Man Utd, Liverpool or Burnley? Who Would Be The Most Lucrative League Cup Draw?

Courtesy of Graham Burrell

Last night, Lincoln stunned everybody except themselves by thrashing Bristol City of the Championship to progress to the Fourth Round of the League Cup for the first time since 1967/68.

It was a worthwhile performance and result, potentially setting up a big tie in the next round. However, it is not a result that brings obvious financial gain – there is no prize money in this competition until the semi-final stage. That’s right; we earned more from our victory against Newcastle Under 21s than we did last night in terms of prize money.

However, the League Cup does give smaller clubs a chance to earn some proper cash; it’s all about the luck of the draw. Clubs are entitled to 45% of the gate receipts from any game they participate in, making the draw even more important. In the FA Cup, if you win, you get a set amount, and the add-ons boost your earnings, but the difference between a good away draw and a bad away draw tomorrow night could be as much as £900,000.

Credit Graham Burrell

I have done some rudimentary maths, and believe me, this is not a hard and fast guide, but I was interested to know exactly which draw would be best for us if we are to go away. I’ve taken every team left in the competition, including the 18 that play tonight (meaning, if you’re reading this on Thursday, it could be a little out of date). I then found their average season ticket prices and divided them by the number of matches they play in the league to give an overall average ticket price. Now, for this, I had to play a little hard and fast with the facts – some clubs (such as those outside the top flight) I couldn’t find an average ST price for, only a top and bottom amount, which I used to work out an average. For Derby County, who are likely out by 10pm tonight, I used Charlton’s average based on them being a similar size.

From here, I found the club’s average attendance in the League Cup either this year (outside the Prem) or last year (Prem). For Villa, Southampton and Palace, I had to go further back and find their average attendance for the last time they had League Cup matches at home. That allowed me to work out an expected matchday revenue. Still with me?

Then, I worked out what 45% of that would be, which would be our cut. Then, in the interests of fairness, I took 75% of that figure as the amount we might get, factoring in that the average ST price might be higher than the average ticket price for a typical league cup game. It means I’m likely to have slightly underestimated the expected revenue, but it is hopefully a good guide. The key is to not read this and think ‘Leeds away would get us between £273,000 and £297,000, but to just know that Southampton away could earn us significantly less.

Southampton in the League Cup

So, who would be the best, and worst draws we could get?

There are three clubs that, by my maths, could earn us more than £500,000 if we were to draw them away. They would be Arsenal, by far the most expensive club to watch in the Premier League, Man Utd and Spurs. Arsenal’s League Cup average attendance was 58,447 last season, and with an estimated average ticket price of £48.76, the upper limit on earnings could be as much as £1.2m, although adjusting that figure down would still give us £961,895, based on these numbers. Man Utd, with relatively cheap tickets of £28 each, could net us £685,000 (I’m rounding now), whilst Spurs is estimated at around £613,000. Liverpool, at £476,000, would be fourth, and the fifth-best club we could draw, should they advance, would be Chelsea on £399,000.

Liverpool away would be worth a few quid – Credit Graham Burrell

That’s the top end of the scale, but at the bottom, we could get a real stinker. Ties against Gillingham (£13,000), MK Dons (£13,700) and Derby County (£31,700) would not be attractive. Oddly, according to my numbers, Charlton and Blackburn would be worth roughly the same amount (£37,100), whilst Sheff Weds (£96,200) would be a better draw than Brighton, Fulham, Palace, Bournemouth, Forest and Burnley.

Of course, these numbers are pure conjecture, and they don’t take into account the pomp and ceremony of the occasion, whereby we’d rather go to Forest than Hillsborough, nor any possible TV money, but hopefully, they make interesting reading. The full table is below.


ST Prices (£) Per Game (£) Av LC Gate Overall Revenue (£) 45% (£) Adjusted (£)
Arsenal                927           49            58,447            2,850,060            1,282,527          961,895
Manchester United                532           28            72,568            2,031,904               914,357          685,768
Spurs                807           42            42,817            1,818,596               818,368          613,776
Liverpool                514           27            52,199            1,412,120               635,454          476,591
Chelsea                595           31            37,842            1,185,052               533,273          399,955
Aston Villa                531           28            34,862               974,301               438,436          328,827
West Ham                299           16            60,000               944,211               424,895          318,671
Wolves                590           31            28,798               894,254               402,414          301,811
Leeds Utd                450           24            34,154               808,911               364,010          273,007
Newcastle United                417           22            30,082               660,221               297,099          222,824
Manchester City                350           18            30,959               570,297               256,634          192,475
Leicester City                435           23            21,163               484,521               218,035          163,526
Southampton                399           21            17,931               376,551               169,448          127,086
Sheff Weds                510           22            12,860               285,157               128,320            96,240
Brighton                545           29              8,838               253,511               114,080            85,560
Fulham                385           20            11,299               228,953               103,029            77,272
Crystal Palace                500           26              8,222               216,368                 97,366            73,024
Nottingham Forest                385           20            10,142               205,509                 92,479            69,359
Bournemouth                550           29              5,746               166,332                 74,849            56,137
Burnley                478           21              6,329               131,396                 59,128            44,346
Charlton                455           20              5,629               111,356                 50,110            37,583
Blackburn Rovers                479           21              5,283               110,024                 49,511            37,133
Derby County                455           20              4,747                 93,908                 42,259            31,694
MK Dons                474           21              1,969                 40,579                 18,260            13,695
Gillingham                423           18              2,127                 39,072                 17,582            13,187