Ticket Prices Another Slap In Face For Fans

Last week, The FA announced the tickets prices for this season’s FA Cup Final. Eyebrows were raised as the highest priced tickets smashed through the £100 barrier for the first time. Prices for the most expensive tickets to English football’s end-of-season showpiece will cost £115, an increase of 22% on last season. I say that eyebrows were raised – the tabloids described it as causing “outrage” from supporters, naturally.

This is the first rise in prices for four years, as the FA pegged their top ticket prices at £95 for the first four FA Cup finals after Wembley re-opened in 2007. The cheapest tickets this year are £45, up £5 on last year.

In many of the newspaper articles about the price announcement, there is a quote from an FA spokesman, who said: ‘Our ticket price structure is in line with other major sporting events held in the country every year. Prices for this weekend’s semi-final ties have not changed despite the increase in VAT.’

And he is partly right – the semi-final tickets were very fairly priced in my opinion, ranging from £30 to £60. But this just makes it even more galling to hear the prices for the final.

The prices are not fair. The FA has a responsibility to the fans of the game, the fans that keep the game in existence, and the fans that they are supposed to represent. They should be well aware of the current economic climate, of the increasing financial burden on football fans, and they should act accordingly. As they say on their website: “Football Is The Nation’s Game”.

The Champions League final prices are even worse, but this doesn’t excuse the FA Cup prices. And only this week, Michel Platini has apologised for the extortionate prices and £26 booking fee. And so he should, though this is little comfort to all the people that have already purchased tickets.

So this is football. Rip off the fans at every available opportunity. I’d be a very naïve person not to have already known this, this is what football has become now at the top level, and there is little we can do except vote with our feet. But the fans of two clubs who have not been to a final in at least 30 years are not going to boycott the game. I’d have paid £200 to go, and I don’t have much money.

It’s not just the ticket price that will leave your wallet bare. If you want to eat or drink once you are there, you may want to re-mortgage your house before setting off. If you want to park in the official car-park, it’s probably best that you sell your house and move into a hostel.

Many who attended the semi-finals won’t be going to the final of course. This showpiece event allows less fans of each club to attend than in the previous round because of the allocation of seats elsewhere. The FA dish out 23,000 tickets to ‘full member’ clubs at all levels across the country, whilst a further 17,000 seats are designated for corporate ‘Club Wembley’ members. Manchester and Stoke City’s allocation is about 6,000 less than they were given for the semi-final.

Here’s that FA spokesman again, quoted in a Manchester evening news article on the allocation:

“The final is our showpiece event and we use it to reward those who have contributed to football, be it parents, volunteers or coaches. The 17,000 Club Wembley members are those who fund the stadium and who have allowed it to be built. I would say 25,000 is a fairly good allocation. I would say the complaints are louder this year because we have two teams who have not been to a final for a long time.”

So there you have it – the FA don’t hide the fact that their actions are often guided by the desperate need to pay off their £800m white elephant of a stadium.

It’s hard to argue against allocating tickets to the football “family”, though a blossoming black market trade for tickets from this allocation will soon spring up. But to stop 17,000 fans seeing their team in what may well be the first cup final of their lifetime is harder to defend, a situation that has arisen because of years of incompetence and bad planning that the fans will pay for years to come – and not only by paying over the odds, but via the other consequences of the new stadium, such as four north-west teams travelling 200 miles to play a football game to help pay off their association’s debts, and at the same time devaluing the achievement of reaching a Wembley final. I’m just surprised they haven’t sneaked the quarter finals into the Wembley schedule yet. Give them time.
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