The FA Cup final is upon us again with Arsenal and Hull City meeting at Wembley this weekend and once more the FA has faced criticism from fans and footballing figures over its ticket allocation.
As seen in previous years, the two finalists will receive only 25,000 tickets each which many fans feel is far too small a percentage of the 90,000 capacity. Beyond the 25,000 per club, 17,000 tickets go to Club Wembley and the remaining 23,000 go to members of the “football family”.
Recently, the chief executive of Arsenal Football Club Ivan Gazidis criticised the allocation, “With the FA Cup final allocation at 25,000 there will be many disappointed Arsenal fans, who have supported the Club home and away for years, who will be unable to get a ticket to this historic match,” said Gazidis.
The 23,000 tickets for the “football family” are shared out across grassroots football – including FA counties and FA employees. Gazidis accepted that the FA would want to use the FA Cup final as a showpiece fixture to “celebrate the game as a whole”, but added that “the balance in the FA’s allocation system is not right.”
Criticism of ticket allocations is not restricted to the FA Cup final either. This season’s UEFA Champions League final in Lisbon, held at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica which holds 61,000, will see the finalists receive 17,000 each.
In last year’s Europa League final, played at the 48,000 seated Amsterdam ArenA, Chelsea were only given 9,800 tickets by UEFA. Similarly for the Champions League final last year at Wembley, 59,000 tickets were allocated to Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund – the remaining with 27,000 going to officials, sponsors and corporate hospitality.
The phenomenon of season ticket holders missing out on major finals is not just seen in football. This year’s NFL Superbowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos saw each team receive just 17.5 percent of the ticket allocation – the match being held at the 82,500 capacity MetLift Stadium in New Jersey. The NFL retained 25.2 percent of the allocation for corporate sponsors with the remaining tickets shared between the other league members and the stadium hosts.
Denver Broncos season ticket holders were particularly vocal in their criticism of the allocation, claiming that a large proportion of the seats ended up in the hands of “secondary ticketing” websites, selling for many thousands of dollars, way above the face value.
FA Cup tickets on the secondary market or black market (often with eye-watering prices) have, by one route or another, been issued by the FA to a person, organisation or company wholly uninterested in experiencing an FA Cup final.
There is also a lack of transparency in the manner in which clubs can use their allocation. While each club is given 25,000 tickets there is a need for FA regulation on what proportion can be siphoned off to club officials, players, guests or sponsors – to our knowledge no such rule exists.
The FA could have clearer criteria to whom the club or County FA can give their tickets to as well. While a name must be given to the FA for the “end user” - as well as on the day checks that the person in the seat is the name given - there are no controls in place to stop county FA’s giving them to whoever they like.
So how many tickets should go to the “football family”? There’s a “turkeys voting for Christmas” element to this, of course, but the FA Cup is a great competition and every year its reputation takes a battering as thousands of tickets are regurgitated via the black market.
As Gazidis says, the balance simply isn’t right - more tickets should go into the hands of fans.
Thanks to Action Images for the image used in this article.