Football: Stevenage given go-ahead to stage their dream tie

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The Independent Online
Stevenage Borough were yesterday given the go-ahead to stage the biggest game of their history at their Broadhall Way stadium.

The Football Association confirmed the Conference side's right to host the fourth-round tie against Newcastle United by turning down an appeal from the Premiership club over the ground's safety.

Members of the FA's Challenge Cup committee brought the saga over the venue for the match to a close by ruling that safety experts had been right to approve the ground and the temporary seating planned to increase its capacity.

That, however, may not be the end of the row that has blighted this piece of Cup romance. A fresh dispute now seems likely over the cost of tickets for the match on 25 January. Stevenage intend to raise prices sharply for the game.

The FA spokesman, Steve Double, gave the club the good news about staging the match after a 90-minute meeting at the ground.

"We always rely on the safety authorities and both they and the police are happy for the game to go ahead and therefore so are we," Double said. "Newcastle appear to have accepted the decision with good grace."

Since the draw was made, the dispute which broke out had seen Stevenage accuse Newcastle of "Big Brother" tactics, while Newcastle's manager, Kenny Dalglish, had reportedly phoned Stevenage's chairman, Victor Green, to deny he was "running scared" and said he would play the non-League side anywhere.

Newcastle had insisted that the Broadhall Way ground was not large enough to host the televised tie and Dalglish was said to have been worried about the safety of fans. However, Newcastle said in a statement yesterday: "We had raised a number of issues with the FA and we are satisfied that they have been given due consideration. Now that the matter has been resolved, both we and Stevenage look forward to playing the fourth-round tie at Broadhall Way."

Over recent days, Stevenage's chairman had made a series of outspoken comments, but today he was celebrating victory and offering a hand of conciliation towards Newcastle.

Green said: "We are delighted with the outcome. It will probably be the greatest occasion in the history of Stevenage Football Club. Relations between the two clubs are very good and they will continue to improve up to the game."

Stevenage are concerned to prevent a black market for the 8,000 tickets available for the match and to prevent Newcastle fans without tickets travelling to the game. A final decision on ticket price levels will not be made until next week, and these have to be agreed by Newcastle and the FA.

Stevenage's manager, Paul Fairclough, said: "There's no doubt that there will be an increase. There has to be unfortunately. We are going to be seeing pounds 50m worth of class players on this pitch and I think the prices will reflect that.

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