It’s an argument that springs up every year around this time but even so, something needs to be done about the scandalously low ticket allocations given out to the two FA Cup finalists.
Lets look at the maths.
Wembley has a capacity of 90,000 yet both clubs have only received an allocation of 25,000. This means 40,000 go to a combination of club Wembley 10-year ticket holders (about 11-12,000) and the FA’s now infamous ‘football family’ consisting of the 92 Premier League and Football League clubs, the 134 Full Member clubs, other clubs who reached the Third Round of this season’s competition, charities, FA sponsors, the Football Foundation, Premier League, Football League, Football Conference, PFA, International Associations, FIFA, UEFA and County Football Associations.
Now I can appreciate the need to reward the people who work so hard at the lower reaches of the game. They are the unsung heroes who often give up their time without payment to keep local groups and teams going. But to reward them to such an extent — to the detriment of fans whose team is actually playing — seems ridiculous. Why not give away tickets to England games? Or other events at Wembley? Lets face it there are plenty of them — just look at the state of the pitch!
It seems to me a political move by the FA to keep people sweet by using one of their flagship matches as bait. The game therefore has developed into an FA love in, with plenty of backslapping and self-congratulation and a severe drop in atmosphere. Let’s not forget the ‘Club Wembley’ holders who become so full of roast beef and red wine they often don’t even bother returning to their seats for the second half.
Everton chief executive Robert Elstone labeled the allocation “hugely inadequate” and “a smack in the face for everything we are trying to do both in terms of growing our fans base and growing as a business.”
After player families and other club officials have taken their share (which I have no problem with) only 17-18,000 tickets will be left. The reality is therefore that some Everton ticket holders — those who pay hundreds of pounds before a ball has even been kicked each year — will miss out on The Blues’ biggest game in 14 years.
Or will they?
Everton message boards and forums have rapidly filled with desperate Toffees willing to pay upto £1000 for a ticket. It is a touts dream.
Which makes the FA’s new campaign all the more amusing. The ‘Out the touts’ campaign is a new FA initiative aimed at clamping down on resold tickets both before the event and around Wembley stadium on the day itself — a laughable notion given the small allocations dished out to real fans.
By giving so many tickets out to people with no real affinity to the two participating clubs the FA have fulled the touting flames. Success-starved Evertonians in particular are desperate to get a ticket.
If you are say, a Plymouth supporter and a member of your local FA. If someone offers you big money for your ticket (in these days of a credit crunch remember) are you going to say no?
Sky Sports news had undercover reporters at the two semi-finals and found plenty of touts who had ‘executive’ seats willing to sell for big money.
Conversely, no money in the world would persuade a majority of Everton and Chelsea fans to part with a ticket. To quote Robert Elstone again, the ‘Out the Touts’ campaign is an example of the FA “shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted” as the problem is of their own making. Give more tickets to the real fans and the number of touted tickets will drop.
But as the FA remain unmoved despite the protests from Elstone and others, I guess we will just have to live with it. It’s another example of the game being ripped away from the hands of the working man and all the shouting and moaning won’t make the slightest bit of difference.
I’ll end with a nice dose of irony courtesy of the FA Cup’s sponsor.
E’on – Bringing families and football together.
Written by Tom Mallows, online sports writer for Betfair and passionate (if currently a little disgruntled) Evertonian. You can read more of his works by visiting his website.