Wigan fans not to blame for low turnout

Wednesday 10th April 2013 15:52

Wembley: Tough for Wigan fans to get to

Wembley: Tough for Wigan fans to get to

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Wigan FanZoner Bob Allen has warned against criticising the club's fans for failing to take their full allocation for the FA Cup semi-final.

On a regular basis, Wigan Athletic are criticised for their attendances, and their following is set to be slated again at this week's FA Cup semi-final against Millwall.

There are figures flying around about how many tickets the club have sold, all of which are considerably below the allocation.

Without a large fan base, Wigan managed to take 27,000 fans to Cardiff in 2006 for the Carling Cup final against Manchester United, but figures are said to be notably lower for this weekend's semi-final, and there are several reasons why this is the case.

The fact of the matter is that Wigan is not an affluent area, and two trips to Wembley on top of key league fixtures would be just too much of a financial strain for many Wiganers - and we don't have the luxury of a 'prawn sandwich brigade' to bump up our numbers.

Being drawn against a Championship side has led to supporters having an air of confidence about the club's chances of getting to their first ever FA Cup final and as a result, some of our fans are having to choose between a semi-final with Millwall or the chance to attend a final against either Chelsea or Manchester City.

Choosing the semi-final would render some fans financially incapable of attending the final, should we beat Millwall. Conversely, holding out for the final could mean fans miss out on a trip to Wembley altogether if we lose the clash on Saturday.

The predicament is the same for the fans of Manchester City, and I'm sure some of their supporters are in the same position as ours. However the difference is that they have other fans willing to step in for those who can't go due to a much larger fan base.

Under the previous FA Cup format, this semi-final would be played in the Midlands, probably at Villa Park. Not only would this mean lower ticket prices, cheaper train and coach journeys and less travelling, it would mean the semi-final would be held at a truly neutral ground and it would not devalue the great achievement of reaching a Wembley final - which could be an article in itself.

On Saturday, Millwall fans will only have to travel around 15 miles in comparison to the 200 miles of Wigan fans which shows the discrepancy in travelling for a game where ultimately, nothing is won.

What is worse is that there is no train service back to Wigan after the match meaning that those who wish to travel by train will also have to fork out for a hotel, adding to the financial burden.

The whole reason why the semi-finals are at Wembley is for the FA to claw back money in order to pay for the over budget stadium. As a result, it is the FA's duty to ensure that fans travelling the length and breadth of the country are able to get to and from games with ease.

By moving the kick-off to 17.15, they have crippled transport options for many, thus failing the people they are trying to make money from. A little bit of research and a little bit of sense on part of the FA could have remedied this point completely, alas they have done what has come to be expected of them nowadays.

Let's not forget that the estimated 18,000-21,000 fans making the journey on Saturday will account for roughly a quarter of the town's whole population.

In 1999, Wigan Athletic met Millwall at Wembley for the Auto-Windscreens Trophy final and took 10,000 supporters. The fact that double that figure is considered a low turnout really highlights the progress of the club over the last few decades.

In brief, a working-class demographic coupled with the current format of hosting semi-finals at Wembley and the FA's irresponsibility is hitting Wigan's small fan base hard.

Whatever the turnout, the attending fans of both teams will undoubtedly enjoy the day.

However, will the sanctity of football's holy ground be compromised by having two games there in quick succession? Hopefully I'll be able to answer that if Wigan win.

The game versus Millwall in 1999 ended 1-0 to Wigan with a 93rd-minute goal and Latics fans will be hoping for a similar result again.

Personally, I'm going for 2-1 to Wigan. Here's to a great semi-final!

You can find Bob on Twitter at @TheRealBobAllen.

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