Scarborough Athletic's financial reality does not stop chairman Trevor Bull dreaming of FA Cup glory

A FAN-RUN sixth-tier football club debuting in the FA Cup first round will have nothing to lose in Tuesday's replay at League Two Forest Green Rovers but the closer it gets, the more disappointed Scarborough Athletic chairman Trevor Bull will be if they do not prevail.

Yet this is a club where financial common-sense trumps romance. Everything the Seadogs bring in from this Cup run is bonus money.

The prize – settled over 90 minutes, extra-time or penalties –is a second-round tie at former Premier League club Blackpool in December. Scarborough were a stoppage-time equaliser from securing it two weekends ago.

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"When I woke up on the morning of the first Forest Green game I thought, 'Win, lose or draw, we can be really proud of what we've achieved – we've gone further than we've ever done, we've made a bit of money, job done,'" admits Bull. "But now we've got a replay, I'd be gutted if we didn't win.

"We've got the prospect of Blackpool in the next round and that adds that little bit of excitement.

"It's a long time since any team from Scarborough played there. I remember us getting knocked out in the Sherpa Van Trophy on a very cold Tuesday night.

"It's not that long ago Blackpool were in the Premier League and they've got an absolutely superb stadium. These are the type of days our fans and players look forward to and Jono (Greening, Scarborough’s manager) does. He spent a lot of time at the very top end of football in this country and he'd like to share some of those experiences again.

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"Only two of our players had played in the first round of the Cup before – Michael Coulson and Will Thornton. They're very excited as you can imagine."

TAKE ONE: Action from Scarborough Athletic's 1-1 FA Cup first-round draw with Forest Green RoversTAKE ONE: Action from Scarborough Athletic's 1-1 FA Cup first-round draw with Forest Green Rovers
TAKE ONE: Action from Scarborough Athletic's 1-1 FA Cup first-round draw with Forest Green Rovers

The part-timers spent Monday in a Birmingham hotel, paid for by reaching the competition proper for the first time in their 16-year history. Given the demise of Scarborough FC that brought the phoenix club into existence there will be no gambling.

A study by Fair Game, published on Tuesday, reveals Nottingham Forest spent £58.6m on wages in 2021-22 but had just £25,000 in cash reserves – the equivalent of five hours' worth. Of the 66 clubs studied, Middlesbrough were third with 52 hours.

"It makes you very risk averse," says Bull of his club's backstory. "There is no way the current board of directors would risk the club by gambling on anything.

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"We only ever spend the money we've got and we keep some in reserve for that rainy day which we know will come. We try and work on half a season of cash reserves.

"We never, ever budget for anything other than getting knocked out in the first round of every cup competition – and in fairness, we have been very good at that of late!

"It means there's a bit of money in the pot if Jono wants to get a new player but he's the sort of manager who'll only spend money if it's the right thing to do.

"We're not going to go down the road of the old club, that's for sure.

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"We try and stay over on Fridays for long away trips to the likes of Gloucester, Brackley and Banbury (improbably also in Conference North).

"Because of our cup run, one of the games to be rearranged is Hereford away so we're going to have to do that on a Tuesday night – that's more nightmares! But you know what? We've been trying for 16 years to have these problems.

"Some of the players are having to take unpaid leave off work to let all this happen. We're all in it together."

Victory will do the club a power of good, as this run already has.

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"A win is probably going to be worth about £80,000 to us with the winner's cheque (for £41,000), the share of the gates and the next round and it creates the opportunity of the dream for all non-league teams, which is to get into the third-round draw," says Bull.

"We've generated interest from the BBC that has been really positive for us. We're continually getting more companies interested in getting involved in sponsorship.

"We're 100 per cent fan-owned and since Football Focus visited us last season we've gone from 800 owners to now over 1,500.

"Our travel club are running coaches but could only get two and they sold out within hours. I reckon there will be two or three hundred down there – pretty impressive for a small club on a Tuesday night and probably double what they (Forest Green) brought on a Saturday.

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"The cup run has started us playing better away from home but the league's incredibly tight (five points separating fifth from 19th, Scarborough are 16th).

"In the four of the last six seasons not lost to Covid we've won three county cups and two promotions but you can't keep getting promoted. Cups give excitement on the side.

"Our target is still the play-offs but I'm not sure we can get automatic promotion because you look at the spending power of the likes of Scunthorpe, who seem to find the money from somewhere!"