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Perhaps this fixture has come a year too soon. Were FC United of Manchester to be playing Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Cup next year at The American Express Community Stadium, segregation would be easy and FC United would have over 3,000 tickets available to sell to their supporters. As it is, they have been allocated just 845 seats for the match at Withdean a week on Saturday and this has upset a good number of their supporters. Indeed, the issue started to cast something of a pall over the biggest match in the history of the young club and the ill-will being generated by it may yet lead to problems for both clubs next weekend.
FC United supporters had been expecting a ticket allocation of a minimum of 15% of the total capacity of Withdean for the match, which is due to be played next weekend. This would amount to a total number of 1,300 tickets being available to supporters of the club. This is part of the tournament rules on ticket allocation for matches prior to the semi-final of the competition, as laid out below:
In all matches preceding the Semi-Finals, the Visiting Club shall have the right to claim up
to 15% of all accommodation for which tickets are issued providing these tickets are in a
fully segregated area
So the rules are, perhaps, fuzzier than we might expect (the phrase “right to to claim up to 15% of all accommodation for which tickets are issued”, for example, could be interpreted in several different ways, many of which completely contradict each other), and exemptions do apply to grounds where segregation may be an issue which allow clubs to reduce ticket allocations if supporters cannot be effectively segregated in larger number. This is what seems to have been the problem at Withdean. The ground’s unsuitability as a venue for hosting football matches for a number of different reasons is well known. As an illustration, here is a picture of the Withdean Stadium, taken from the South Stand during the First Round match against Woking (click on the image for a bigger version):
The West Stand is on the very far left of the picture. The East Stands are three temporary stands at the opposite end of the pitch. They have a larger capacity and are nearer to the pitch, but they are also nearer to what might be regarded as the main entrance to the ground. The West Stand is usually allocated to away supporters for league matches and this is what has been allocated to FC United for this FA Cup match. One argument is that the only part of the ground that can effectively be segregated is in the West Stand. In the above photograph, we can see that the West Stand is closed for this match. However, in the previous round of the competition Brighton supporters were moved from the East Stands and Woking supporters were housed there for it. They were also given a far greater allocation than the 845 tickets given to FC United for this match, but returned many of them unsold.
What, FC United supporters may reasonably argue, is the difference this time? It is certainly fair enough to suggest that perhaps Brighton & Hove Albion could have been sympathetic in their attitude towards this their guests for this match. It is unlikely that Brighton will sell out their allocation of tickets and it would seem fairer, considering the importance that this match has for their guests, to give them over what would be considered the minimum allocation rather than under it for the purposes of segregation. Moreover, no official explanation has been given as to why, in the Second Round of the competition, a club that could be expected to fill (or get close to filling) 1,600 seats has only been given 845 tickets when a larger amount was allocated for the previous round. We do know, however, that this match is being treated differently to the Woking match by Brighton & Hove Albion. Even tickets in the home stands, for example, are only available to people that have bought tickets before, which wasn’t the case for the Woking match.
Over the last couple of days or so, however, it was suggested more than once that police concerns may be the reason behind the small ticket allocation offered to FC United. There are numerous possible reasons as to why the stadium advisory group could have been advised that it would be preferable to give them a smaller rather than larger allocation. Relatively widespread discussion of “jibbing in” (“bunking the fence”, in other words) on FC United’s forum may be one (although how literally internet forum discussion of anything should ever be taken seriously is obviously debatable). A mis-interpretation of the good natured pitch invasions at Rochdale in the First Round could be another, while the idea that people may come looking for a fight with what they perceive to be Manchester United supporters could be a third. All of these, however, remained speculation for two days and in themselves hinted at possibly the biggest problem of all with regard to this issue: a lack of communication.
It took FC United’s official website over twenty-four hours before any sort of message regarding the size of the allocation was made (it seems unlikely that this will be their final word on the subject), and as of last night (Friday), there had still been no official confirmation of why the smaller allocation has been made by Brighton & Hove Albion either, although an announcement was put up on their site yesterday regarding the behaviour of some of their own supporters at recent away matches at Peterborough United and Woking. In the meantime, however, nature (and, indeed, the internet) abhors a vacuum so the space has been filled by comments made from both sides of the parapets that have been at times unnecessary and unpleasant. The lack of a clear explanation as to why this allocation had been given has led to any number of theories, ranging from the sensible to the crazy. For example, when leaving Withdean at the end of the Woking match, it was noticeable that some Woking supporters were leaning over the back of the East Stands, gesticulating at the Brighton supporters below. It was easy to see how this area could become problematic to control in the event of any trouble. However, all the time a clear statement wasn’t made as to why the Woking ticketing arrangements are not being repeated for this game, possibly understandable reasons for this allocation being given would be likely to be disregarded.
