It’s the Third Round of The FA Cup this weekend, and Alan Smithy will be looking forward to not all of the matches played being decided on the day. Alan writes Football Hobo, and you can follow him on Twitter here.

We all love a good cup replay, don’t we? Perhaps not so much when our side is involved; although there is something to be said for the atmosphere of a do-or-die midweek night cup match, particularly when you’re at home. Without them we wouldn’t have Ronnie Radford’s famous goal, after all. But when all’s said and done, it’s usually preferable to get the tie settled first time round and avoid the extra fixture congestion on the players’ weary limbs, and extra strain on the fans’ weary wallets.

With third round day coming up this weekend, some Liverpool fans may well be hopeful of getting Manchester United back to Anfield after a hard-fought draw at Old Trafford. It’s not just a proportion of the travelling support who’ll take a draw on Sunday, either – there are 32 non league chairmen who’d quite like it, too.

It’s not that they’ve lumped together and piled on the 14/5 available for the draw on Betfair – chairmen, unlike competing players, aren’t prohibited from betting on the competition after all. But while non-league finances aren’t that crazy (at least not in most cases) for that to be the reason, their hopes for a replay are based on a potential financial bonus it could bring them.

While it’s long-established in the fans’ collective conscious that net gate receipts from cup ties are shared equally between the two competing sides (we all know that a lower league side earn a great windfall from playing away at the big boys), the competition rules actually allow an extra, hidden bonus to its non league participant clubs.

Firstly I must right a quick misconception – when a non-league side reaches the Third Round and plays against a league side they actually receive proportionally more of the gate than their more illustrious opponents. When two league sides meet the receipts are split evenly, each side taking 45% while the remaining 10% goes to The Pool, the name given to the pot that gets divided up amongst the Premier League and Football League clubs at the end of the competition). Crawley Town, drawn at home to Derby County in the third round this weekend. will actually receive 50% of the net gate receipts as against Derby’s 40% from the tie by dint of their non league status.

While Dover Athletic, one of the remaining non-league sides left in the Third Round, might have hoped to have been drawn at Old Trafford instead of Liverpool (and Reds’ fans might happily swap their tie for one away at Huddersfield), they, along with Crawley Town and the other 30 non-league sides who made the First Round proper, stand to benefit from a potential Anfield replay.

In all replayed matches from the third to the sixth rounds of the competition the net gate receipts are divided with the same 10% going to the Pool, 42.5% going to each competing club, but with crucially 5% going to what’s called the Association.

Section 22(c) of the competition rules states:

The 5% payment to The Association for replayed matches in the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth or Sixth Rounds of the competition proper shall be divided at the completion of the competition amongst all the clubs outside the FA Premier League and the Football League playing in the first round of the competition.

While there have been 19 replays thus far in this year’s competition, it’s hard to believe that the net receipts of these ties (after the various VAT costs and expenses of travelling teams and officials has been taken into account) will amount to much more than a hill of beans. The combined attendance from all the 14 first round replays was actually 214 less than the attendance of the 2006 Fourth Round tie between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield, and all at a considerably lower price than would be charged if Sunday’s game results in a draw. The prospect of Liverpool taking their rivals back to Merseyside suddenly makes the small hill of beans begin to resemble something more like an EU bean surplus mountain.

A conservative estimate of forty thousand tickets being sold at an average of £40 per head for an Anfield replay (which both comfortably underplays the attendance and true average price when corporate tickets are taken into account, but which also allows for many of the costs associated with the tie to be offset by this amount) means net gate receipts of around £1.6m. Even allowing for 5% of that sum to be split 32 ways, it adds an extra £2,500 to the coffers every one of the 32 clubs. For the likes Southern League Premier side Swindon Supermarine or the Kent League Premier’s Hythe Town, that’s a tidy sum, which will only rise as any replays are added to the pile up to the quarter finals.

Here’s to a nil-nil on Sunday lunchtime, eh?

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