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Thursday, 13 May 2010

Travel Sickness Afflicts York

When York City fans take their seats at Wembley on Sunday for the Conference play off final they will be outnumbered roughly four-to-one by their counterparts from Oxford. Now, the former Milk Cup winners were always going to sell more tickets than the Minstermen but Sky’s hijacking of the kick off time has resulted in a completely unnecessary 5pm commencement. Had the game been on Saturday, this wouldn’t have proved an obstacle but of course it is the FA Cup final and by shunting it backwards 24 hours, this later kick off has led to swathes of York fans shunning the club’s biggest game since 1993’s old Third Division playoff against Crewe. Anecdotal evidence points to the fact that, to many fans, £100+ is simply too high a price to pay (roughly £60 for a return train fare, £35 plus booking fee for the cheapest Wembley seat, not to mention the famously expensive burgers), regardless of the prize at stake. At the time of writing the respective ticket sales were roughly Oxford – 29,000, York – 8,000.

There are other options that make far more sense. Firstly, make the game an earlier kick off so that the York fans are not heading back up north late on a school night – families are turning their back on the showpiece in their droves as a result. York’s official coach firm York Pullman is sending its fleet out at 8am on the Sunday, with fans not expected to arrive back in the motherland until just before midnight. One can only suppose that the Blue Square Premier powers that be fully expected an Oxford/Luton pairing to justify the 5pm kick off as both their sets of supporters wouldn’t have far to travel.

Also, considering that Wembley is going to be less than half full, would a venue half way between the two cities not be a better option? Villa Park leaps out as a suitable compromise. Old Trafford or Eastlands would both have been attractive propositions too. These grounds would have been fuller as a result of their location and pose a more democratic venue to host a clash between a northern side and a southern one.

Finally, no-one I have spoken to seems to see the logic in buying tickets to the final from a third party firm. See Tickets is the firm vested with the power of ticket distribution for the final and has duly helped itself to just under a 10% booking fee and a couple of quid postage and packaging, angering many fans of both clubs. Where was the problem with the clubs selling the tickets themselves through their ticket office? That York took 13,000 to Wembley for the FA Trophy final last year against Stevenage, but will take almost 5,000 fewer to this vastly more important game, highlights the unfairness of the system. Although it seems a sea of yellow will vastly outnumber that of red in the stands come Sunday, this need not overly concern City’s supporters. Adversity and York City go hand in hand – just ask Luton Town’s lovely fans. On second thoughts… Adam Bushby

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