Rags to riches? Wembley FC given shot at glory

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Budweiser's sponsorship of the FA Cup has hardly been a popular one thus far, and the American beer firm has risked perturbing the stiffs even further by backing one of the teams aiming to make an impact in next season's competition.

It was revealed on Thursday that Budweiser have recruited a string of former internationals in a bid to assist Wembley FC in their quest to make significant inroads next term, while Terry Venables will help the non-leaguers on the coaching side.

Former England players Graeme Le Saux, Martin Keown and Ray Parlour have all signed for the Combined Counties Premier Division club, as have ex-USA striker Brian McBride and Argentine star Claudio Caniggia.

David Seaman, England's No.1 for a number of years, will join the coaching staff to assist with the training of the club's goalkeepers, in a stunt designed to help Wembley reach the third round proper of the FA Cup.

But perhaps the acquisition of these seasoned millionaire ex-pros will work conversely to the strategy outlined, and have a detrimental impact on grassroots football and affect the essential lifeblood of the game.

"I've always believed grassroots football is essential to the lifeblood of the game so when I got the call asking if I would like to come out of retirement and help raise its profile I jumped at the chance," said Parlour, without even a hint of irony.

Fans from other non-league clubs have already voiced concerns about the advantage Wembley FC now have over their immediate rivals, while Budweiser's involvement with a side in the FA Cup while also sponsoring the competition has been questioned.

The FA, however, seem to have no worries regarding the dealings of the lager giants, so long as their coffers are stocked for the coming years.

"It's not an FA matter. It's a separate sponsorship deal," a spokesman told The Guardian.

Should this PR experiment succeed, then there is the potential for Budweiser to given their financial backing to other teams on the lower rungs of the football ladder, and Seaman senses this could be an ideal way for non-league clubs to learn from the elite.

He said: "This is a great chance and why not carry it on and do it in other clubs?"

Greater exposure and further investment could even see the quality of players recruited increase and, given the gun for hire culture of the modern game, morals are unlikely to stand in the way of a non-league move for some players.

It could, of course, all go horribly wrong for Budweiser and, should Wembley FC fall at the first hurdle, represent somewhat of a PR own goal for the US company.

Yet for the moment it is a nice idea, although one is torn between whether or not to root for the significantly backed underdogs to see how far they can go, or lend support to the sides yet to swap their rags for riches.

Wembley FC are not going to win the FA Cup, of course not. Even the prospect of making the first round proper is a distant dream. But it will certainly be an adventure worth watching.

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