Fixing Wembley

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The national stadium is broken. Sure, all the facilities seem to be largely working, but there is a bigger problem at the home of football. It's not about broken seats, but empty ones

Sunday's thrilling FA Cup semi-final between Crystal Palace and Watford was particularly notable for the vast spaces of empty seats. For a match where both teams are from the greater London area, with fans desperate to get their hands on a ticket, this was frankly outrageous.

The problem lies in the notorious 'Club Wembley' level. The Wembley debenture ticket holders obviously decided that Palace vs Watford didn't quite live up to their high standards of football entertainment, and after what I'm sure was an exhaustive search to find someone to pick up the ticket, elected to just let the seat lie empty.

Now I'm sure there is a very sensible economic reason why the debenture model is in place at Wembley. Having a fixed income from these long term investors certainly allows Wembley to maintain a level of quality and investment. The fault of the system is that Club Wembley ticket holders don’t re-sell their tickets for games they don’t want to attend. I have no idea how easy the re-sale process is, but it clearly isn’t being used correctly.

Given the value of these tickets, you'd have thought that Club Wembley members would jump at the chance to sell these tickets to desperate fans. Even if they didn't, I'd make them. I'd make every member declare if they will or won't be attending. If they aren't, they are forced to put their tickets up for sale. Late changes of plan are fine, but if it happens too often, they lose their tickets.

Matches like Sunday's are a rare treat. Two incredibly passionate fan bases competing for what would be one of their club’s best moments. These fans deserved every opportunity to get their hands on tickets and the game deserved a packed house. If these seats are going to continue to remain empty when fans are desperate for tickets, Wembley needs a new seating model.

James Fenn

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search