Last year, the FA changed the competition rules in the FA Cup to allow host clubs to charge whatever they pleased in FA Cup ties – previously ticket pricing had to be agreed by both clubs.
That minor change to the rules saw Reading fans charged £45 for their trip to Old Trafford and this time round it’s Derby County fans being stung for their third round visit to the 'Theatre of Dreams'.
“Unfortunately we know a lot of Derby County fans who were put off by the £45 ticket price for the trip to Old Trafford,” says Pav Samra, FSF national council member and founder of Punjabi Rams.
“We were at the FSF Awards when the draw was made. Everyone’s phones were going off, we were buzzing to draw Manchester United.
“Everyone talks about the magic of the cup and the third round should be one of the highlights of the footballing calendar. Obviously, you want as many Rams there as possible to cheer the team on and get a famous upset.”
Christmas and New Year is a testing time for football supporters with a packed fixture schedule bringing games thick and fast. Last year for the Boxing Day and New Year fixtures alone we estimated that the average away fan in the Premier League spent £148.29 on tickets and travelled 438.82 miles (£141.26 and 404.27 miles in the Championship).
“Money’s tight for everyone this time of year,” Pav said. “That’s why it’s so disappointing that Manchester United have chosen to price out so many, particularly younger supporters.”
Much like Reading last year, this year’s visitors to Old Trafford are stepping in to subsidise everyone in the away end – no Derby County season-ticket holder will now pay more than £30 for their ticket.
A commendable gesture from the Derby County chairman – but should it be necessary?
Pav said: “It’s good to have a chairman that cares about our fans, unfortunately not every club will be in a position to do this for their fans.
“That’s not to say Derby County are whiter-than-white when it comes to ticket prices – it’s definitely an issue at Pride Park, just as it is at too many clubs in the Championship.”
Manchester United’s price for away fans is an outlier in what is otherwise a fairly affordable round for supporters in the FA Cup. All but two of the Premier League teams who are at home are charging £10 – the minimum price set out in FA Cup rules – to encourage as many fans through the turnstiles as possible.
Outside the Premier League clubs prices are close to our Twenty’s Plenty campaign aim – for example, Fulham are charging Southampton fans £20 for their visit and Norwich City are charging visiting Chelsea fans £25.
The “Magic of the Cup” is still there for an awful lot of supporters and just because demand is high, doesn’t mean clubs should exploit it.