Date: 2nd May 2011 at 9:08pm
Written by:

Vital Manchester City received the following from Blues fan Nicholas Melia.

On April 16th, I witnessed the greatest achievement by Manchester City during my life time. As I bounced down the steps from the West Upper Stand of Wembley, chanting City songs as loud as I could, my dad turned to me and said ‘There is no better feeling than that!’ and that just about summed it all up for me.

City had reached the FA Cup final, knocking Manchester United out in the semis. It’s what I’ve spent eight seasons as a season ticket holder and many more without, patiently waiting for. So can you imagine my utter disappointment when I saw the reduced allocation the Football Association had put in place ready for the final?

If City sold out their 35,000 tickets for the semi, why cut the allocation to 25,000 for the final? That means 11,000 of City’s 36,000 season-ticket holders will be forced to watch their club’s first cup final for 30 years on television or join a scramble for tickets on the black market.

Before the FA Cup final was moved back to the new Wembley it was held at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. That stadium has a capacity of 74,500, and despite an overall increase of 15,500 to the capacity at Wembley, there is only an increase of 1,500 tickets per team.

This means there are 50,000 football fans expected to be there, and the other 40,000 is distributed between the ‘Club Wembley’, the football family and grass roots volunteers. So it begs the question, who deserves the tickets? The fans or the money men?

Let’s face it, without the investments of Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the chances of City being in the final are very slim to non existent. Along with other investments from companies such as Etihad, Umbro and many more, City have had the resources to challenge the best teams in England and surely soon will be competing against the best in Europe. When you consider the potential cost of the starting eleven in the cup final and compare it to the prize money of £1.8m for winning the competition, surely, the investors deserve whatever they want.

Another argument could be that the Football Association should take into consideration the two finalist and how many season ticket holders the two teams have. Should it be the case that every season ticket holder should have the right to refuse one ticket each? This would also help stamp out the resale of tickets which ultimately leads to fans paying way over the face value of a ticket in order to get a piece of the atmosphere.

There are also a large proportion of tickets allocated to the FA for corporate viewers. After all, this is the organisation that represent…

‘…the world’s oldest and most famous domestic knockout competition.’
(Motson, 2005, p.34)

The FA is made up of many different sources that help maintain the English game as arguably the best domestic football league in the world. But should they demand as many corporate tickets as they actually get? The cup final is more than just another game. It’s a once in a life time experience. A chance for a whole new generation to witness a life changing event like the one I witnessed in the Division 2 Play-Off Final all those years ago. So surely the crowd should be made up purely of fans from either side, and should not be used as a chance to offer ‘freebies’ to people who may or may not attend the game, and if they do, have no real concern for the final outcome.

Bill Shankly once recalled…

‘I had Cup inal tickets in my hand and as we were going up Wembley Way I went to the front of the bus, opened the door and handed them to two Liverpool supporters. I said: ‘Pay me next season.’ But I didn’t want paying. Money doesn’t come into it with me. Not at all. I was at Wembley for them. I’ve seen boys sitting in tee-shirts soaking wet at FA Cup games drinking Oxo. They might not do that for League games. But the FA Cup is another story. Everyone wants a Cup final ticket.’
(Keith, 2001, p.57)

I believe what Shankly said in this quote is something that any City fan, young or old, can relate to. The fans that have had to watch their team get played off the park by Stockport County and the ones that were packed into Maine Road during that thunder storm which ultimately resulted in the tie between Ipswich being abandoned.

So when it comes to who deserves the tickets, surely the soaking wet, mentally exhausted fan who has had to endure the many bad times week after week throughout their life deserves it more than anyone. Certainly, when you consider who means more to a club, the money men or the fans, the fans must surely come out on top. For example, consider Portsmouth being in the cup final last year. Having seen their club destroyed by poor decisions from the board, which ultimately saw them relegated, the fans deserved to attend the final more than anyone. Yet the allocations were still the same.

Or maybe these are the fans the FA is trying to remove from the game?

Each season we see the FA raise ticket prices well beyond that affordable to the average man to take his family to a game at Wembley. This year alone has seen a record high ticket price of £115 per seat. Along with the price of parking, programmes, and travel costs, even if the ticket allocation was raised, what sort of audience would they be aiming at? Or is it the fact that ticket prices are so high in order to fund the ‘freebies’ given out to corporate viewers and celebrities.

Which leads to a more serious question – if the FA succeed in making football an upper class sport viewed only by the rich and famous, does this spell the beginning of the end of the working man’s beautiful game?

 

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