FA Cup Wembley ticket scandal: the full details

By Tony Attwood 

The FA is a dangerous organisation, totally unfit for purpose, run by people utterly out of touch with the fans who end of paying the mortgage on the FA’s most ludicrous enterprise: Wembley.

OK we knew that.

Tickets for the FA Cup semi-final and final are fairly hard to come by.

OK we knew that too.

Wembley is likely not to be full, despite the fact that thousands of Arsenal fans won’t be able to get a ticket.  And I say that no just because of the calculations that follow, but also because I’ve been to semi-finals against smaller teams and (knowing how hard it was for me to get a ticket) looked on aghast at the vast banks of empty seats theoretically allocated to the other team, but which they can’t even give away, let alone sell.

No one who was at the semi-final against Blackburn at the Millenium Stadium in 2005 can forget the stand that ran down one side of the pitch which was allocated to Blackburn, opposite the Arsenal side, being half full.  Knowing as we did how hard it was for Arsenal fans to get tickets, with thousands turned away it was a disgraceful sight.

But such mega cock ups of the past are not enough for the FA; they are now screwing supporters further and further, through their perfidious decision making, giving tickets to their own chums and to the people to whom they owe money.

The problem starts with simple numbers.   Wembley has a capacity of 90,000.   But immediately that number is reduced to 63,598 as the FA keep the rest for themselves and their cronies.  That’s 26,402 not even on sale.

Then they divide what is left between Reading and Arsenal equally giving us 31,799 each.

Now I don’t in any way deny that Reading fans deserve every chance to get tickets especially as this is their first Cup semi-final since 1927, which if you know your Arsenal history (and if you don’t you should be reading the Arsenal History Society blog) was also the year Arsenal were in the semis for the third time.  We beat Southampton 2-1, while Reading lost to Cardiff City 3-0.  It led to Arsenal’s first final – which we lost.  But we were back three years later to claim our first FA Cup, and a decade of nothing but league and cup triumphs.

So there are now two questions.

1.  Does Reading actually need 31,799?

2.  Should the chums and pals of the FA actually have 26,402 tickets or should they go to Arsenal?

(There’s also a third question raised by the action of Reading fans after the game last night – but I’ll leave that for the end).

Starting with point one, let me re-state my view – Reading fans have as much right to tickets as we do.  All I am doing here is asking whether Reading can sell 31,799 tickets.

The Madejski Stadium capacity is 24,321.  That is the entire Reading stadium houses, including away support, 7478 fewer people than they are being given tickets for.

At the quarter final replay last night there was a crowd of 22,908 of whom about 4,000 were Bradford fans, giving us around 19,000 Reading.

Now with my new-found “reading without glasses” technique, I followed the Reading web site, and it was not until the morning of the game that the site finally stopped selling tickets for the match and announced they were sold out.

Looking at the TV pictures, it didn’t look sold out – but then I am told the traffic in Reading can be bad at 7.30 in the evening.  On the other hand if Reading fans can’t get through the traffic to their own home games I wonder how they will cope with north west London.

So how will Reading deal with 31,799 tickets given that they only just sold 19,000 for a home match, winning which would take them to a cup semi-final for only the second time in their existence and the first time in 88 years?  It means that they have to find 12,799 people who didn’t attend the quarter final at home, but who are willing to make the trip to London for the semi.

Looking at Reading’s attendances over recent years I think you can see why I think it is unlikely.  All of these games are league matches

24,184   Everton  (17 Nov 2012)
24,183   West Ham Utd  (29 Dec 2012)
24,160   Tottenham H  (16 Sep 2012)
24,139   Liverpool  (13 Apr 2013)
24,135   Manchester Utd  (19 Jan 2008)
24,125   Arsenal  (17 Dec 2012)
24,125   Tottenham H  (3 May 2008)
24,122   Aston Villa (10 Feb 2007)
24,121   Liverpool (7 Apr 2007)

Now you will notice these top attendances are spread across the two periods when Reading were in the Premier League – which suggests that their fans tend to drift away when the club is having harder times – unlike Arsenal for example where we get sold out notices for almost every league match no matter how much the aaa tell us that this is the season we are going to finish mid-table.

