FC United of Manchester’s FA Cup encounter at relative minnows Sporting Khalsa on Saturday is about more than a place in the first round proper.
£12,500 for the victors and existence in a draw that will include 2008 and 2013 winners, Portsmouth and Wigan, has fundamental importance.
However the broader narrative shows the inherent value of football’s oldest cup competition.
The tie, akin to a League Two side challenging a Premier League team, pits ninth-tier and lowest-ranked club remaining Sporting Khalsa on their seventh FA Cup tie of the campaign – in what is admittedly the ‘biggest game’ in their history.
Gulf in standing aside, the common ground shared by both clubs – who unanimously rejected the BBC’s request to move the tie to accommodate a new “Mobile Match of The Day Live experience” – exemplifies the growing significance of the ‘community club’.
The Reds’ hosts, architected from a group of a dozen Sikh friends who would meet for a kickabout at the weekends, list themselves as a semi-professional Asian outfit ran as a community club that is open to all.
“We just love football. It doesn’t matter to us if you are black, green or yellow. We welcome anybody, we are a community club – and the community is everybody,” said Inder Grewa, one of the club’s 12 owners.
“We want to get to the National League but once you go into the Football League, it becomes a business and I don’t know whether we want that.
“The founders of the club have never fallen out. That only happens if there is money involved. As it is, everyone is treated equally.”
— Liga 1 (@Liga1_Romania) October 23, 2015
Fundamentally these are sentiments that ring true with the ideals of FC United who themselves have previously spoke of similar apprehensions.
Moreover the link between the clubs that led to their united stand pre-game will please a lot of fans ahead of a ball being kicked.
“Football is a sport not a television game show,” said an FCUM club statement in the wake of the BBC request.
“TV exposure and the revenue it generates are important to football. However, we believe that the balance has swung way too far in favour of the TV companies – and too far away from the match-going, admission paying, regularly attending football supporter.
“FC United seeks to change the way that football is owned and run, putting supporters at the heart of everything. This includes a better and more balanced relationship with TV.”
Staying true to their colours, as a supporter-run clubs for the fans, FCUM have never steered from their ethos.
Crucially Saturday’s opponents illustrate that the anxieties of football fans can be expressed through such clubs.
Indeed Sporting Khalsa echoed their sentiments, saying: “We weren’t interested – we’re Non-League. We play Saturdays at 3pm.”
Thus the traditional 3pm Saturday kick-off will be adhered to and both clubs will set about making it a special occasion to remember.
— FC United Manchester (@FCUnitedMcr) October 23, 2015
The Midlands side have even laid out the invitation on their website, encouraging supporters of both clubs to bring flags for around the ground to create a stunning backdrop.
“This is the biggest day in our club’s short history, we’re playing a club we have huge admiration for in a grassroots sense. We hope the whole occasion will be great for everyone,” said a club statement.
On the pitch, it will take a mighty feat for Khalsa to reach the first round proper for the first time – “one in a hundred” according to boss Ian Rowe – but it will be a proud moment for the club.
For both clubs.
Image courtesy of Sporting Khalsa via YouTube, with thanks.