English FA Cites 'Safety Concerns' For Doubling Poland's Away Ticket Allocation For Qualifier
The FA has "defended its decision to sell more than 18,000 tickets to away fans for England’s critical World Cup qualification match against Poland at Wembley Stadium" Tuesday night, according to Oliver Kay of the LONDON TIMES. In a "surprise move, prompted by extraordinary demand among the Polish migrant population in the UK," the FA agreed to make another 10,000 tickets available to away fans after the initial 8,000 allocation was sold by the Polish FA. It is estimated by the Polish FA that "more than 20,000 of their countrymen will be inside Wembley," meaning that almost a quarter of the 85,000 crowd will be supporting the away team for a match that England needs to win to guarantee World Cup qualification rather than face a playoff next month (LONDON TIMES, 10/14). In London, Henry Winter reported Poland "cannot qualify, have been in poor form of late, and their coach Waldemar Fornalik is on the brink of losing his job, but their fans have been clamouring for tickets." Poland striker Robert Lewandowski said, "We might not have any chance of getting through to the World Cup finals now, but we’ll be playing for our pride and we feel we owe our fans to give them something to cheer about again at Wembley" (TELEGRAPH, 10/13).
FA'S DEFENSE: The PA's Simon Stone reported the FA insisted that "it has opted to hand Poland an enormous 18,000 ticket allocation" for security reasons. FA Communications Dir Scott Field said, "From the very start the interest from Polish fans was absolutely vast. We had great demand for tickets from them and what we needed to ensure with our strategy was that Polish fans didn't have the opportunity to buy in the home ends." Security around the game "was always likely to be tight anyway." There "will be a far greater police presence on this occasion though." Having given Poland so many tickets, the FA "is confident the fixture will pass off peacefully" (PA, 10/14). In London, Sam Wallace reported the Polish fans "are expected to be accommodated in the East Stand, the area of the stadium ordinarily used for away fans, with segregation in place." The FA believes that the away support "will contribute to the atmosphere on the night, and says that bigger allocations were given to away supporters for the friendlies against Republic of Ireland and Scotland this year" (INDEPENDENT, 10/14). BLOOMBERG's Ben Priechenfried reported England coach Roy Hodgson said the decision could “lift” Poland, but that his players "would not be fazed." Hodgson: "Our players are used to playing in games where there is support for the opponents. Seventy thousand fans versus 20,000 is a good margin." Former Scotland striker Alan Brazil "had criticized the increase in the Polish ticket allocation as potentially helping England’s opponents in a vital game." Brazil: "Poland can’t qualify so why are we giving this kind of boost?" England defender Leighton Baines said, "If away fans add to the atmosphere the home fans produce, it just adds to the occasion. You’d rather play in a stadium with a good atmosphere, rather than it be a half-empty stadium" (BLOOMBERG, 10/14).