Ticket price hikes, crazy kick-off times, Premier League clashes – Craig Salmon looks at the devaluation of the FA Cup, which was once the premier cup competition in the world
The thorny issue of FA Cup final tickets reared its head this week when it was a nnounced that the Football Association were hiking up the prices considerably to attend this year’s showpiece match.
Fans of finalists Manchester United and Chelsea – who defeated Tottenham and Southampton respectively in the semi-finals last weekend – will have to contend with an increase of as much as 35% for some seats compared to previous finals.
In 2016 and 2017 there were 27,578 and 27,289 category two tickets respectively and they cost £85. The equivalent tickets for this season’s final are priced at £115.
Category one tickets, of which there were 13,471 and 13,641 in 2016 and 2017, are now £145, a £30 hike.
It seems every year there is some kind of issue devaluing the FA Cup, which at one time was the most prestigious competition in the world.
Whether it’s the semi-finals being played at Wembley or the crazy kick-off times – this year’s final will start at 5-15pm – not to mention the decision to schedule Premier League fixtures on the same day, people are not up for the cup like they once were.
Back in the day, FA Cup final day was sacrosanct in the English football calendar.
Long before the days of satellite and cable telelvision, the final would be virtually the only game of the domestic season to be screened live on TV.
The build-up surrounding the day used to begin early in the morning – with both the BBC and ITV – who would both screen the match – vying for the biggest television audiences.
For many players of yesteryear, playing at the old Wembley and winning the cup was undoubtedly the highlight of their careers. Now, the competition plays second fiddle to glory – and survival – in the Premier League. Even Championships sides have been known to play weakened teams in the early rounds.
Nevetheless, the cup final still carries some reverence and this year’s clash between United and Chelsea should be some spectacle, even if many true fans are having to pay through the nose to watch it.
While I don’t agree with the FA’s decision to raise the prices by such extortionate amounts, I do have some sympathy with regard to the tickets allocations they hand out to each club.
As it stands, both United and Chelsea are set to be given around 30,000 tickets, with many people arguing each year that the finalists should get more considering Wembley’s capacity is around 90,000.
However, I am a great believer that there should be some kind of reward for those people who volunteer and work tirelessly through the season at grassroots level.
That is why I am all in favour of a large proportion of tickets being made available to the wider football family, even if the occasion is not quite what it once was.