Sheffield Wednesday’s 3rd Round F.A. Cup clash with Crystal Palace on Saturday has seemingly failed to attract the interest of the fans with less than 5,000 tickets sold for the fixture to date. Even when taking into account fans who may opt to pay on the day the attendance is all set to be the lowest F.A. Cup crowd at Hillsborough for many a year.
Given the economic picture and the poor form that the Owls have been in, especially at home in the last couple of months it is no surprise that the game hasn’t grabbed the attention of the public, however I can’t help but feel that more could be done in a number of areas to generate more interest in what the football world regards as the greatest domestic cup competition.
In recent seasons advertising campaigns through the competitions sponsors E.on have been prevalent through various forms of media but there has seemingly been less of this in the build up to the third round this time around. As supporters we get the Premier League and more recently the Champions League rammed down our throats from every conceivable angle and it is impossible to escape the way they now dominate the football calendar, pushing other competitions out of the limelight.
Despite this the Championship has continued to thrive and has become one of the best attended leagues in European football so why has the F.A. Cup lost some of its value to these supporters?
One way in which clubs such as Wednesday could boost attendances would be include F.A. Cup matches within season ticket prices. Fans are obviously not overly enamoured by the prospect of making a one off payment to see a match against uninspiring opposition in the early rounds of the competition but if the price of one cup match was included in the cost of a season ticket then decent attendances would be more or less guaranteed.
Every Premier League and Championship club is assured of at least one game in the competition as they all enter in the third round. The prospect of paying £15 to see a match against a not so glamorous opposition on a cold winter’s day after the cost of Christmas may well put people off but £10 or so extra on the price of a season ticket is unlikely to affect their sales if the prospect of an extra match is included.
The luck of the draw could see fans pay £10 for a home tie against non-league opposition or potentially face one of the Premier League big boys but either way it is more likely to seem like a price worth paying if it is spread over as part of a season ticket. The club would benefit from an increased attendance if they were drawn against an opponent unlikely to attract a large paying crowd and they would still have plenty of seats to sell should they come up against a big club.
Okay, it is not a guarantee that fans will see a cup game – the team could be drawn away in the third round and get knocked out but with season cards there is a possible solution to this. Should the club not play an F.A. Cup home game then it could be made possible to redeem £10 with the season card in the club shop, this could lead to fans spending more money in the store as a result and so still has the potential to increase revenue.
Wednesday are unlikely to be the only club that will be forced to shut sections of their stadium due to poor third round sales as the competition needs a new approach and better marketing.
The F.A. Cup is a competition that has a great history and both Sheffield club have enjoyed success in it in the recent past, the 1993 semi-final at Wembley was a great spectacle for the city as a whole and the excitement and interest generated by the quarter final replays as the clubs faced the prospect of facing each other for a place in the showpiece final was memorable in itself.