Moreover, the decision to offer them such a small allocation could cause as many problems – if not more – as it solves. Talk of a boycott amongst FC United supporters seems unlikely to come to much, and it seems likely that there will be people that travel down to Brighton without a ticket as well as FC United supporters that manage, in spite of the efforts of Brighton & Hove Albion, to acquire tickets in areas of the ground reserved for the home supporters. These factors, coupled with a heightened sense of grievance on the part of some, could well lead to trouble and it would be unrealistic to say that they couldn’t. This means that there are practical criticisms as well as moral ones (the rules of the tournament, after all, give them a right to 15% of the tickets for this match and Brighton supporters – or the supporters of any other club – sounding off about them being angry about this would be well advised to consider how they would feel in the same circumstances) when we consider this matter.
This morning (Saturday), an official announcement was finally made by Brighton & Hove Albion, confirming the reasons for the limited allocation for the match:
Following a meeting of the Safety Advisory Group, the club allocated FC United of Manchester the West stand, the designated away area. The allocation of just over 10% is the same number of tickets allocated to Woking in round one. We are aware FC United have a potentially large following but the recommendations of the Safety Advisory Group, endorsed by the Football Licensing Authority and police was to allocate just the away end for this match, which is the first category C game at Withdean for more than five years.
It is welcome that the club has finally made an announcement, but it does raise the question of whether it is right that ordinary supporters should effectively be punished for a perception of trouble at this match and the fact remains that this reduced ticket allocation may have unintended consequences. It is to be hoped that, on the day, the Sussex Police and the stewards at Withdean behave themselves and don’t further inflame a touchy situation. For all of that, however, it is of course worth remembering that FC United supporters are responsible for their own behaviour. They are, of course, the owners of their club.
The over-riding feeling of the last couple of days has been what a shame all of this is. What a shame it is that there has been a degree of antagonism over the last couple of days between the supporters of two clubs that have, in their own ways, both fought their battles and won. What a shame it is that FC United supporters will likely miss out on the biggest match in their club’s short history. What a shame it is that this match has to be played at Withdean rather than Falmer. “Making Friends Not Millionaires” remains a popular slogan at FC United of Manchester and this can still be easily managed next weekend, as it has been on many previous occasions. There remains plenty of reason to be confident that those that do make their way down to Sussex By The Sea next weekend will enjoy their stay with us.
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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
“Moreover, the decision to offer them such a small allocation could cause as many problems – if not more – as it solves. Talk of a boycott amongst FC United supporters seems unlikely to come to much, and it seems likely that there will be people that travel down to Brighton without a ticket as well as FC United supporters that manage, in spite of the efforts of Brighton & Hove Albion, to acquire tickets in areas of the ground reserved for the home supporters. These factors, coupled with a heightened sense of grievance on the part of some, could well lead to trouble and it would be unrealistic to say that they couldn’t”.
Indeed. This isn’t the first time that a misplaced, heavy handed interpretation of “safety considerations” by the Albion has created more grief than is intended. Football fans deserve better.
although an announcement was put up on their site yesterday regarding the behaviour of some of their own supporters at recent away matches at Peterborough United and Woking.
So we’re being victimised for yr fans behaviour? How does that work? If you let us have 1,800 tickets – you’d more than likely get them all sold. What would you rather do? Have a full ground & maximise profits / revenue or have a potential for trouble (as you see it given the mis-information you’ve gleaned from a fans’ forum!) or have people outside without tickets? And when for whatever pig-headed reason you eject law-abiding fans from the ‘wrong seat’ & claim them to be making trouble will you say “I told you so” ? Category C when Leeds / Millwall was a B is unbelievable. No wonder we might buy but not go – you only have yourselves to blame for this debacle – get it sorted.
