Manchester United have reached the FA Cup final for the first time in nine years, but thousands of supporters risk missing the occasion owing to the club’s insufficient ticket allocation.
United have been guaranteed just 28,780 seats at Wembley’s 90,000 capacity stadium for the clash against Crystal Palace, with the Eagles receiving the same amount. Of the remaining tickets, 17,000 will be taken by Club Wembley for fans and companies who acquire packages for all stadium events, while 14,000 have been shared among the ‘football community’, including local FAs, clubs, charities and volunteers.
United supporters are understandably aggrieved that such a significant proportion of tickets have been distributed outside the match-going fan base. The club ballot for fans who have attended 10 cup games this season left around 2,000 supporters without a ticket for the final, while around 35,000 season ticket holders in total will miss out.
Something isn't right when we're given 28k tickets for 55k season ticket holders, and you buy 10/10 cup tickets and don't go to the final.
— Republik of Mancunia (@R_o_M) May 3, 2016
“The loudest complaints have come from supporters who have all 10 home cup games which they have bought on top of their season tickets,” Andrew Kilduff of supporter group Stretford End Flags told The Set Pieces. “The length of time that a fan has held their ticket hasn’t been taken into account during the ballot process, but I’ve heard from fans who have held their season tickets for many years who have not been successful in the ballot. Others who have all 10 cup games and went to the Wembley semi-final have also missed out.”
Several fan groups, including Stretford End Flags, have now stepped in to urge neutrals and the football community to return their allocations in order to redistribute them among United season ticket holders. The club have also reportedly asked the FA for additional tickets to cover the 2,000 season ticket holders with 10 cup credits who missed out in the ballot.
“SEF have put out an appeal to local FAs across the UK and all clubs who have been given an allocation to return those tickets in order to meet the demand from loyal season ticket holders who have missed out. The same applies to sponsors, companies such as EE who are offering over 50 tickets for competition prizes. Let’s get these tickets back in the hands of true fans,” says Andrew.
“The FA should not be giving tickets out to people who have no links to the clubs in the final. If they want to reward FA members, then they could easily give them tickets for the half-empty England international games. The FA say the final is about the fans, yet the fans who support Manchester United every week are missing out.”
All county FA's & anyone with neutral tickets, to hand over their allocation to #mufc so that Season ticket holders can attend the final.
— Stretford End Flags (@SEF_MUFC) May 3, 2016
Frustrations at the inadequate allocation follow the inconvenience of a Saturday 5.15pm kick-off in United’s semi-final against Everton, with many supporters angry at the FA for neglecting match-going fans.
“The FA always talk about the ‘Magic of the Cup’, but bit by bit they have killed that magic. The match-going fans now come second to global TV audiences,” says Andrew.
“They need to take a serious look at how they allocate tickets for finals. While you can say it’s fair to give an equal allocation to each of the finalists, it’s not always the most logical decision. Crystal palace have an allocation that is 2,000 more than Selhurst Park holds and is over double the number of season ticket holders. United have an allocation that is 48,000 less than what Old Trafford holds and an allocation that means 35,000 season ticket holders will miss out.
“However, the main concern is that while each club has an allocation of 28,780 there are 34,000 tickets for the game going to neutrals, be that Club Wembley ticket holders, the FA’s own allocation of over 16,000, or to sponsors. How can you create an atmosphere on a final, when there are more neutrals than there are fans of either club?”
With just over two weeks to the final, the clock is ticking for fans who are yet to acquire a ticket. But while supporter groups are doing everything they can to help fellow fans who were overlooked in the ballot, it’s unlikely there will be protests at Wembley should the issue fail to be resolved.
“I don’t think there will be a visible protest in the ground on the day,” says Andrew. “But you will see a lot of anger on social media and you will also see fans who have missed out deciding not to renew their season tickets. Why spend £1,000 a year for no reward come the final?”
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