Empty Wembley Stadium Seats Are An Embarassment for the F.A.

Sports WriterCorrespondent IMay 15, 2010

LONDON - MAY 26:  Conrad Logan of Stockport County signals to fans in front of empty seats during the Coca Cola League 2 Playoff Final match between Rochdale and Stockport County at Wembley Stadium on May 26, 2008 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

An otherwise fantastic F.A. Cup Final has been marred by the scandalous sight of a significant quantity of empty seats at Wembley Stadium.

The F.A. could sell out Wembley Stadium several times over for a final between two well supported teams such as Chelsea and Portsmouth.

The sight of empty seats for a match which many ticketless supporters would do absolutely anything to attend seriously detracts from the F.A. Cup Final as a spectacle.

I do not entirely blame the F.A. either. They are being held financial hostage by their incredibly expensive state-of-the-art national stadium.

The stadium was finished a year late, which meant that the F.A. presumably lost out on an entire year of projected revenue. In order to balance the books, they have been forced to use the new Wembley Stadium on every available occasion: pop concerts, American football, rugby league matches, even the F.A. Cup semifinals now take place at Wembley Stadium.

Part of this revenue generating drive has involved selling large quantities of corporate tickets. The 90,000 capacity stadium consists of 17,000 of these 'corporate' seats which are sold on an annual basis for upwards of £20,000.

No normal football fan could afford to pay this sort of price just on the off chance that their team reached a cup final. This means that the majority of these seats will presumably be used for executive purposes by companies looking to entertain corporate clients.

From a romantic point of view you would want the F.A. Cup Final audience to consist entirely of segregated supporters of the two teams. Financial realities dictate that sadly this is simply no longer a possibility.

It appears that in order to bankroll the building of this brand new national stadium there will need to be 20,000 well-heeled neutrals in attendance at every fixture. This I can reluctantly accept.

What I cannot accept is seeing a significant quantity of empty seats at English football's showcase spectacle. How arrogant and uncaring does a corporation need to be to have a ticket for the F.A. Cup final and do absolutely nothing with it?

There are children's charities, there are supporters clubs, there are any number of worthy causes to which a ticket could be donated. Alternatively a company could raffle or even auction the ticket to its employees. Any company which can afford to spend £20,000 on a corporate seat at Wembley Stadium must be sufficiently big to have at least one employee who wants to attend a cup final

To have an F.A. Cup Final ticket in your posession and do nothing with it is an absolutely contemptuous display of arrogance and an insult to fans who spend a significant proportion of their incomes supporting their teams.

I was privileged to once witness an F.A. Cup Final at the old Wembley, even if it was from a seat with a severely restricted view.

It was evidently felt during that era that it was better for a supporter to be able to get inside the stadium and get to sample the atmosphere from a restricted viewpoint than not at all.

My dad, who had accompanied me to virtually every single football match I had ever been to up until that point, was not so lucky. We only got one ticket between us and he kindly donated his to me.

I remember seeing an empty seat near me and thinking how furious I would be if it was not filled. It was belatedly occupied because, unlike the rest of us who had been singing songs for a good 30 minutes, the ticket holder arrived mere minutes before the kick off.

In those days, an empty seat at an F.A. Cup Final would probably signify the holder having suffered a heart attack or some sort of similar tragedy. Yesterday when the second half of the 2010 F.A. Cup Final kicked off almost 90 percent of the seats visible in the TV picture were empty.This was significant of little more than the appetite of the occupants for half time corporate hospitality.

Football is an event, an occasion, a spectacle. No fan will ever celebrate a healthy balance sheet for their club in the same way they would celebrate success in even the most minor of cup finals.

The sight of empty seats at the F.A. Cup Final is an affront to the dignity of football supporters everywhere. Profits are never permanent, but the sight of your side triumphing at an F.A. Cup Final at Wembley will remain with you forever.

Several Chelsea supporters have been deprived of this priceless opportunity and I would like to see the corporations responsible named, shamed, and then forced to come face to face with these ticketless fans.

With great wealth, as with great power, comes great responsibility. If you can afford the premium the F.A. have placed on these particular tickets, then you must also accept a burden of responsibility to actually do something with them.