Football: FA will rule today on Stevenage tie

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The Independent Online
The Football Association are to make a final ruling today on whether Stevenage Borough are to be allowed to host their FA Cup fourth-round tie against Newcastle after receiving an appeal from the Premiership club.

The FA gave the go-ahead for the match to take place at non-League Stevenage's Broadhall Way stadium following a meeting of safety experts earlier this week.

But Newcastle yesterday complained that the ground, which will have its capacity increased from 6,600 to 8,000 for the televised match on 25 January with temporary seating, is not large enough and have faxed the FA with a detailed complaint.

The public row that has broken out between the clubs has marred the build- up to the game and Newcastle's fans have accused their side of going "completely over the top" with their objections.

John Regan, secretary of the Newcastle Independent Supporters' Association, said: "The whole thing has turned into a farce and all this bickering is taking the gloss off the tie for Stevenage. As far as the supporters are concerned, Stevenage were first out of the hat, it is their home tie, they have a safety certificate and that should be that."

In a local poll on Tyneside, 70 per cent of the club's fans backed the Vauxhall Conference side's right to host the tie.

Newcastle announced their intention to appeal against the FA's decision to allow Stevenage to host the match following a visit by their own safety officer to the Hertfordshire ground.

The Premiership club have insisted that "a ground of this size" would be "totally unsuitable bearing in mind the immense interest in the tie and the anticipated level of support from Newcastle fans for this match". Stevenage responded by accusing Newcastle of "Big Brother" tactics.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Brown, chairman of the safety advisory group which took the decision to allow the match to go ahead, maintained that everyone involved in the unanimous decision at Tuesday's meeting knew exactly what they were doing.

Brown said: "We are clearly satisfied that the ground is safe, providing that certain conditions are met. We looked at the issue in depth and it is obviously not something we take lightly. We can assure people that our prime consideration is safety, as is the club's."