DAVID PYE: FA's Wembley ticket ploy was all about money
11:00pm Friday 18th October 2013 in Sport
IT sounded like a cracking atmosphere at Wembley on Tuesday for England’s do-or-die World Cup qualifier against Poland, but then it is hardly surprising with so many away fans there.
The Football Association came in for criticism from some quarters for allocating a whopping 18,000 tickets to Polish fans and I have to admit I thought it was strange for such a crucial game.
The reason given by FA bosses was to avoid a large number of away fans in home sections with tickets readily available, which I understand, with the potential for trouble if that did happen.
But the cynic in me leads me to think it was more about selling more tickets than they would normally for the second home game in quick succession at a stadium that can hold 90,000.
It was a big call to make with so much at stake for Roy Hodgson’s side. It could have backfired. It could have given Poland a big advantage to have such a huge vocal following.
Thankfully, it all worked out well for England and the team got the win they needed to seal their place in Brazil 2014.
Can you imagine if that was the norm, though? What if club football followed the same principle?
Let’s say Wanderers draw rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-final at the Reebok. If United asked for, say, 15,000 tickets for the local derby would the Whites agree to it on “safety” grounds? It would not happen.
But lower down the leagues where money is even harder to come by, would it be a temptation like it was for the FA to fill the ground and get some much-needed cash through the turnstiles?
Bury faced Preston last season and the visitors were handed a bigger allocation into the South Stand on the side.
It will always be a temptation for any club when hosting a visiting team with a big away following.
You just have to look up the road at Blackburn in their Premier League days when local sides like United, Manchester City and Liverpool were often given the full Darwen End – some 8,000 tickets – because they would fill it and provide cash to Rovers that would otherwise have been lost to empty seats.
Football as a whole is looking at ways to deal with falling away attendances, which are down 10 per cent in the past five seasons according to the Football Supporters’ Federation.
It is all well and good making multi-million pound TV deals but those companies will not want to fork out in future if their viewers are watching stale matches in half-empty stadia and turning off.
Top-flight clubs are now subsidising tickets or travel to try to get more following their teams away.
I hope it works because we all know more away fans makes for a better atmosphere.