Havant & Waterlooville secretary Trevor Brock claims the club’s FA Cup dream date with Millwall has turned into a nightmare that threatens their existence.
The Hawks are set to host the Coca-Cola League One outfit on Monday night at Portsmouth’s Fratton Park, after being forced to move the first-round tie from their 4,800-capacity Westleigh Park ground.
However, a dispute with the authorities over the policing of the tie threatens to send the club into administration.
Hampshire Police have insisted Havant foot a £35,000 bill and Brock admits that an unlikely gate of 7,800 supporters is needed on the night to just break even.
Millwall had been allocated 2,200 tickets for the match but had sold 430 by Friday afternoon, with club officials suggesting that no more than 500 visiting supporters would travel.
Brock wrote to Hampshire’s Chief Constable in an attempt to reach a compromise, but was left stunned when they insisted that they would not negotiate the price.
“We thought we had won the lottery, they don’t come much bigger than a team like Millwall for a team at our level,” said Brock.
“It’s the first time we have ever drawn a league club, but clubs at our level don’t have pots of gold.
“We met with the police and straight away they said there was an issue with the allocation that Millwall would receive because their intelligence told them 2,500 visiting fans would turn up and that there could be around 300 what they called ‘hard-line yobs’.
“We were told that we would have to find another ground, so we spoke to Portsmouth and they were happy if we covered costs.
“It was then moved to Monday evening, part of the reason being to avoid any yobs from travelling, but Millwall told me they would be surprised if they sold another 400.
“We could get to the situation where there is almost an officer for each travelling fan, which seems ludicrous.”
Hampshire Police’s Deputy Chief Constable claimed they could not agree to Brock’s request, confirming by letter the costs would have to be met.
“The fact that you are competing in the FA Cup is a matter for the club, it is not being forced upon you,” read the response.
“It is a commercial issue for you to determine what cost you charge individuals attending this match in order to cover the financial burden.”
The Conference South side now face an agonising wait to see whether ticket sales rise dramatically or if there is a reversal of policy.
“We have a police bill and we can’t get anyone to change their minds. The police have got it wrong and we are paying for their mistake, the costs are not far from that of the FA Cup final itself,” added Brock.
“A cost of £35,000 is two thirds of a season’s gate money for us, we only get at most 550 people on a normal Saturday.
“We are trying to stay focused on the game but all of the people at the club, who are all volunteers, are worried about this massive bill, which will end up being around £60,000 (€90,000) in total.
“As it stands, it could send us into administration and the reality is we will make a loss of at least £15,000 (€22,500).
“It’s the biggest day of our history and we hope that the abiding memory will not be a nightmare.”