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Fans deserve more tickets

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

FA Cup final day is almost upon us and for both sides the wait to appear in the domestic calendar’s showcase day has been a long one. Manchester City have not appeared in the Cup final since finishing runners-up in 1981 while this is the first appearance in Stoke City’s history.

The clamour for tickets among supporters is unsurprisingly huge and, while demand for such events will almost always outstrip supply, many fans feel that the distribution of Cup final tickets is unfair. There is a common perception that significant numbers of “real” fans miss out on tickets which are pocketed by blazers, liggers, and sponsors – some of which end up on the black market.

The FSF strongly believes that an open debate between the FA and fans is needed around the numbers of tickets going to fans of the competing clubs. The FSF believes the numbers are currently insufficient – a fact shown by the volume of tickets regurgitated every year via the black and grey market. Stricter rules are required on tickets going to the football family. The numbers must be transparent to the public and the FA should implement controls to ensure those who receive FA Cup final tickets genuinely deserve them. Clubs should be required to distribute their allocation among fans in a fair and equitable manner.

It’s an annual complaint, an understandable one, and a complaint which could be solved by increased transparency from football authorities and clubs. At present each club is given around 25,000 tickets, another 17,000 go to Club Wembley (not in direct control of the FA), which leaves 23,000 to members of the “football family” minus the number set aside for sponsors.

However, past experience tells us that many of the 40,000 tickets not given directly to either club will end up in the hands of Blues or Potters fans via the black market and this cannot be right. The balance between rewarding those in grassroots football, FA counties, and FA employees does need re-examining and a number of key points answering. We are not necessarily saying that the Football Supporters’ Federation has all the answers but discussions need to take place.

  • How many tickets should go to the “football family”? Very few fans would argue that every single ticket in Wembley should go to supporters of one of the two clubs involved. Most would acknowledge that those who have given up much of their lives to grassroots football deserve some reward and occasional Cup final tickets might be appropriate but that’s not to say that every pub team’s manager deserves a ticket every year, of course! Perhaps there are other ways to reward service too?. The number of tickets regurgitated via the black market or grey market (“a friend of a friend knows someone who can get a ticket at face value”) every year shows that the right balance has not yet been found and more tickets must be put directly in the hands of fans.
  • We would also suggest that the FA should implement stricter rules on tickets given to the football family. At present tickets dished out to local county FAs, clubs, and so on are subject to fairly loose controls. While a name must be given to the FA for the “end user” there are no controls in place to stop county FA’s giving them to whoever they like. This means that local volunteer Joe Bloggs who has spent 15 years managing a youth side might repeatedly miss out while someone who knows an important figure in their local county FA jumps the queue. Could the FA include a grassroots “time served” requirement of some sort for tickets given to local county FAs and clubs?
  • There is also a lack of transparency in the manner in which clubs can use their allocation. While each club is given 25,000 tickets there is no requirement that they share that allocation in a fair manner among their season ticket holders and most loyal supporters. The FSF would certainly argue that a minimum percentage should be set aside for season ticket holders and club members to prevent clubs giving disproportionate numbers to sponsors or executives.

This would prevent a domestic occurrence of the 2007 farce which saw Liverpool’s hierarchy give thousands of Champions League tickets to sponsors and VIPs – exact numbers are not known as then Chief Executive Rick Parry refused to get into a “numbers game”. While it should be made clear that this game fell under UEFA jurisdiction rather than the FAs there is, in theory, nothing to prevent a domestic repeat.

Furthermore, the club allocation for the final is 7,000 less than for the semi-final meaning 7,000 “real” fans whose money was good enough for the semi will miss out on the final itself. The reputational damage to the FA on this is real and we hope that they are willing to work with fans to refine the current system.

Every ticket on the black market has, by one route or another, been issued by the FA to a person, organisation, or company that’s more interested in making money than going to the game. It has to stop and transparency in the entire process is the best way to do just that.

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