This saga only casts shame on one group of people: the fans and owners of FC United. They have been allocated almost the equivilent of their average home gate and are behaving with arrogance. They are not a special case, just another non league club having their day in the sun. Withdean is not somewhere to watch football anyway but i can assure you fans of league 1 clubs such as myself who have suffered there on countless occasions will welcome Falmer far more than the tedious fc united “fans”.
The fewer of those clowns at the game the better. Arrogant, petulent, disloyal & delusional…no thanks.
I’d rather not have had to face them at all and the sooner we can get back to plaing real teams with real fans the better.
Anyone who dismisses people as petulant, disloyal and delusional is a bit hypcritical when he adds “arrogant”.
As for Compo, I love the “day in the sun” comment. As if playing Brighton is the equivalent of playing Barcelona.
FC United’s average home gate this season is 1643; if 845 is ‘almost the same’ as 1643, then I’d hate to be your accountant.
The shame here is that the Withdean is a shithole; everyone knows. Falmer’s coming next year, and this could have been a cracking atmosphere and a great occasion, something to fondly remember as the club finally puts the Bellotti and Archer travesty behind them. Sadly not to be.
As for the disloyal tag – I’d have thought BHAFC fans would be more sympathetic given their experience and long-standing support of other supporters. Shame once more.
@ Jed Jenkins…..
Back at ya!
yep, that’s exactly what I meant, cheers for the endorsement.
Brighton were in far worse shape than Man Utd have ever been and the fans remained…no runaways, no spitting the dummy. We survived the move to Gillingham somehow and just look at us now. If people had quit back in the mid 90’s there would be no BHAFC.
very good article by the way and agree entirely that had the information been imparted to the fans straight away then the disenchantment could have been avoided.
Should there be a replay, we should allocate Brighton 845 tickets AND make their supporters stand 50 yards away from the pitch i.e. behind the Cemetery End stand! See you Saturday!!
Which reminds me ,Arsenal do not give away teams 15% of the tickets for cup matches. They say they cannot segregate 9,000 away supporters at the Emirates due to way it was built. Obviously they knew this when building it but chose to ignore the FA’s rules.
And the FA let them get away with it.
Perhaps you could look into this a bit more?
For goodness sake lets not go overboard here ,we know Withdean is a shi*it hole we dont need reminding,we go there week in week out,you have been allocated the amount you have been because Withdean is not able to accommodate you ,what is the argument .There is no club in the leagues that would allow both sets of fans to mingle and sit next to each other for obvious reasons and the away end is just not up to it.You seem to think Brighton have singled your fans out ,no other clubs fans complain about this as they appreciate the limited facilities we have.Our plight is not in any way similar to yours ,but we do appreciate your cause as we do other clubs hence the fans united ,and the many marches and petitions etc we have been involved in,which only proves our support of clubs no matter what size.And regards the sunny day out ,I would assume the poster meant the weather not to degrade us as barcelona ,as fortunately we have no overpaid prema donnas and ours is a football club ,not to be confused with a company or business.But we welcome you to our humble surroundings sat and may you have the chance one day to play at our new stadium then 15% you shall have.
It is a shame that this matter has not been handled better. Can anyone be surprised FC fans are annoyed when it is clear that our club and fans have been treated differently from Woking; where is the justice in that? I quote from the article.
“They [Woking] were also given a far greater allocation than the 845 tickets given to FC United for this match, but returned many of them unsold”.
I suspect that Brighton made an honest but unfortunate error in failing to consult with FC United. I can understand that Brighton have faced a problem with the Withdean stadium, but had the club discussed the situation with FC United, at least it would have been possible for FC to explain the difficulties facing Brighton to the our fans.
From the outside it looks as if Brighton’s failure to handle this matter with greater sensitivity has been the cause of a great deal of angst which perhaps could and should have been diffused.
Furthermore, according to the report it seems Brighton’s safety concerns are largely based on the Safety Advisory Group. Unfortunately the article does not make clear just who the Safety Advisory Group are or who elected or appointed them.
Although I personally don’t condone pitch invasions, anyone who was at Rochdale for the last round, will tell you that was just joyous exuberance and it never ever threatened to become nasty.
Creating this sense of injustice with such a poor ticket allocation has served only to foster a sense of ill-will between supporters, which I for one very much regret. FC United is about making friends not enemies. It is a great pity that this has happened because it has quite unnecessarily soured relationships between fans of the two clubs and has undermined what would undoubtedly have been a great carnival atmosphere.
