Why it’s no surprise Portsmouth are struggling to sell Wembley tickets as Sunderland fans scramble for seats

How does everyone think the scramble for Wembley tickets is going? No one connected to SAFC is impressed with their 38,979 allocation.

Wednesday, 13th March 2019, 6:00 pm
Wembley Stadium

The club has tried for more, but the matter is out of their hands.

As we knew would happen one day, years of staff trimming have finally caught up and Sunderland are reduced to using Ticketmaster, who last year admitted to a security breach, which affected up to 40,000 UK customers.

The general low opinion of Ticketmaster is being murmured and reiterated around Wearside and online.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

They aren’t flawless. But the suggestion that they are now run by Martin Bain is completely untrue and more than a little harsh.

How fairly are the club distributing their meagre share of tickets? The answer to that depends on who you ask.

Phase one of the sale, which ended on Monday, was for the 24,000 season ticket holders who were entitled to purchase one each. This seems entirely fair.

The harrumphing has been mainly concerned with phase two and the remaining 11,000 tickets.

Entitled to apply are people who have bought tickets since the start of last season.

Matters were not helped by a change of mind over making some Wembley ticket purchases contingent on also buying one for Saturday’s home game with Walsall.

In fact, the decision to muddy the waters by dragging the Walsall fixture into the mix at all has gone down like a vomit milkshake.

On the other hand, people who haven’t bothered to attend a game in the last two years can at least pretend to be loyal by attending this weekend and still apply for Wembley.

Overall, the club has been as fair as possible. There is no perfect way to sell tickets for March 31: so it’s a matter of using the least imperfect.

Those who say that attendance of earlier rounds should be taken into account have a point. But the reality is that the seven or eight thousand who attended the first matches are mainly die-hards who have season tickets anyway.

There is also the issue of whether someone who attended last September’s Stoke tie for less than the price of a pint, is more entitled to someone who has attended, say, eight league games at a cost of about £200.

For what it’s worth, my recollection is that everyone I knew who genuinely deserved a ticket for the 2014 League Cup final managed to buy one: fairytales about people who had never been to a match “buying a hundred through business connections” notwithstanding.

But there will be whinging from those with a wounded sense of entitlement. My favourite is: “I had a season ticket for 30 years and only stopped going this season.”

Football must me the only industry where people expect preferential treatment for withdrawing their custom.

And the closer we are to the final, the sobber the stories will become.

All will be prefaced with “I can’t believe it.” To wit:

l I couldn’t buy a season ticket because I was in London/Afghanistan/a coma/prison/the International Space Station.

l The season ticket I cancelled in 2014 doesn’t count. It’s a disgrace.

l I’ve watched every home game this season in the pub.

l Shocking. My son’s a season ticket holder but they won’t give me a ticket to accompany him to the final. He’s only 27.

l I’ve never had a season ticket, but haven’t missed a home game for 10 years. I’m telling you.

l I’m not much of a supporter really. I don’t deserve a cup final ticket but have decided to try and blag one anyway.

Actually, I don’t mind that last one. At least it’s honest.

Portsmouth are struggling to sell their tickets for the Checkatrade final. This is no surprise.

They have around 14,000 season ticket holders, who can apply for up to six Wembley tickets each. Sunderland have around 24,000 season ticket holders.

Pompey’s highest home attendance in this season’s Checkatrade is 3,313. Sunderland’s is 16,654. This is partly due to an ongoing boycott of the tournament by Portsmouth fans; only 189 of whom made the short-ish trip for their tie at Southend.

Sunderland’s average league gate of 31,327 is 72 percent bigger than Portsmouth’s. The clubs’ respective biggest league gates are 46,039 and 19,402 – a 137 percent difference.

Incidentally, Pompey’s biggest home crowd was against Sunderland.

I’m not deriding Portsmouth here. They are a great and usually a well supported club, considering they have such a relatively small catchment area and have endured desperate recent years.

But this doesn’t alter facts. Speaking of the 31 March final, Pompey chief executive Mark Catlin conceded: “It is going to be a tough call to sell 39,659, so I’m relatively confident tickets will end up on general sale.”

“I would be amazed if it was the case none went on general sale.”

So, using your skill and judgement, which club do you reckon was allocated the most Wembley tickets?

Sunderland have received 38,979 tickets for Wembley (capacity 90,000): 680 fewer than their opponents.

They were obviously and needlessly given the “wrong” end.

Perhaps the hope is that the unlucky 680 will be desperate enough to buy a rip-off hospitality package.

Either way, the likelihood is that there will be a visible surfeit of empty seats in the Pompey end that could have been filled with Sunderland behinds. We’re not talking big money here, but it’s still financially counter-productive.

No proper reason has been offered for all this and 680 people would like an explanation.

Or, better still, a cup final ticket.