Where Has Sunderland's Wembley Allocation Gone?

Ezra Shaw

It's the question most are asking as the season card-holder phase of the ticket sales draws towards a close, but if you're looking to point the finger at someone for it being so hard to get a ticket, the club shouldn't be getting the blame.

Since Sunderland confirmed their first appearance at the new Wembley thanks to Manchester United's penalty profligacy and Vito Mannone's general magnificence, a hot topic of discussion amongst fans has been the allocation of cup final tickets.

In many ways it's a tough debate to have given the sparsity of facts we have at our disposal. We have even had the debate, extensively, here at Roker Report Towers with a varied range of opinions shared. So much so, in fact, that I should stress at this point that I am speaking purely for myself here and not on behalf of this website.

It's almost difficult to be impartial over it. You can probably afford to be more magnanimous with a ticket in your hand than if you don't. On the other hand, it's tough to be gracious towards a system which, from your point of view, is denying you an opportunity to get what you desperately want and think you deserve.

Now, who deserves what is a conversation from which there can be no winners. I am not interested in getting involved in discussions trying to essentially rank the quality of someone's support. No one has that right and no one is even remotely qualified to judge. If you support Sunderland, you deserve to be at Wembley. It's as simple as that, and I suspect the club think no differently.

Then reality sets in, though.

The fact of the matter is that the club have 31,500 tickets available to distribute. That's it. It's a figure alone that attracts a little suspicion, but the sums add up.

Wembley has an official capacity of 90,000, so the two clubs between them have 63,000 of that. Then there are 16,523 'Club Wembley' seats that are essentially Wembley Stadium hospitality season tickets. Then there are a few hundred seats for wheelchair users and their helpers.

The remaining 10,000 or so will be allocated to the Football League and their partners, which is fair enough given it is their competition. It doesn't really help Sunderland fans much, granted, but it is the reality and it's worth pointing out that for the FA Cup the club allocations would be even less. In 2009, for example, Everton and Chelsea each received an official allocation of 25,019 for the FA Cup final.

That all rather leads me to my point here. How the club are allocating their tickets is almost immaterial due to the fact that the allocation is so, in my opinion, unnecessarily low. It is so low that its distribution almost takes care of itself. It doesn't even cover the club's average attendance.

I have massive sympathy with fans who will be unable to get a ticket, and we have a few lads here at Roker Report who are in that situation. These are lads who I see every week working their knackers off to provide a website for Sunderland fans in their own free time and without being paid a penny.

It really is rubbish that, as things stand, they won't be going to Wembley, but tens of thousands of others, all with similar validations for why they deserve to be there, are in the same boat.

And, you know what? There would be tens of thousands of people in the same boat no matter how the club allocated tickets. They may not be the same people, but they would be the same in number. Getting every Sunderland fan to Wembley who is desperate to go is simply impossible.

I remember 1992, the last time Sunderland reached a cup final. It was a different era entirely then. In fact the Premier League hadn't even started. At Roker Park that season, we had an average attendance of just over 18,000 and I didn't miss a single game.

Come rain or shine, there was the 11-year-old me, paying my £3.50 to the man in turnstile 19A and going to stand in the Clockstand paddocks with my parents, the season-ticket holders, upstairs in the seats. I didn't get to Wembley though, and the allocation was a lot bigger (in relation to season ticket-holders) than the one available nowadays.

My ticket, which I thought I deserved, went to someone else who no-doubt was just as convinced that they deserved it. It's never fair. It never possibly can be because 'fair' is a purely subjective term.

So, for me, criticising or even blaming the club for the availability of Wembley tickets is wrong and wholly detracts from the real issue, and I say that from bitter experience. It's like blaming an airline when the weather has grounded your flight.

But when you are watching the Capital One Cup final, whether you are inside the inside the ground or in front of a television, take a good look at that entire middle tier at Wembley. What you'll see is 16,523 seats, and half were denied to the some of the best Sunderland fans you know purely in the name of corporate greed.

That is where the Sunderland allocation has gone, and it has nothing to do with the club.

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