The vast majority of football fans will never see their team win the Premier League so the one dream we have at the start of each season is reaching the FA Cup Final come the end of the season. Whilst the Football Association have now changed the format of the tournament so that a trip to Wembley Stadium is now the reserve of the final four rather than the final two, there is nothing more special than the romance of the world’s most famous domestic cup competition.
Despite having a capacity of 90,000, the actual number of tickets made available to the supporters of the two finalists is significantly less. Fifty-five percent less to be precise. When Arsenal and Aston Villa walk out onto the hallowed turf next Saturday they will be welcomed by 25,000 official fans each, the set allocations to them from the Football Association. Arsenal has the unwelcome - but truthful - tag of being the most expensive club to watch in the Premier League, if not the world, with the cheapest season ticket for this season costing a cool £1,014. Even at that price (and more) the club has more than 45,000 season ticket holders. In the case of the FA Cup final, demand certainly outstrips supply.
So who gets the other 40,000 tickets you may wonder? This is where the term “The Football Family” comes in. Nearly 17,000 are allocated to hospitality clients in the Club Wembley programme, whilst a significant share are given away to the sponsors and commercial partners of the Football Association, such as Mars, Nike, McDonalds and Vauxhall. Finally there is an allocation of around 20,000 given to clubs, big and small up and down the country.
Whilst the gesture may appear very benevolent, the sheer number of tickets not allocated to the clubs, and the fact that so many loyal fans from either club cannot get a ticket through their official allocation drives supporters to look at alternative means to be there on the day. A simple Google search for “FA Cup Final tickets” throws up hundreds of results, whilst a look at one of the higher ranked sites offers tickets FROM £591 all the way up to £3,900. Whilst some desperate fans may be tempted to hand over their life savings just to be at the game, they need to just listen to that little voice in their head rather than their heart.
It is not just the risk of buying something that either does not actually exist or could be counterfeit that is the primary issue that ticketless fans face. It is actually illegal to resell tickets for any football match in the United Kingdom. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 stipulates that it is an offence for an unauthorised person to sell a ticket for a football match or otherwise dispose of such a ticket to another person. Whilst the risk of prosecution for the buyer is limited, the seller could face serious criminal sanctions which would certainly include the confiscation of any tickets if they are caught by the authorities. So the risk is again that you could end up empty-handed after handing over significant amounts of cash.
Whilst the temptation for fans is to go to any lengths to watch the FA Cup Final, this is one instance where the official hospitality packages may not seem too expensive after all!