Non-League club Marine FC sold more than 30,000 virtual tickets for its 5-0 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur in its third round FA Cup match on Sunday.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the eighth-tier English Northern Premier League Division One North West football club was unable to host supporters at the 3,185-capacity Marine Travel Arena.
The Merseyside-based club faced the Premier League high-flyers behind closed doors, in a match that was labelled the biggest in Marine’s history, after initially having hope that fans would be in attendance when the draw was made.
The UK Government announced stricter COVID-19 rules on December 30 and has since moved the country into a full lockdown, in a decision that meant Marine would lose around £100,000 (€111,000/$136,000) in potential revenue.
Following the announcement, the club decided to sell ‘virtual’ tickets for the game at a cost of £10, in a bid to replicate some of the financial boost that such a fixture would have provided in normal circumstances.
Ticket buyers will also automatically enter a raffle where the winner will have the opportunity to manage the club for a preseason friendly game.
Marine boss Neil Young told the BBC: “We can be very proud of the cup run. We’ve had an eventful week in terms of the media and press, the football community and in particular the Tottenham supporters have been incredible.
“To sell over 20,000 (not the final total) tickets for our club at a tough time when there are many non-league clubs struggling financially. So for us this is really nice.”
Spurs boss Jose Mourinho said he would buy a ticket, while Ian Wright, Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker, who were working on the game for the BBC, also bought a ticket.
Prior to the virtual match ticket plan, Marine had earlier offered Tottenham season ticket holders free tickets to a Marine game during the 2021-22 season as away fans would not be allowed to attend the FA Cup match.
Sunday’s game represented only the second time a team from the eighth tier of English football has played in the third round of the FA Cup after Chasetown FC was knocked out by Cardiff City in 2008.