Of course not every Reading fan lives in Reading, any more than Arsenal fans live in Islington, but even so…  I mean no disrespect to Reading when I say that I doubt that they will get all those people who bought tickets right up to the last day, plus another 12,799 for a match in north west London, which is also on TV.

And what you will notice is that the attendance last night was 22,908 – around 1200 less than for the league games above.  This again (like the fact that the “sold out” sign didn’t go up until the morning of the game) suggests that Reading can’t rely on that number of 24,000 plus a few to turn up.  Which makes the 31,799 allocation look a trifle odd.

On to question two.  Should the chums and pals of the FA actually have 26,402 tickets?  And the answer is obviously of course not.

They do it because Wembley cost £750 million to build and the massive debt the FA took on is not self-financing (by which I mean the income from Wembley doesn’t pay for the debt repayments and interest).  So Wembley is subsidised by the FA from its income from other sources, and from its sponsors.

In short we are being denied tickets because of the financial ineptitude of the FA.

So there it is – we can’t go and see our team play because tickets have been allocated equally between the club (which given the figures above looks stupid) and because of the need to give tickets to the people who are bailing out the FA.

And why is Reading being given equal numbers?  Because if (as I guess) they won’t sell their full allocation, it will allow the FA to sneak even more tickets into the pockets of the executives of Budweiser, Umbro and its “Community Partner” McDonald’s – an organisation that does so much to enhance the nation’s fitness and health.

A final note.   There was a pitch invasion at the end of last night’s game, in which smoke bombs and flares were let off.  Smoke bombs and flares are, as we have said so many times in dealing with idiots from Liverpool and Everton, a major health hazard and can and do cause considerable injuries.  They are also illegal.

Credit where it is due on this one – Everton have been taking action and have started to prosecute with the guilty getting banning orders. Indeed research quoted on the Everton site  says that “a third of fans have been affected by pyrotechnics and that 78 per cent want more action taken against pyro users.”

The research they quote found that “87 per cent of fans believe that pyrotechnics such as flares and smoke bombs are dangerous at matches, and that 86 percent were concerned for their safety. The same number think flares and smoke bombs are a fire risk and 79 per cent consider them to be a health hazard.”

So the message and the pictures of the injuries that smoke bombs cause has got home.  Wembley officials might like to review the pictures of the end of the quarter final.

Anniversaries of the day: Birthdays and Doubles

(The full list appears on the home page)

  • 17 March 1949: Pat Rice born.  He went on to make 391 league starts across a 13 season career, became temporary manager while waiting for Arsene Wenger to arrive from Japan, and then Arsene Wenger’s long term assistant.
  • 17 March 1964: Lee Dixon born.  He became part of one of the most famous defences in the history of English football between 1987 and 2000.
  • 17 March 1998: WHU 1 Arsenal 1,  FA Cup 6 Replay.  Anelka scored in the game, and Arsenal won on penalties on the way to the second double.   The second double: part 1, part 2, part 3.
  • 17 March 2002 Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 2.  Part of a run of 13 consecutive wins.  League match 30 of the 3rd Double season.




12 Replies to “FA Cup Wembley ticket scandal: the full details”

  1. I suppose if Liverpool and Arsenal were to meet in the Final, the allocation of tickets would be no different. Bearing no comparison with real life.
    As you say, Tony, the FA are the real culprits, with tickets being awarded to a selection of luvvies who attend solely for the food and drink. None of whom could even explain the LBW rule.

  2. I remember Wigan last year as I was there and there also were big big big gaps in the stands reserved for Wigan supporters. Last year sold tickets for the semi final against Wigan in total was 82.000. So that means that another 8000 Arsenal supporters could and should have been given the chance to buy a ticket.
    I know in the end Arsenal got more than the 32.000 they first were given because of Wigan returning a lot of tickets. But then still 8000 tickets remained unsold. As you say: this is a scandal!

