Fifth-tier Sutton United will head into battle with Championship high-flyers Leeds United on Sunday safe in the knowledge that their FA Cup run will pocket them at least £400,000 – the equivalent of a whole year’s wage bill.
Factoring in the revenue from the sold-out clash being broadcast live on television, Sutton chairman Bruce Elliott calculates that the part-timers’ enterprising run to round four could cover long-serving manager Paul Doswell’s playing budget for the season.
The coffers could be swelled by a further £90,000 in prize money should The Us, who stunned near neighbours AFC Wimbledon, of League One, in their third round replay, produce another giant-killing.
“It’s absolutely amazing. You always dream of cup runs. Each year we try to get into the first round proper and anything beyond that is a huge bonus,” Elliott told City A.M.
“So to find ourselves in the fourth round proper is nothing short of unbelievable. If somebody had offered us this at the beginning of the season we would have snapped their hand off and we’re making the most of it.
“Including the television fee for Sunday, which is outrageous for a club our size but very welcome, I think £400,000 is an accurate figure and that’s a year’s wage bill for us so that puts it into perspective.”
Sutton’s projected windfall also mirrors the value of the interest-free loan which the club borrowed from Doswell, who runs a property development company in Hampshire, to fund the installation of their 3G artificial surface in 2015.
“It was a huge financial decision for the club to borrow that sort of money and we will perhaps be able to pay that back earlier than expected,” added Elliott.
“There are some demands which perhaps haven’t been top priority over the years which we’ll probably pay out for now. The main thing is the repayment of the loan but, with our community hat on, we’re also looking at some additional changing facilities.”
Sunday’s showdown will be the third occasion Sutton have featured at this stage of the tournament and first since losing 8-0 at Norwich City in 1989, having famously eliminated top flight Coventry City in round three.
The previous time was in 1970, coincidentally against Leeds, when a record attendance of 14,000 crammed into Gander Green Lane as Don Revie’s reigning English champions ran out 6-0 winners. Elliott was a member of the supporters’ club committee then.
“Strangely, one of the things I particularly remember is sitting on one of the benches which were hired in from The Oval cricket ground to increase the capacity that day,” he said.
“Leeds were probably the best club side in Europe at that time with a team of internationals. Nobody was too upset because it was a fabulous day and, rather like Sunday, we had nothing to lose.”