However, we are where we are and the situation is unlikely to change now. I therefore appeal to all right thinking FC fans with tickets not to “rise to the bait” but just loudly and enthusiastically support the reds as we did at Rochdale (without any pitch invasion)- let’s continue to enhance the good name of our great club. To those of our fans without tickets, commiserations, but please don’t go to Brighton, it won’t help FC as a team or a club and is only likely to cause trouble. For those with tickets let’s bury the hatchet with Brighton and go there in peace with smiles on our faces. Better still come home with smiles on our faces with a place in the 3rd round!
Thanks for the useful and informative article posted by Ian at the start of this thread. As an FC United fan I can assure you we are all just looking forward to playing Brighton in what is the biggest game in our short history to date.
Of course we are a bit disappointed not to have received a larger allocation than the 845 given because its a match that means a lot to us nver having been this far. Especially as you state the rules (though a little vague) seem to allow for a 15% allocation of the capacity.
We realise that you are not entirely happy with your temporary stadium at the Withdean and that it makes it difficult to allow larger numbers of away fans.
But FC United fans are largely good natured so its a pity the police feel the need to make this a category C game.
Yes there were pitch invasions vs Rochdale in the last round but no trouble and only because of the excitement and the disbelief at the result.
I have been following FC since inception in 2005 and there has never been little if any crowd problems in that time. A category C game will just mean bigger policing costs so reduce the revenue to Brighton & FC United. We could happily have brought 2,000 + fans down which would have probably pleased the local publicans and helped Brighton’s coffers as well as adding to the atmosphere.
Some people on here have described FC fans as arrogant and disloyal. In answer to that we were forced out of Old Trafford because the club is now run by people who don’t care about or listen to the fans and wouldn’t allow us a voice. Not to mention saddling Man United with unsustainable debt that the fans have to pay for through now ridiculous prices.
As a fan owned club ourselves we applaud what you are doing at Brighton and with your new stadium. Lets hope its a good match, see you down there on Saturday as one of the 845!
I’ve been in those temporary East Stands with Wimbledon in the League Cup in 2000 (we lost 2-1 to two Bobby Zamora goals) and they’re awful.
Whilst Withdean shows that even a school playing field can host League football if the political will is there, it is a shocking place to watch football and represents all sorts of logistical difficulties for the authorities.
Good luck FCUM
let us have more tickets this is our big day
What a shame for all football fans, having watched the last game in Singapore on ESPN it was great to see the FCUM fans having such a great time.
Anyways good luck to all and hope to see FCUM in the 3rd round against the noisy neighbors in blue.
fc united are bringing football stands back to 1970/80s with true fans none stop singing wearing our colours and getting behind our team be warned brighton you wont for get us same we did not get 2000 plus tickets
i was told up to 1000 fc utd fans are going without tickets does anyone know is this true
I would have said highly, highly unlikely.
still tickets left in the brighton ends how can this club not offer these tickets to fc utd fans or do they want empty seats all over the fa should be ashamed of there selfs
Do you seriously think any club or the F.A part/timer (dont think you are Brighton not that stupid)would let away fans mingle with home fans ,dont be so ridiculous and nieve ,there isnt a club in the leagues that would allow that ,it would be a potential tinder box situation,emotions run high on match days ,and the club would be held to account if there was any incidents.And if what you say is true part timer of manchester about 1000 fans coming without tickets ,grow up fans are not as ridiculous as that,and perhaps the fans who couldnt get tickets could support their club by watching them on a regular basis week in week out ,that would be better for the club dont you think.
i would be ashamed to hold a football match in this so called stadium the only good thing is the carvery pub fc united fans would have filled both ends instead of one end being empty if you are true brighton fans take fc united stand as a lesson just hope you can fill your new ground
7 hours travel to sit in the open air
Well part time united fan I do believe you have one big chip on your shoulder ,or you are trying to cause trouble and discredit both sets of fans , perhaps you should really be supporting your bigger brother manchester utd business encorporated ,as you have no idea about the struggles of the so called lesser clubs or you would not be making the comments you have,which is a shame ,as the supporters of utd were a credit to the club and the team were a fantastic advert for their league which was voiced by numerous Brighton fans as well as Gus Poyet ,you were under the cosh for most of the game but battled on with a spirit we have not seen at Withdean from 1st Div teams and if we should go out in the next match ,then we couldnt wish for a better team to carry on and beat our neighbours portsmouth.So sorry to disappoint you part timer but the bait hasnt been taken,and will rely on FC utds true supporters to make some good football friends from Brighton for years to come.
i just hope we give brighton 800 tickets for the replay hope you can sell them all
bring you hats and gloves as we are going to snow ball you
fc utd fc utd fc utd fc utd fc utd yes this was not a dream this was 800 real fans getting behind they team
Best thing is just to ignore Brighton part/timer.
