As I’m sure most of you will be aware, Arsenal have been drawn against National League side Sutton United in the 5th round of the FA Cup. It’s a lucrative tie for the South Londoners, who will surely recognise the fixture as the biggest in their club’s history. As for Arsenal, the Gunners will be desperate to not fall into embarrassing circumstances.
Excitement rippled both sets of fans when the draw was made, with Gunners thinking what an easy draw, whilst Sutton players, fans and officials all thought of the size of the match, the tv cameras and the money being generated. The fixture is sure to have the attention of the media, so much so that Sutton will want to take advantage of the financial opportunity that is in front of them.
FA Cup regulations means that the two opposing sides get to share the finances generated 45/45 from the fixture. The remaining 10% goes towards funding the FA. As the fixture is currently being held on Sutton’s artificial 3G pitch, with a ground that reported holds a capacity of around 5000, it means that financially, this isn’t going to be the greatest earner in the current round of the cup.
Sutton officials have therefore reportedly scheduled a meeting in which it will be discussed as to whether they should consider changing stadiums for the fixture, where more fans can attend and more finances can thus be generated. Under FA rules, a change of ground may be requested under pretences that there maybe a safety/security issue at the ground, if the particular hosting stadium is at risk. Sutton could therefore suggest that a low capacity of 5000 seats wouldn’t be entirely safe and secure, let alone practical for the number of people likely to attend.
According to the report, Sutton will consider asking Crystal Palace if they would be able to host the fixture at Selhurst Park instead, where a much larger capacity would be available to them. However personally i think if the ground is going to be changed, then surely it makes more sense to just switch the tie to be accommodated at the Emirates, rather than to have a third party club involved in an unrelated fixture. The Palace Stadium holds 26,000 Fans, whereas moving the tie to the Emirates will at least double that figure and would prove a massive windfall for Sutton. To put things in perspective, in the last round Leeds United were allocated just 750 tickets for the game..
I think many fans expect Arsenal to walk all over Sutton United when the two clubs meet. Obviously there is a vast difference in quality because we are seeing a major Premier League team coming up against a side that was only promoted to the National League last season. On paper, of course you expect Arsenal to win comfortably. But let’s not forget a few considerations we should take into account.
First of all the Gunners are likely to field a very weakened team in the next round. I find it extremely unlikely that Sutton’s defenders are going to come up against the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. I’d expect Wenger to name a few regular stars in the side, but I think the majority of names on the teamsheet will be those fringe players in the squad and those youngsters on the cusp of breaking into the first team. Therefore, although we can still expect the win, it’s not going to be a walk in the park like many fans have suggested.
Secondly, Sutton are going to be up for this fixture like no other game in their history. Sutton are used to facing fellow Non league and national league sides week in week out, not a club with the history of Arsenal FC. It’s a much bigger match for them than it is for us and we shouldn’t discredit Sutton before they have even kicked off.
In regards to the potential stadium move, as suggested earlier, if they are going to request a change of stadium, why not suggest a move to the Emirates? I’m sure that’s much more beneficial than to play the game at a nearby Selhurst Park which bears no reflection to the two sides meeting on this occasion.
Despite this the Sutton Chairman inplied that he would prefer the game to be played at their home ground. He said: “There are probably 4,250 reasons why we should play it at Gander Green Lane. Unless somebody tells us we are not then we most certainly would be.
‘We have called a meeting for on Wednesday evening, of the directors and management committee, and a number of things will be discussed then.
‘But there was not any thought on Monday night of staging it anywhere other than our home ground, on our artificial 3G surface.
‘We might (receive more gate money), but we’ve banged on a bit about the romance of the cup this season, so many people were disappointed when we drew AFC Wimbledon and the game was not live on television.
‘This is a volunteer-run club, they are part-time players and in our own small way we are very proud of our home ground and the prospect of Arsenal coming perhaps overtakes the fact that we could try to go to a neutral ground.”
It is all very good talking about the romance of the Cup and the 4250 home fans that could go to the game, but looking at it from a financial point of view, a move to the Emirates would give them money beyond their wildest dreams and surely sense will prevail in the end?