TRANMERE games broadcast live on national TV from Prenton Park are rare events.
The last time it happened, back in April 2010, Norwich City, now a Premier League club, were the runaway League One leaders who came to unexpected grief in a 3-1 defeat.
Sky, it has to be said, took the cameras to the Wirral that night to cover the Canaries’ flight towards the Championship – and ended up showing an eventful and entertaining chapter in Rovers’ escape from relegation under Les Parry.
Tranmere fans who prefer to watch their football from an armchair are enjoying an extra special treat this week – two live games on the box in the space of four days.
Tuesday night’s FA Cup first round tie at Braintree Town (shown live on ITV4) is followed by Rovers’ League One encounter with MK Dons at Prenton Park on Friday, shown live on Sky.
Broadcast fees for the two games should earn Tranmere over £100,000, precious revenue for a club operating on one of the lowest budgets for players in football’s third tier.
Manager Ronnie Moore points out that in a routine season, Tranmere’s games would probably not attract the attention of the TV schedule planners.
But the 2012/13 campaign at Prenton Park has been anything but ordinary, as Rovers confound expectations and football’s laws of financial gravity to lead the League One table by five points with more than a third of the programme completed.
It is results on the field, Moore argues, that are putting his team on the small screen and bringing money into the club that may help to sustain the unexpected success.
Moore said: “The TV money coming into the club is important. With a bit of luck some of it will be spent on the team.
“We certainly wouldn’t see that money if we were not top of the league.
“Braintree Town versus Tranmere would not be a game that got onto TV if we were near the bottom of League One.
“It is the same with the Friday game. Tranmere versus MK Dons would not be on TV in normal circumstances. It is only because of where we are in a table that the game is being shown. It just goes to show that success does bring in the money in different ways.”
Rovers are also pulling in extra revenue through the turnstiles this season. The number of home fans attending games at Prenton Park has been rising steadily.
Fewer than 5000 watched the opening League One fixture against Leyton Orient in August. The core home support looked to have risen to around 6500 by the time Tranmere played the home fixture against Preston North End at the end of October.
Friday night’s attendance figure might not provide a reliable guide, due to exceptional factors: the live TV coverage and the club’s decision to reduce admission prices to £5 in all stands.
The MK Dons fixture will be Tranmere 64th live TV game. If it proves as lively as the last one at Prenton Park, the armchair viewers will not be disappointed.