Arsenal have left many Manchester United fans angered this week after they only offered United a reduced allocation for the upcoming 4th round FA Cup tie. Away teams usually get allocated 15% of the tickets, which is one of the factors that usually makes an FA Cup tie such a great occasion due to the increased atmosphere.
Sadly though Arsenal aren’t abiding by this rule and are citing safety concerns as the reason for only giving us 8.7% of the ticket allocation instead of the full 15%. The reason they gave is about away fans being in the top tier and the fact that away fans usually persistently stand.
The issue is though, they only have these concerns when they are facing a premier league side. United aren’t the only one to be given a reduced allocation by Arsenal. Tottenham were only given 5,186 tickets in 2014, whilst Liverpool received even less when they were allocated 5,168. Even last year Everton only received an allocation of 5,186 tickets. United’s allocation is 5,233, so even though it’s marginally higher, it’s disgraceful and much lower than it should be. They cited the same bogus safety concerns for each of those fixtures, but when Lincoln City travelled to the Emirates in 2017 for an FA Cup quarter-final, they received the full allocation of 9000 tickets.
So why is it that these safety concerns only materialise when they draw a Premier League team. Coventry is another example, who although they didn’t take that many, they were offered the full allocation. Its as if Arsenal are scared that giving the opposing team more fans will give them the upper hand. But that’s the magic of the FA Cup, if you got drawn at home, you have that advantage, so it’s only fair that the other team gets a larger following. And if it goes to a reply, the same would apply for that game when the other side is at home. You would get a 15% allocation of that ground.
Manchester United initially fought back against the reduced allocation when it was first suggested, which has unfortunately meant that the ballot for the away tickets for United fans had to be delayed, meaning fans have been unable to plan ahead and arrange travel. This means once again that fans will be stung with heavier travel costs due to the delay in being able to get them booked.
The match was already going to be difficult for the United fans to travel to and from, with the game being arranged for a late kick-off on a Friday night, meaning there was only 1 train back from London to Manchester after full-time. Again it’s the fans that are suffering and Arsenal have not helped the matter.
Official statements were made by both the Manchester United Supporter’s Trust and ASIA, the Arsenal Supporters group, who both urged Arsenal to fulfil the request for the full 15% allocation and to keep the magic of this FA Cup tie alive. Unfortunately, these efforts were fruitless as they didn’t back down and the FA upheld Arsenal’s decision saying they couldn’t overturn the decision as the recommendation was made by a Safety Advisory Group (SAG).
“Ticket allocations are based on ongoing safety assessments and in consultation with our Safety Advisory Group, which includes representatives from the local authority and police,” an Arsenal spokeswoman said. This is the issue, these Safety Advisory Groups are biased towards those clubs, and will recommend whatever the club wants, citing a “safety issue” as the reason. These “safety issues” are rarely clarified any further.
The FA Cup has already lost so much of its magic. Mainly due to issues with television scheduling and being at the beck and call of TV companies, as well as managers fielding weak teams and the semi-finals now being held at Wembley. This cup isn’t what it once was, and stunts like this by Arsenal are not doing it any favours.
The game is scheduled for next Friday, and with the ballot for the away fans now only due to be completed over today and tomorrow, it will give fans only a week to get all of their arrangments in place. Its a disgrace and Arsenal should be ashamed of themselves.