CARABAO CUP FINAL 2021 13 April 2021
Staging a major sporting event such as the Carabao Cup Final in current circumstances was never going to be easy, and we are all aware that compromises have to be made as we find our way back to some form of normality. Public health rightly remains the priority.
However, the failure of government, public health, local and footballing authorities to work with fan organisations raises question marks over the effectiveness of the exercise and demonstrates, once again, that all the fine words about fans being “the lifeblood of the game” mean nothing in reality.
It’s now less than two weeks until the Final, and there is no time to change what has already been decided without consultation. As supporter groups, all we can do at this late stage is set out our concerns.
The Carabao Cup Final is now not a sporting event, and headlines that it represents “the return of fans” are misleading. The event is a football match played as the centrepiece of a scientific experiment in front of some spectators, a small proportion of whom may be fans of the clubs involved. We’re glad that the risks of taking part in this clinical trial are prominent in the information provided, but we question the basis for the strong advice given to clinically extremely vulnerable people – many of whom will have been fully vaccinated – to not apply or attend. We would also have liked to see more explanation of why under-18s are excluded.
Given the mix of spectators, the crowd will not behave as a normal football crowd behaves, and so researching its movement and behaviour is of limited value. Allocating up to half the tickets to local Brent residents increases the chances of ticket touting, especially with residents able to apply for a further guest ticket and with print at home tickets available.
Inaccurate assumptions about where fans live in relation to the club they support, and their travel patterns, have been made. Stringent travel restrictions have been imposed on Manchester City fans, who it is assumed mostly live in and travel from Manchester. Tottenham Hotspur fans who qualify for a ticket and live outside London are not subject to the same restrictions. Because the assumption is that all Spurs fans live in London. Interestingly, no such parameters are applied to the Brent residents’ guest tickets, nor to the NHS and key worker allocation.
Genuine consultation with supporter groups would have addressed all of these issues and increased the value of the research being carried out.
Despite the extremely limited number of tickets available, we note that obligations to sponsors and commercial partners must still be fulfilled. Obligations to the fans, the “lifeblood of the game”, come at the bottom of the list. We urge all club sponsors to return their tickets into the General Admission fan pot for this game.
The biggest insult of all is that, alone among all those attending, the few fans of the competing clubs lucky enough to get a ticket to be part of a research project will be charged up to £50 each for the privilege. And those fans should apparently be grateful because they are not being charged as much as they could have been. Local resident, key worker and FA/ EFL corporate tickets are all complimentary, with only the fans of the competing clubs being charged.
A competition final is not a standard sporting event. The choice of this event as part of the Events Research Programme has not been driven by practical considerations, but by political grandstanding. An event staged in front of 4,000 fans from each club could have been possible if input and advice from supporter groups and clubs had been sought. That advice would have helped make the event a more robust model for testing. It wouldn’t have been ideal, but everyone recognises we live in extraordinary times. Instead, fan organisations were excluded from the planning process.
We thank those at our clubs who have worked so hard to try at least to ensure some element of fairness in ticket distribution at short notice. We understand the clubs themselves had very little input into event arrangements.
We’ve said we understand the challenges of the unusual times we are living in. But too many of the decisions made around the organisation of this event lack logic or common sense. Better could have been achieved if the competition organisers, venue, public health bodies and government had drawn on the willingness of supporter groups to contribute their knowledge and assistance.
Instead we are left with an event of questionable scientific value, and in which loyal fans will once again be treated poorly and left open to exploitation. It’s another missed opportunity, and another clear indication of how fans are viewed.
Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust