by Tony Attwood
The story at first was that Arsenal season ticket holders were in revolt and were not buying tickets for the FA Cup semi-final this Sunday. But as per 2014 and 2015, the tickets were sold fast enough, once the sale was opened up to those holding season tickets without any away credits. Eventually silver and red members were able to purchase the small number remaining: a pattern that replicates the last two semi-final appearances.
And then, with the Arsenal bashing done, slowly an alternative story arose, for just as the media had been busy suggesting Arsenal fans were in absolute revolt against the club and would not be going to Wembley, so it appeared that (according to the Mail and the Sun at least) “Manchester City are struggling to sell their allocation for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final.”
Obviously the reason couldn’t be the fans unhappiness with the management at City because City have the best manager in the world (and I know that because the media has been telling me that for years). So a new reason had to be found as to why Arsenal would sell out very quickly, while the great and glorious club supported by 10% of the world’s gas reserves couldn’t get rid of all 33,000 tickets for the fixture in the capital.
“Sportsmail understands between 1,500 and 2,000 tickets in the City section remain unsold,” is how the paper put it, although that implies that “sportsmail” is an intellectual organism, and I am not sure that is the case.
Their explanation this time around (having ditched the notion that Arsenal supporters won’t go in protest against the continuation of the Wenger regime) is that “Supporters of the Etihad Stadium club have hit out at the decision to schedule the clash between City and the Gunners on Sunday, rather than the Saturday slot allocated for the other semi-final between London pair Chelsea and Tottenham.”
Certainly we all know about scheduling issues. Putting Arsenal’s trip to Middlesbrough on a Monday night with the match finishing after the last train had left was an act of either sheer insanity or of a sports TV channel that doesn’t care a toss about supporters, or a deliberate act against Arsenal supporters. One of the three – you can take your choice.
The newspapers have all also told us that FA Cup semi-final, “clashes” with the London Marathon, but I am not at all sure what the implication of that little gem is. Does it mean that the underground trains will be full of runners? Maybe I ought to leave a little earlier than I planned in that case.
So why don’t Man City fans want to come to the FA Cup semi-final? They are above us in the league, and have the best manager in the world, and can keep on going out and buying every player they want paying any wages they want.
There was one rather interesting story in the Mail however, and this from Man City fan Andrew Heald, aged (we are helpfully told), 54, although why the age is important I don’t know.
‘This is not City’s doing,’ he said. ‘It’s down to those who schedule the fixtures. I am a season card holder and was going to go down with a big group but we have decided against it. I’d booked a hotel for the Saturday night because I presumed, given City are the only team having to travel from the north, that we would be playing on the Saturday.’
So Mr Heald, who I sure is a decent bloke, actually booked a hotel room on the assumption that the FA and the broadcasters would break the habit of the last few years and do the logical decent thing? That is bizarre.
We are not told whether he went to Wembley for the Capital One Cup final in February last season when Manchester City beat Liverpool on penalties. That was on a Sunday. Wasn’t that a warning?
In fact the FA came clean recently in the form of Andy Ambler, who did confess that “while transport and travel for fans are considered, the final decision lies with the broadcasters.” In short, the fans are not considered at all. The BBC had first pick and opted to choose the Chelsea v Tottenham match and a 5pm Saturday kick-off time.
A BBC spokesperson however was having none of that and said, ‘All kick off times are agreed in partnership with the FA. The police and the four clubs involved in this weekend’s ties also confirmed they are happy with the times.’
Of course tickets are always available from Football TicketPad both at Wembley and elsewhere. Although getting oneself into the wrong part of a ground isn’t particularly recommended from a safety (not to mention survival) point of view, as I have learned to my cost in my younger days.