Wigan Athletic have been unable to sell up to 14,000 tickets for their FA Cup semi-final against Millwall at Wembley on Saturday, leading the Football Association to make the unprecedented move to set up a neutral zone for 6,000 fans. There will also be 1,500 seats available to members of the armed forces.
The clubs were handed around 31,000 tickets each and Millwall are expected to fill their allocation. The spare seats will be available only to those who are already registered on the FA's ticketing database.
Wigan have averaged crowds of less than 19,000 for home matches in the Premier League this season and Jason Taylor of the Wigan Athletic Supporters' Club, defended the shortfall on the basis that other clubs in the Greater Manchester area dominated in terms of their larger fanbase numbers.
"Our supporter base has grown phenomenally over the last 15 years," said Taylor. "If you go back in history our crowds have gone from 1,200 to 15,000. They are continuing to grow but we are still a long way behind Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton, who have a lot of fans in the town," he said.
"We have already sold more than our average attendance and we have only got around 12,000 season ticket holders, with around 25 per cent of those aged under 16. So even if we sell 20,000 tickets then we have sold thousands more than usual."
He also pointed out that the last train back to Wigan left London at 8.30pm, meaning supporters would not have enough time to catch it after the final whistle.
Taylor said that some supporters had decided to sacrifice going to the match in order to save money in case Roberto Martinez's team reach the final on 11 May.