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The FA have the fans over a barrel

Darren Richman

Wembley is back in the news with the revelation that Fulham owner Shahid Khan has made an offer somewhere in the region of£800m to buy the stadium from the Football Association. The belief is that selling the ground would allow the FA to invest in football at grassroots level and ideally ensure the national team does not disgrace itself at international tournaments at some point in the future. It’s important to dream big.

One thing that has received less press attention is the frankly outrageous situation regarding ticketing for the F.A. Cup final. As far back as 1992, in his seminal memoir Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby complained about the disgraceful allocation of tickets for the final of the oldest cup competition in world football. Almost half the tickets are given to those on corporate jollies with little to no interest in the game. It is hard not to think of Jerry Seinfeld’s observation:

“Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them is making a poop, the other one’s carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge?”

The supporters are certainly not the ones in charge in this situation. To make matters worse, some of the Manchester United and Chelsea fans at the final will pay the highest official ticket price in history to watch a game of domestic football in this country, a frankly staggering£145. Some of the seats have increased in price by an eye-watering£65 from the semi-final to the final.

Some will argue that this is a simple case of supply and demand and that punters spend similar amounts to see a show in the West End. Such arguments entirely miss the point because football has historically been more than mere entertainment.  Sport is about community and football is such a huge part of people’s lives in this country that it’s not exactly the equivalent of a trip to see Hamilton. The working class have been priced out of the sport and non-league football is often the better option for teenagers looking to see matches live with their friends. The sport has changed beyond all recognition since the early ’90s and those watching on television at home are far better served than the match-going fans who have been its lifeblood for decades.

The most infuriating aspect of all this is that the FA have the fans over a barrel. For either set of supporters, voting with your feet almost feels like cutting your nose off to spite your face. United and Chelsea have had relatively underwhelming campaigns and their fans will feel like they can justify one last expense if it means triumph at Wembley. The governing body are aware that even if some supporters did choose to boycott, it would not be a struggle to find others willing to go in their stead. Essentially the FA, who should do everything in their power to aid fans, is willing to sell them down the river simply because they can. Tribal loyalties aside, that is worrying for us all.

Wembley is playing host to the FA Cup final on the 19th May, click here to get the latest odds

By Darren Richman – follow Darren on Twitter @darrenrichman

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