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Meeting with The FA

The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST), Chelsea Supporters’ Trust (CST), Spirit of Shankly (SoS) and Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust (THST) recently joined together to meet with the Football Association (The FA) to discuss various issues around the FA Cup and to put forward the views of supporters on matters that affect them relating to the staging of the competition.  
 
The meeting took place at Wembley and the FA was represented by Jonathan Hall, Director of Football Services and Graham Noakes, Head of Football Administration.  
 
The AST, CST, SoS and THST all reiterated their support for the FA Cup and its importance within the English football calendar. It was noted that the FA Cup was, and can still be, a wonderful competition that delivers special moments for football fans. All four Trusts present stressed their wish to see the FA Cup thrive.
 
The meeting primarily focused on two main issues:
 
• The rule that requires a 15% ticket allocation to fans of the team drawn away
• The distribution of tickets to fans of teams who have reached the Cup Final
 
15% allocation to Away Fans
 
The Supporter representatives present explained that one of the magic ingredients of the FA Cup is that more away fans attend games than in the Premier League. This helps distinguish the Cup from the Premier League games and gives the matches a special atmosphere. An FA Cup Away day is often the highlight away trip for supporters over an entire season.
 
All four groups requested that the FA do more to uphold their rule that 15% of a ground’s capacity are given to visiting fans and also promote the importance of this rule to Clubs.
 
The FA confirmed that they do see the value of the rule and are supportive of its continuation and implementation. The FA work behind the scenes with Clubs to encourage them to comply and are in on-going discussions with Arsenal to try to address the issue that arose with games against Spurs, Liverpool and Everton last season.
 
It was noted for instance that the rebuild of Manchester City’s venue will see them include provision to meet this rule following reminders by the FA.
 
There was a discussion about the increasing intervention of Safety Advisory Groups in allocations given to away fans and the decisions that they are making about capacity allocations that affect away fans at both Premier League and FA Cup games. It was agreed that more accountability was needed from these bodies about the decisions they are taking.
 
 
FA Cup Final Ticket Allocation
 
The case was made that the current way of distributing FA Cup final tickets was not fair to the fans of the two teams who had reached the Final with just 50,000 being allocated to be distributed between the Clubs competing.
 
This is a result of a historical policy decision that tickets are distributed to the ‘Football Family’ – those who volunteer in various roles at the grassroots of the Game.
 
The four groups present supported efforts to recognise and reward volunteers but suggested that it would be more appropriate for the football family to be awarded with tickets for England games and other promotions,and advised that the current policy saw too many supporters of the Club who reached the final driven onto the touting market.
 
The FA were sympathetic to the need to review this policy and said that it was something that was likely to come up again for discussion. A policy change would need to be supported by the full FA Council.
 
The Supporters Groups requested a full breakdown of how tickets are allocated and to whom with the suggestion that all recipients are contacted with a request that they return tickets to be sold to fans of the competing clubs. The FA promised to try and provide this information.
 
Other issues raised during the meeting
 
• The disparity in ticket pricing at FA Cup games was raised. Taking Arsenal as an example the previous season had seen supporters of Spurs pay £62, Liverpool pay £35 and Coventry pay £25 for Rounds 3, 5 and 4 at The Emirates last season.The FA confirmed that the decision about prices set was made solely by the Home Club.
 
• The possibility of playing the Semi Finals away from Wembley was raised. Whilst this makes sense practically when it’s two Northern teams competing, the business model around Wembley stadium is built on holding both Semi Finals and Final there. It can’t change before 2017 at the earliest.
 
• The FA asked for opinions on the timings of the 3rd Round. It was felt the first weekend in January was traditional and worked. The pre Xmas 3rd round hadn’t been popular. It was suggested that pushing back the 3rd Round to one week after the New Year might help supporters with travel arrangements etc.
 
• It was agreed by all that there was a need to include the younger generation in the Cup as much as possible – this would be a key area in taking forward the FA Cup. The Fans groups urged the FA to consider reduced pricing and schemes to promote attendance of young fans at FA Cup prices, perhaps subsidised by the increasing broadcast revenue the competition is securing or by a specific sponsor.
 
• The issue of kick off times was raised and it was suggested that if the Broadcasters were choosing kick-off times to secure large audiences which meant the inconveniencing of away fans then some funds should be set aside to make sure fans can get to the match and back home – such as with subsidised travel as sometimes happens at Premier League matches with the establishment of the Away Fans Fund.
 
• It was stated that having the draw for the next round of the competition before all games had been played in the previous round undermined the sporting elements of the competition.
 
• The Fans groups urges the continuation of replays in the FA Cup.
 
 
 
Next Steps
 
The four Trusts that attended the meeting will report back to the Premier League Trusts meeting at the FSF/Supporters’ Direct Conference.
 
We will ask the FSF/SD to assist us to:
 
Co-ordinate a written response to the FA that will formally follow up on the matters raised and provide a structured response for the FA to take forward as they continually review arrangements for the FA Cup.
 
Write to all recipients of FA Cup Final tickets asking them to return their tickets to the teams of the competing clubs, and to publicly record where tickets are returned for accountability.
 
To continue to work to improve understanding of the role of Safety Advisory Groups and to make sure that they take decisions that recognise the important role that way fans bring to football matches.


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