Plans for this month’s League Cup final have been criticised by supporters of the competing finalists over a lack of “logic or common sense”.
Last night, Manchester City’s 1894 atmosphere group, the Manchester City Official Supporters’ Club and Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust issued a joint statement criticising the plans currently in place for the League Cup final.
Manchester City take on Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on Sunday 25th April with 8,000 spectators expected to be present after it was confirmed as a pilot event to test the return of big crowds.
However only 4,000 of those tickets will be going to fans of the two teams with the other half going to local Brent residents and key workers. Additionally, those attending the game have to meet strict COVID-19 testing criteria.
Fan groups have criticised the Government and EFL for failing to adequately consult with supporters about the planning and logistics of the event.
“The failure of government, public health, local and footballing authorities to work with fan organisations raises question marks over the effectiveness of the exercise,” the three groups said. “And demonstrates, once again, that all the fine words about fans being “the lifeblood of the game” mean nothing in reality.
“It’s now less than two weeks until the final, and there is no time to change what has already been decided without consultation. As supporter groups, all we can do at this late stage is set out our concerns.”
Manchester City fans will have to select a de facto “bubble-style” transport when purchasing their tickets for the game, something that does not apply to their peers at Tottenham Hotspur who will be allowed to travel from in and outside of London.
All supporter groups have raised concerns about the make-up of the crowd and the unique measures in place.
“Given the mix of spectators, the crowd will not behave as a normal football crowd behaves, and so researching its movement and behaviour is of limited value,” they said.
“Allocating up to half the tickets to local Brent residents increases the chances of ticket touting, especially with residents able to apply for a further guest ticket and with print at home tickets available.
“Inaccurate assumptions about where fans live in relation to the club they support, and their travel patterns, have been made.
“Stringent travel restrictions have been imposed on Manchester City fans, who it is assumed mostly live in and travel from Manchester. Tottenham Hotspur fans who qualify for a ticket and live outside London are not subject to the same restrictions.”
Disabled groups discrimination concerns
Many supporters will not be eligible for tickets for the event under the conditions of the Events Research Programme (ERP), such as minors, pregnant women or supporters who are clinically vulnerable.
Disability campaigners say this is likely to impact disabled fans disproportionately. Level Playing Field (LPF) expressed concerns that the guidance could put disabled fans off applying for tickets.
“This sets a potentially discriminatory precedent,” LPF said. “With more test events adopting these measures it is adding further ‘fuel to this fire’.
“We recognise that the ERP is of absolute importance to not only reopening but reopening for all.
“The actions around excluding clinically extremely vulnerable people detracts from the message of tackling discrimination, promoting equality and devalues the importance of personal choice.”
More test events
As well as the League Cup final, this month’s FA Cup semi-finals will also see a small number of spectators return. Additionally, the FA Cup final in May will see up to 21,000 fans in attendance.
The matches are three of nine events across sports and the arts – which also includes the snooker World Championship – which will be used to provide “key scientific data and research” into how events can safely re-open to fans in line with the roadmap out of lockdown.
Mark Bullingham, the FA’s chief executive, said: “We are delighted to be hosting three test events at Wembley and are confident we can offer a safe environment.
“This is an important first step towards getting fans back, with the end goal of full stadia – hopefully by the end of the men’s Euros [in July]. We would like to thank all authorities for their support throughout this process.”
However, the supporter groups from Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur said greater supporter involvement is essential if these test events are to provide meaningful information to scientists.
“Too many of the decisions made around the organisation of this event lack logic or common sense,” they said. “Better could have been achieved if the competition organisers, venue, public health bodies and government had drawn on the willingness of supporter groups to contribute their knowledge and assistance.
“Instead we are left with an event of questionable scientific value, and in which loyal fans will once again be treated poorly and left open to exploitation. It’s another missed opportunity, and another clear indication of how fans are viewed.”