How Financially Important are FA Cup Games to EFL Teams like Oxford United?

The FA Cup is one of the most prestigious trophies a team can win in the English League pyramid, but just how financially important is the FA Cup for lower league sides scrapping for financial survival?

Prior to Oxford United’s money-spinning 3rd Round home tie against Premier League Arsenal on the 9th of January, we look at what a bumper sell-out crowd, ITV showing the game, and what a cup run could mean for the U’s.

wembley stadium
The FA Cup Final has been played at Wembley Stadium since 1923

What is the English FA Cup?

The Football Association Challenge Cup (which most people in England refer to simply as the FA Cup) is one of the most prestigious football tournaments in England. The FA Cup is a knockout football tournament in men’s domestic football, and the first tournament was held in 1871. The most successful club in FA Cup history are North London Premier League side Arsenal, who have won the cup on no less than 14 separate occasions.

In comparison, Manchester United have won the FA Cup 12 times. Next is Chelsea, current champions Liverpool, and Tottenham Hotspur, who have all won on 8 separate occasions. If you would like to watch any of these Premier League sides in action this season, don’t forget that there’s still time to buy Premier League tickets at Seat pick for affordable prices.

The FA Cup is different to the EFL Cup (Carabao Cup) because it features teams from ALL English football leagues, whereas the EFL Cup only features teams from the top four English leagues.

How important is the FA Cup to lower-league teams in English football?

The FA Cup is extremely important to lower league teams, such as Oxford United, who are currently in 13th place (out of 24 teams) in League One. The financial rewards are obvious. Any cash injection, no matter how big or small, can stretch a long way, especially for the lower-league clubs. For example, the Emirates FA Cup prize money breakdown for the 2022/23 cup winners is as follows:

  • Winners – £2,000,000.00
  • Final runners-up – £1,000,000.00
  • Semi-final winners – £1,000,000.00
  • Semi-final losers – £500,000

This may not seem like a great deal of money to the average Premier League side, but for a lower league side whose wage bill is much less, £500,000 to £2,000,000.00 prize money is a fairly hefty sum of money.

But you also have matchday revenue and any TV appearance money. The further a team progresses in the FA Cup, the more money they make each matchday through ticket sales, the sale of merchandise, food & drinks, and also television broadcasting money, so it’s really important that the lower league clubs progress as far as possible to keep the money coming in.

Even the unlikelihood of forcing a replay would swell the coffers at the Kassam Stadium.

arsenal fc
Premier League Arsenal are Oxford United’s next opponents in the FA Cup

What else does winning the FA Cup promise?

Apart from the standard FA Cup prize money, TV broadcasting money, and matchday revenue, the winner of the FA Cup is also guaranteed a spot in the Europa League, which opens up a whole new revenue stream for a brief spell, which can also be extremely lucrative.

Therefore, if Oxford United or any other team from one of the lower leagues does the unthinkable and wins the FA Cup, it can be one of the best things to ever happen to the club.

Can Oxford Utd win the FA Cup?

There are currently 64 teams left in the FA Cup, and Oxford United are statistically still in with a chance, but they face their biggest challenge in their next FA Cup match. They host current Premier League leaders Arsenal on January 7th, 2023.

If they beat Arsenal, they of course have a chance of going all the way. But lets be honest, that match alone is a challenge for Karl Robinsons side already struggling for form in League One. On paper it will be a tough match on the back of a busy Christmas schedule, but luckily the match is played on grass on anything could happen,

You’d have to go back to 2013 when Wigan Athletic beat Manchester City 1-0 for the last underdog victory, although they were a Premier League side at the time (well sort of, they were relegated that year).

A team out of the top flight has not won the FA Cup since West Ham in 1980. And Tottenham Hotspur were a non-league side for their 1901 win as were not elected to the league until 1908, but at that point it was only the first and second division.

However, the odds of Oxford United winning the FA Cup aren’t looking too good. On a multiplicity of trusted sports betting websites, you will see that, on average, Oxford Utd are priced at around 500/1 long shots. In comparison, the odds-on favourites to win the FA Cup, Manchester City, are currently priced at around 7/2.

In short, the bookies don’t give us a chance and neither does history.

To give you some hope though, Oxford is on etched the list of winners already, albeit Oxford University in 1874 (they were runners up the year before). There were twenty-eight teams entered in the 3rd FA Cup, with club founder Charles Mackarness scoring in the final.