United replay can wipe out debt for Burton
Sir Alex Ferguson's last job before he embarked on his stellar career in football management 22 years ago was running the modestly titled pub "Fergie's" in a tough corner of Glasgow's Govan district that was not renowned for moderation when it came to the drink. It will be appropriate then, that the money raised by Burton Albion in their FA Cup third-round replay against Ferguson's mighty Manchester United will go towards the Conference club building a pub of their own.
In a town in which the only claim to fame before Sunday was a reputation for brewing, Burton may not be in need of another licensed premises - but with around £500,000 on offer from the Old Trafford replay on 18 January, Burton Albion officials were yesterday already discussing how to put their new found wealth to use.
The chairman, Ben Robinson, a local insurance broker who masterminded the move to their new Pirelli Stadium, has been in discussions over a pub and hotel on site that would increase the club's revenue.
Exactly how much a replay at Old Trafford will be worth to Burton is not yet clear, but it is almost certain to be less than their fellow Conference side Exeter City earned last year when they held United to a goalless draw in front of a 67,551-capacity crowd. While Exeter were fortunate enough to play United at Old Trafford on a Saturday and sold out the stadium in the first of two FA Cup matches, Burton could play to one of the smallest crowds at the ground in recent history.
Although some of the money will be recouped through the £150,000 fee that the BBC will pay to screen the match live, Burton's 45 per cent cut of the gate receipt will suffer. United's revenue from home Cup games last season averaged at £1.325m, but that was for sell-out crowds.
United have home games against Liverpool in the Premiership and Blackburn Rovers in the Carling Cup in the seven days after the replay and the club are pessimistic about their chances of the ground being 75 per cent full.
Even with empty seats in Old Trafford, Burton should make enough to develop their own pub-hotel and make inroads into the debts left on the building of the Pirelli Stadium which was opened this season and cost almost £7m.
Yet for those players who gathered yesterday to watch the FA Cup fourth-round draw - in which the winners of the Burton and United tie drew Wolverhampton Wanderers away - the financial implications took second place to the drama of Sunday's game. For the 30-year-old captain, Darren Stride, who has made more than 500 appearances in midfield for his home-town club in 13 years, it was the first glimpse of the United team sheet that, he said, had given Burton cause for hope.
There were seven internationals in the United line-up, but the fit players missing from Ferguson's squad included Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Edwin van der Sar. Stride said: "They didn't want to get hurt and didn't like the pitch. When we saw the team sheet an hour before kick-off without some of their big players we thought we had a chance. The gaffer said 'they've given us a chance'. They still had Wes Brown, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and players who have won European Cups but we were still optimistic.
"Sir Alex had us watched and knew we could play football, but we created the better chances. They were forced into playing the long ball in the second half. I think he'll put a stronger team out in the replay. I don't think he'll take any chances. That said, with 30 minutes left when we saw Rooney coming on we all kind of looked at each other. Nobody said anything, there was fear in everyone's eyes and we just thought 'shit'.
"Even if the ground is not totally full, there's not many people who can walk out at Old Trafford. All we can hope for the replay is that we play well again. If we lose 2-0, it's not a problem. I'd settle for that - although a 0-0 would be even better!
"We went out with the intention of not disappointing ourselves or getting embarrassed. But as the game progressed we were amazed that we were allowed to play so much football."
How Burton can cash in on replay
* GATE RECEIPTS
Each club receives 45 per cent of FA Cup ticket money, with 10 per cent going to the Football Association.
* HOW MUCH IS THAT?
In four home cup games last season - three Carling Cup, one FA Cup - United's gate receipts worked out at an average of £1.325m each. At 45 per cent of that, Burton would receive £596,250.
* WILL IT BE SOLD OUT?
Maybe not, but an Old Trafford more than 50 per cent full, without too many discounted tickets, should give a total figure of more than £500,000. Even if Old Trafford is half-full, Burton still stand to make around £300,000. Estimates of the travelling support's size range from 6,000 to 9,000 (Burton-upon-Trent's population is around 61,000).
* WHAT ABOUT TV?
A £150,000 fee from the BBC, who are covering the replay live, is guaranteed.
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