Fans snub Wembley evening

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The Independent Online
England are at home - and the pubs are full. Despite an advertising campaign aimed at enticing fans away from the bar and into the ground, the twin towers will be looming over 50,000 empty seats tomorrow night, writes Glenn Moore.

Wembley expect 25,000 fans to watch England play Bulgaria, the Football Association hope for 5,000 more. This figure, regularly exceeded by half the Premiership, is unlikely to be reached, making tomorrow's friendly the fifth sub-30,000 crowd in six England games.

That only Brazil have broken the barrier underlines the fact that most fans are no longer interested in watching England at Wembley.

Even Bulgaria, World Cup semi-finalists and boasting the likes of Hristo Stoichkov, cannot overcome the perceived triple whammy of high prices, poor location and ancient facilities.

Having locked themselves into a restrictive contract the FA can do little about the latter two factors, but they can move on price. Tomorrow night tickets are on sale for pounds 13-pounds 45. One dreads to think what the view is like for pounds 13. As for the higher prices: Two together? Most fans cannot even afford one between two.

There is a school of thought within the FA which argues that radical pricing changes are required. "A kid a quid', as some Endsleigh League clubs have done; or pounds 10 every seat. Unfortunately this view does not hold sway on the Match and Grounds committee, whose view is that price cuts would set a damaging precedent and fans will expect to watch the likes of Italy in the World Cup on the cheap.

This is ludicrous. A one-off tenner-a-ticket offer could act as a loss- leader (not that anyone would lose money), restoring the habit of going to see England and creating a vibrant atmosphere. It would also compensate those who cannot afford the high Euro 96 prices.

The FA are constantly banging on about acting for the good of the game. In an age of exponentially rising seat prices this is their chance to set an example.

"We would like a full house but we all know we are not going to get it," Terry Venables said yesterday. "All I can do is get the best possible opposition and put together the best possible squad. I cannot do anything more than that." His bosses can, and should.

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