Arsenal have defended offering a smaller ticket allocation to Manchester United for their FA Cup fourth-round clash – with a leading fan group for the Red Devils labelling the decision “hypocritical”.
United have only been given 8.7 per cent of tickets for the January 25 meeting at the Emirates Stadium – with FA Cup rules stating 15 per cent should be made available for visiting sides.
The decision has been derided by the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) – whose strongly-worded statement issued on Wednesday evening criticised both the Gunners and the Football Association.
“We are hugely disappointed by the decision to uphold Arsenal’s self-interested and hypocritical near-halving of the 15 per cent ticket allocation that should be provided under FA Cup rules,” it read.
“The FA must themselves be concerned by this blatant disrespect for their own rule.
“The vibrant atmosphere created by a larger away supporter presence is part of the ‘magic of the FA Cup’ that is already suffering as a result of other decisions including televising and rescheduling matches – although ironically 11,000 United supporters were willing to meet the resulting travel challenge and now more than half will be denied the opportunity.”
Manchester United themselves had pushed for the full allocation of tickets to be made available to their supporters.
But the decision was taken after Arsenal – and the relevant authorities – deemed it would “not be safe” to open both tiers for away fans.
“We recognise that having more away fans at matches is one of the many reasons why the Emirates FA Cup is so special,” a club spokesman said.
“For the match against Manchester United, the safety assessments we have undertaken, which included liaison with our stadium licensing authority, have made it clear it would not be safe to accommodate visiting fans in the upper tier.
“We take safety of home and away fans at Emirates Stadium very seriously and cannot ignore the results of the robust safety assessments which have been conducted.”