Crosby-based Marine FC have captured the attention of many up and down the country after the club reached the third round of the FA Cup for only the second time in their 126-year history.
In a season that has placed financial tension on The Mariners due to the coronavirus pandemic, the cup run, which started way back in September, has seen the club bank £150,000 so far.
And an extra £75,000 will be pumped into the club as a result of the fixture being selected to be shown live on BBC One.
Marine, only the second club from the eighth tier to ever reach round three, have been rewarded with a fairy-tale tie against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur – currently top of the Premier League.
While the Premier League added £7.6bn to the UK economy last year and television deals continue to increase season upon season, football teams further down the footballing pyramid have felt the effects of Covid-19 in recent months.
When coronavirus was beginning to spread to Europe, initially in Italy, nobody could have predicted the effect it would have on everyone’s daily lives.
For the sports industry, in particular the football industry, this too felt the adverse effects of the global pandemic.
The professional levels of the game were put on hold in March and then allowed to resume in June.
But that wasn’t the case for the so-called ‘non-elite’ divisions in the country.
It was decided that their seasons would end prematurely. No promotions or relegations and all results expunged and fixtures cancelled.
Marine were comfortably in the play off places when the season was put to an end prematurely.
The club lost out on £3,000 league funding alone because the season wasn’t completed.
This is why Marine’s impressive FA Cup run means more than ever this season.
The club, established in 1894, have reached this season’s third round proper for only the second time in their history.
The historic cup run has already seen them defeat two teams from higher divisions than themselves.
Early in November, they beat Colchester of League Two in the first round proper and then defeated Havant & Waterlooville of National League South in the next round.
The College Road side were one of many clubs to immediately feel the financial effects of the pandemic.
The closure of their stadium and their two function suites meant their two primary sources of income were halted.
“Like lots of football clubs, we had to take advantage of the government financial support that was offered. The £25,000 business grant and the furlough scheme,” Paul Leary, the club’s chairman told Merseysportlive.
During the first national lockdown, the club placed 30 staff members on the furlough scheme.
This consisted of ten club room staff and 20 playing staff.
The Mariners have proved they mean business in recent months.
And by the time they welcome the North London club to the Marine Travel Arena next month, they will have already earned £150,000 in total as a result of their cup run.
Leary said: “We’re so fortunate we’ve had the cup run. The cup prize money and the TV fees have been an absolute godsend.
“It’s so important for us to have this financial injection, at a time when our gates to the stadium were shut and our club rooms shut.
“We’ve had no trading income”.
Under the current tier two restrictions, the club will be allowed fans in the stadium when Mourinho’s men visit Merseyside on January 10.
Rumours suggested that the game may have to be played at Anfield due to concerns that Marine’s 3,000 capacity stadium will not be able to comply with Covid safety regulations.
But Leary was eager to quash these claims.
He said: “We’ve not been in discussions to play at Anfield and all of the parties that have been involved in discussions have been focused on making sure we make the ground COVID secure.”
Marine’s current league campaign has been suspended as a result of the tiered systems that have been implemented up and down the country.
It means teams located in tier three areas are strongly advised against travelling to away games.
It was therefore decided by the league’s officials that games will not resume until at least December 16, the date when the government is set to review the tiered systems.
If Marine were to defeat the eight-time FA Cup winners and cause the biggest upset in the competition’s history, they would pocket a whopping £82,000.
No matter what happens, Marine have done themselves and the non-league scene proud with a quite remarkable and very memorable cup run.