Fans being treated with ‘complete disregard’ over ticket plans for Carabao Cup final

The Football Association have hailed the return of fans as a first step towards filling Wembley for the Euro 2020 final, but the Government were last night accused of showing supporters a “complete disregard” over their plans for the Carabao Cup final.

With less than three weeks until the first showpiece final of the season, which will now be played in front of an 8,000 crowd, fans of Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur are still waiting to discover how clubs will allocate tickets and a Covid certification scheme might work.

One potential plan is understood to involve spectators being tested in the Brent or nearby area, suggesting some Manchester City fans could need to stay overnight, or to record whether people had been vaccinated, recently tested negative or had natural immunity following a Covid infection.

The Carabao Cup was one of a series of pilot events with fans that were announced yesterday, including also the FA Cup semi-final between Southampton and Leicester City on April 18, the World Snooker Championships from April 17 and then a planned 21,000 crowd for the FA Cup final on May 15. 

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said that it was an “important first step” to “the end goal of full stadia – hopefully by the end of the men’s Euros” which will conclude with the final at Wembley on July 11.

The FA Cup semi-final will involve only local fans and NHS workers but the Carabao Cup and FA Cup finals are intended also to include supporters of the two competing teams.

The English Football League are now working with the Government and the two clubs to finalise details later this week. Supporters’ groups, however, are unhappy that the announcement arrived without greater consultation. “The opportunity for supporters to watch their team in a Cup Final at Wembley is, on the face of it, great news,” said a spokesperson for the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust. “However, the devil will be in the detail. We know Spurs fans will have many questions about the announcement. And we would like to provide answers. But we can’t. Because none of the decision makers have consulted with or even spoken to supporter groups at either competing club, or to the national fan organisation.

Only a few matches this season have been played in front of fans, with a reduced capacity


Only a few matches this season have been played in front of fans, with a reduced capacity


Credit: GLYN KIRK /AFP

“This not only displays a complete disregard for the fans, it risks undermining the confidence needed in how the event is being conducted. We are now focussed on getting hard facts about exactly what is being planned.”

Manchester City said that they welcomed the news and confirmed that “a proportion of these tickets will be made available to both finalists” but said that full updates on the size of the allocation and how to get tickets would be provided “as soon as we have further updates”.

The Football Supporters’ Association also want to be involved in talks.

“Our affiliated groups at Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur represent fans who will make up that crowd and neither they nor the FSA feel ‘consulted’,” said a spokesperson. “We have been informed what is happening but have had no input into the plans at this stage.” Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho said after Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Newcastle that it was “good news” and, despite the limitations, would be preferable to an empty stadium.

Spectators attending the FA Cup semi-final and Carabao Cup final are expected to have Government-funded tests both before and after the matches. This could then inform future risk assessment, notably over the potential size of the crowds at Euro 2020.

It has yet to be decided whether or how testing would be done for fixtures on a long term basis – and who might pay for them. Lateral flow tests are around £3-£4 and, from May 17, up to 10,000 supporters return to all grounds. Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said that the pilot events would be “science led” and provide the springboard to “getting the buzz back” of live performances.

“Our sports stars and great performers need us to find ways to get bums back on seats safely,” he said. “We’ve supported the sports and arts with unprecedented sums, but it’s now time to make that Great British Summer of live events a reality.”

Three mass participation 10k runs with 3,000 competitors and up to 3,000 spectators will also be staged in Hatfield Park on the weekend of April 24-25.

“By piloting a range of measures to reduce transmission, we can gather vital scientific evidence to inform our plans for allowing events in the future,” said health secretary Matt Hancock.

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