

Written by Steven Coney.

Published by Russell Eynon