73,190. 71,081. 72,596. No, that’s not the beginning of a tally of Manchester United fans living in London boroughs. Those are the impressive attendances drawn to Old Trafford for FA Cup games in recent years. That’s a lot of fans enjoying a passionate love affair with the Magic of the Cup.
Either that, or Manchester United is forcing its most loyal supporters to attend unattractive games with the sort of punitive tactics you might expect of a Communist country mandating that its peasants attend a rally in honor of their leader’s birthday, or a festival celebrating the invention of color televisions with stereo sound.
Turns out United have a policy insisting that all season-ticket holders buy a ticket for each FA Cup fixture played at home, with non-compliance resulting a one-match ban from a future game that fans actually want to watch. Not buying these tickets may also affect fans’ ability to get a ticket for sought-after road games.
To make it easier on the club, United automatically charge their fans’ credit cards each time the team progresses in the Cup. This time, however, a menacing letter had to be sent to supporters who haven’t yet paid up, perhaps because their bank cards expired or they went broke assembling kits of each player linked with the club.
Now, these loyal fans are less than thrilled at being forced to contribute to Cambridge’s toilet fund ahead of United’s fourth-round replay against the fourth-tier minnows. No one seems to think that paying up to $80 a ticket to watch the plucky underdogs possibly knocking out their beloved team is a good deal, especially considering that’s the same price it’d cost to see United host Chelsea and Arsenal.
For those who have no desire to experience further humiliation at the hands of United (was last season not enough?) this policy is essentially a fine levied on the most committed section of the fanbase. United are punishing their supporters for the team’s inability to beat a fourth-tier side on the first try. Plus, if fans do purchase the ticket, they’re then permitted to attend when United host Sunderland. How many ways can a club punish these poor souls?
Ah, the Magic of the Cup.