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Fundraisers lift 8th tier Marine FC ahead of historic Spurs FA Cup clash

calendario 06.01.2021
by: Zach
  • England
  • Premier
  • League
  • Pro
  • Step 3-4
  • Northern - Division One
  • Premier - League
Fundraisers lift 8th tier Marine FC ahead of historic Spurs FA Cup clash

Non-league Marine almost saw the chance of a lifetime slip through their fingers as coronavirus chaos heaped more worries on an already troubled season. The Merseyside club, who play in the 8th tier Northern Premier League Division One North West, saw numerous shutdowns to their “non-elite” season throughout the year. In November, their league shutdown meant a gap of 22 days without a game between their FA Cup bouts with Colchester and Havant and Waterlooville

Part-time teacher Niall Cummins’ extra-time goal past Havant and Waterlooville put Marine through for a magical FA Cup draw with Spurs in January 2021. Despite the league shutdown, the club struggle on bravely in an unprecedented cup run to stay on the pitch.

However, the pandemic provides obstacle after obstacle to threaten Marine’s fortunes. The club had a fundraising dinner at their club cancelled due to tier three restrictions, a fate described on their website as “devastating news.” Worse still, a potential sponsor pulled out of a five-figure sponsorship deal at the last minute. While this may not seem like a big deal to the upper echelons of the sport, £20,000 could be life or death for a club with a £1,750 weekly wage bill for their whole squad. 

Coronavirus woes compounded Marine’s issues as tier four restrictions came into force across England. Now, a mere week before the Spurs match, Marine announced that their game has to play behind closed doors. This come as a huge blow to loyal Marine fans, and to Marine’s accountants, as a vital revenue stream evaporates into thin air. 

Fortunately, football fans stepped in to ensure Marine’s monumental cup run gets the credit it deserves. Jamie Carragher, Liverpool legend and punditry superstar, stepped in with sponsorship to support Marine ahead of the game. The club hails from Crosby, 7 miles from central Liverpool, where Carra is Crosby local. With his charity JC23, the media personality sponsored Marine’s dugouts and pre-match warm-up tops, providing encouragement and financial support for the Merseyside underdogs. 

Buoyed by fresh sponsorship and backed by fan encouragement, Marine also launched a virtual ticket drive, with the aim of matching the Marine Trade Arena’s 3,185 capacity with online streaming sales. The club offered raffle prizes for online ticket holders, including the chance to become a manager for a pre-season training game at Marine. As things stand, the club smashed their target and sold almost 5,000 e-tickets, closing in on a club-record attendance of 6,000 set in 1949. At a tenner a ticket, the club have ensured at least 50,000 revenue and another life-raft between them and hibernation.

It’s not just locals and Marine fans supporting the cause. Matt Bridle, a Tottenham fan, also set up a GoFundMe page to offer financial recognition to Marine for lost gate revenue. Another Spurs fan, Andy Gray, posted the fundraiser on a Tottenham forum, suggesting fans donate “the price of a burger you would have had at the game, the ticket cost, petrol money.” This heartwarming drive already raised over £3,000. Such a drive offers another lifeline to a club in a league under threat, in a season which looks unlikely to resume any time soon.

The Marine manager, Neil Young, a Merseyrail employee, expressed gratitude to fans and supporters while warning of the fate threatening his not-so-lucky peers. Young cautioned that “there are fantastic clubs at our level, salt of the earth, unsure if they’ll be around in six months.” Now more than ever, local and grassroots football needs help and support from authorities and governments as well as celebrities and fans. 

Aside from existential questions about grassroots football lies questions about how Marine will perform on the day against Mourinho’s squad. In their own league, despite shutdowns and postponements, Marine FC are thriving. Sixth from the top with two games in hand, the club are unbeaten in five league games. Their most recent victory against City of Liverpool in late December went some way to proving their Twitter bio’s claim that they are “Liverpool’s premier non-league club.”

Against the backdrop of Marine’s success on and off the pitch, it remains unclear what calibre of team Mourinho will produce from the depths of Tottenham’s squad. Ever a pragmatist, José will want to avoid an upset, without straining the players currently challenging for the Premier League title. Regardless, a match worthy of the FA Cup history books plays out less than a week from now, and plucky Marine prove a worthy opponent and a worthy cause to support. 

Recent months have shown that anything is possible, and sport is no exception. The game kicks off on January 10th, so stay tuned for a Super Sunday to remember.


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