The Aston Villa vs Birmingham City League Cup game will not sell out (as today’s ticket seating plan above suggests), as a lot of supporters had hoped the long-awaited second city derby would. First of all, you have to point the finger at the ticket prices of £30 & £25, when perhaps £25 & £20 would have been a fairer pricing policy for a mid-week third round cup clash.
Such a clash between Villa and the Blues was perhaps also seen as something of a hindrance by the club in the same week Villa Park would be hosting two World Cup rugby ties. There’s no doubt this has contributed to an extra cautious approach for the derby.
For starters, Villa supporter plans for a possible mosaic display for the game were nipped in the bud, with preparation for the rugby World Cup games being used by the club as an excuse not to allow one.
The main issue about arrangements for the derby that threatens to cramp it as a football occasion has been the restrictive ticket allocations. From a Villa fan’s point of view, this strict one-ticket-per-reference ruling has a knock-on effect, which has meant unless you have the same criteria as your friends and family, it’s going to be very difficult to sit with them.
I know several fans who because of this and the price, have decided to watch it together in the pub instead. Their loss maybe, but you can empathise with their decision.
Birmingham City fans were also left unhappy with a small allocation of 2800 tickets, well below the 10% (a shade over 4000) that the League Cup rules stipulate. In contrast, for the FA Cup quarter-final last season, West Brom got a ticket allocation of 6000.
The WM Police seemed to cope ok with five West Midland clubs having home games on the same night in the previous round, yet surely they could have let 1000-2000 more Blues fans enjoy the derby? There’s no doubt that Villa would have learnt their lesson in terms of in-stadium security after the Baggies FA Cup game.
This restrictive approach on away tickets creates it’s own problems. Suddenly demand is increased to the point where die-hard Blues fans who don’t want to miss the game will try to get a ticket in a home stand, as any football fan would do if facing the same paltry allocation.
I remember personally getting a ticket on the North Bank at Highbury for the 1996 League Cup semi-final first leg against Arsenal. I had the sense to be low-key during the game, but if I didn’t have the quick wit to shout “F**king hell Seaman!”, as I instinctively jumped up to celebrate Dwight Yorke’s equaliser despite being amongst a stand full of Gooners, I would have become a health & safety risk to myself.
Several Blues fans on social media have boasted they have tickets in the Holte End for Tuesday night’s game. Whether it’s true or not, giving them a proper allocation would have perhaps prevented such an occurrence.
Amusingly, it’s come to MOMS attention that the club have gone to the effort of even banning any Blue supporters from Exec boxes at Villa Park for the game. Even though away fans are normally welcomed as guests.
While most Villa fans will raise a chuckle about this, it does raise the issue that the owners of the exec boxes pay good money for them and are suddenly being told who they can and can’t invite. Again, is this unnecessary control?
B6 Police State
Control is also something that increasingly the WM Police seem to be having over Villa this season. They forced the Witton Arms pub to be an away only pub, so it can now be used to kettle Blues fans into one place, ala the way it did Baggie fans at the weekend. Also, the police against the wishes of the Premier League, switched Villa’s opening home game of the season against Manchester United to Friday night because of an EDL march of around 150 people in Walsall (and as a result threw Villa fans into travel chaos that Friday night). There’s also been increased security cameras introduced in the surrounding area of Villa Park, with the excuse it’s for the Rugby World Cup (Villa has hosted many big events before including being the regular FA Cup semi-final venue, without the need for such surveillance).
After trying the softer (more respectful) ‘community policing’ in recent years, there seems to be a switch to more draconian approach with the constant sight of the police filming Villa supporters in and around the ground on match days.
Lets hope all these measures don’t dampen the atmosphere too much for the Birmingham derby, after all, watching football isn’t a crime.
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