All the FC fans I’ve spoken to really enjoyed our trip to Brighton. The Brighton fans we met were fine with us, we had a good chat in the pub (Basketweavers Arms was great). The police and stewards were OK with us and there was a great atmosphere in our end -it’s a pity it was uncovered and a distance from the pitch but that’s the way it is with a temporary ground.
And we know the allocation of tickets wasn’t down to the Brighton fans or probably the club, so we’ll welcome as many as you want to come up for the game. Though it’s a fair trek for a midweek game!
from a full time FC fan
seagulls are pests /hiting on you if i had my way i would put them all together and burn the lot that would mean brighton has nothing left
brighton fans most wear glasses i can see why you should call the ground specsavers you need them to see the team
hope to see you all in the replay you will be welcome at gig lane it will be a night you wont forget
Thanks RedG glad you enjoyed the day ,Brighton fans always welcome fans like yourselves ,and we would be glad to hear from you guys on various Brighton forums updating us on your latest news about your club ,and yes it is a shame the away end is so far away from the pitch it must be very frustrating for away fans who we have great sympathy for.Yes a long way to go for a midweek match work weather etc .
hi ho hi ho its of i go to get my ticket hi ho hi ho let get together and rock gig lane
i just can not wait to see fc utd fans it must be the support i have ever seen well done lads
the part /timer is now full/timer ho/ho just hope you are not all espn armchair fans your team will need you all at giggle lane do let your club down you will need all the support you can get
we will party all day and night just hope you dont spoil it i dont thing you will league 1 toppers i didnt think so on saturday sorry lads your time is up
just hope your team use the running track around your ground as we run rings around you
11 snowmen v 11 clowns from brighton
weather is so bad i still think im in brightons ground i the gate cant see
just hope brighton melt
are all you seagulls frozen where are you all
didnt hear you brighton fans singing or getting behind your team the brighton crowd was flat this is why you could not beat 10 men on the day just hope you all get behind them on the replay no take this to hart lads
it looks like the replay might be on just hope you can sell your 1100 tickets you will be coming to the right ground /gigg/ lane you wont forget this night forget the theatre of dream, welcome to hell;,
i belive all fc utd tickets are now sold out for the replay i guess its a full house i watched this club on youtube they all look to be mad ex utd fans
still white here frozen solid just hope the game is on bring on the reds
Whilst almost 5000 tickets have been sold for the replay, there are still tickets available in both ends, and it will almost certainly be pay on the gate too.
Just to pick up on one thing – away fans mingling with home fans: a) it happens in the local pubs before all FC United games b) it’s exactly what happened at Norton & Stockton Ancients in the 3rd qualifying round; and will happen at the vast majority of our away league fixtures, with a very low likelihood of any problems. I enjoy a bit of good natured banter with the other team’s supporters!
the game is on hot air machine is working well so start making your way to gig lane its going to be a fun night good luck seagulls it will be buzzing we would like to say a big thanks to the stewards and police and all brighton fc
Thanks true/manc lets hope for a good game and whoever goes out it has been nice making new friends in football, and fighting for a cause ,dont mean to go on about it as every fan knows of our plight but keep up the good work for every true football fan who wants the passion back in the game and not for an elitist sport only a minority can afford ,we made the blue print at Brighton for fans united and its clubs like yours who will help carry it on ,best of luck FC United in your endevours and I think we might just see you in the league in the not so distant future .
only 4 hours to go the weather is -5 and the streets are buzzing all ready this is going to be like our cup final it looks like it going to be a full house just hope the weather lasts freezing fog snow all over the streets it looks like the ground staff have done a good job to get this game on also bury fc staff JUST HOPE THE WEATHER DOES NOT RUIN THE NIGHT