DAVID PYE: England football team should be taken back out on the road

DAVID PYE: England football team should be taken back out on the road

DAVID PYE: England football team should be taken back out on the road

First published in Sport

FOOTBALL clubs around the country are again likely to have problems filling their grounds regularly this season as fans continue to feel the pinch of costly ticket prices.

But they are not alone – the national team are facing up to the same problem for next month’s Wembley friendly against Norway.

In a stadium that has the capacity to hold 90,000, so far a measly 10,000 tickets have been sold for the first England game of the campaign for Roy Hodgson’s men.

It is hardly a surprise ticket sales are struggling at a time of the year when most families are only just returning from summer holidays and particularly when you take into account the apathy surrounding the Three Lions following one of the most dismal showings at a World Cup in living memory.

The constant bombardment of emails from the FA urging fans not to miss out on the chance to see England again is unlikely to drum up interest either.

So what could they do to get people watching the national team in big numbers? Well, for a start they could heed lessons from their cricketing counterparts.

As regular column readers will know, I always look forward to a visit to Emirates Old Trafford in the summer – be it for Lancashire or England matches.

The internationals are something I always make a point of attending whether it is a one-day clash or a day at the Test.

Last weekend was my annual England experience at the home of the Red Rose county and, as ever, it was enjoyable.

There were no empty seats at this England outing; it was a full house as usual.

You could argue there are differences, not least the fact you are permitted to have a drink at the cricket and not in the stands at the football.

But the main reason international cricket enjoys better attendances in this country is the consistent policy of sharing the England games around.

Since I can remember, Test matches on these shores have taken place across the land – even when there were only a handful of venues up to the job of staging them.

Now we have more than enough options – so much so that neither traditional grounds Headingley or Old Trafford will stage an Ashes Test next summer.

But wherever the games are, most days will be packed to the rafters.

The footballers, though, will be playing in front of a half-empty Wembley for the foreseeable future – and that is the price to pay as the FA looks to recoup the huge over-priced cost of rebuilding the stadium a decade ago.

When the rebuild was taking place, the England team went around the country and played in front of full-houses with games more accessible and cheaper for us northerners in particular and it was a huge success.

Wembley will always be England’s home but if they want to get more watching low-key friendlies, then I suggest the FA go back to sharing the games around.

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