  3. As always football is the preserve of the corporates and television companies , the fans come a poor third. The building of Wembley was a vanity project farce from the beginning with poor site management and with a massive budget overspend which will be a millstone around the neck of English football for years to come. The matches could and should have been shared around the country and the money spent on this albatross being invested in the game itself.

  4. Ineptitude in many ways, especially that they would surely have paid much of their debts by now if all tickets had been sold for these cup and final games since Wembley was built.

    It is hard to follow the reasoning behind such actions of a business who needs to make money to survive, or is it because one team would feel at a disadvantage being allocated less tickets?

  5. Makes my blood boil , all the FA cronies do is sell them on so some Arsenals fans will pick them up .
    As a season ticket holder ( 2 seats ) I am probably likely to only get one
    I have already approached Wembley debenture holders to ensure success , absolute bloody piss take .

  6. I don’t know what everyone’s upset about…the FA is just doing what FIFA does. What could be wrong with that?

  7. Tony: it will be easier for Reading fans to get to Wembley via public transport than it is to get to the Majedski by car or public transport. The traffic really is a nightmare in Reading at the moment. I imagine that quite a few Arsenal fans who live West of London will find it easy to pick up Reading allocated tickets, and I hope that if they do that doesn’t lead to any trouble. Three of my Year 10 class told me they were going to the match last night: I shall speak to them about their possible pyrotechnic involvement. Has the date of the match been announced yet?

  8. Tony – Great points made in an entertaining, humorous way. I’m guessing the FA won’t be sending you tickets this year? And this reminds me again that the only time Arsenal should be playing at Wembley is the FA Cup matches – thanks to Arsene Wenger.

  9. I think as a starting point an equal split between Reading and Arsenal is fair – after all they have to at least have the chance to get as many of their fans their as possible. It IS supposed to be a neutral venue after all. What I would do is give 40k tickets to Reading, 40k to Arsena, 10k for Corporate. Then set deadlines for sales – give back 5k tickets after x date, and the full remainder of unsold after y date. These tickets when they are given back should be offered to the other club first if they have sold their allocation already and that club should be asked to sell themby a certain date and any that are still unsold after that date could then be used by the FA on top of their initial 10k allocation.

  10. @Jayramfootball. Entirely agree with you, but it will never happen. @Shoot says he has two season tickets and is only likely to get one seat. Well if you are a season ticket holder the conditions for obtaining a guaranteed seat have been around for ages even back to the Champions League final in Paris. I have one season ticket and my son another and we attend away games as much as we can. We are both guaranteed seats and I suggest all those who moan about going into the ballot should go to some long distance away matches and build up your credits. The 3 required credits only work out at one per season. That’s not too much to expect is it?

  11. @Mickess is right about the away thing, I have been once away this season and not missed a home game (including the league cup) but without the away fans we wouldn’t be in the semi anyway, so more power to them!

    But Tony is right about the FA, it is a disgrace. However, those 26,000 are not all ‘cronies’, lots of youth groups and local trainers go, volunteers and the like and a certain proportion of the seats are ‘owned’ by Wembley ST holders I think. One of my mates went to the league cup final because he has a mate who has 2 of these seats. He is Chelsea and his wife is a spud but in that section there is a no replica shirt rule so its effectively neutral.

  12. As of today, 13th April, 5 days before the game, Reading have sold 28,500 tickets from their allocation of over 31,500. These have been sold to Season Ticket holders and members only. Not for general sale. Therefore Reading do have the ability to sell more than your suggested 24, 000 max. However, as a longtime Reading fan who used to be a member and season ticket holder but who now lives too far away to attend matches regularly, I am unable to buy a ticket for myself and my daughter who was born in Reading and is a lifelong Reading supporter herself. Now that is unfair!!!

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