Gold endorses cut-price Cup tickets

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The Independent Football

Birmingham City's chairman, David Gold, last night called for a widespread reduction in ticket prices for FA Cup matches to prevent low crowds, as witnessed at some major clubs in the third round.

While the average attendance across all ties was more than 17,000 - the highest level for 25 years - some clubs saw massive drops when compared to League gates.

Sheffield United's crowd of 15,896 against Swansea was 47 per cent lower than their average Premiership gate, while Watford, Everton and Portsmouth were among other top-flight clubs who attracted significantly fewer people for the Cup.

Birmingham's own match against Newcastle - which ended 2-2 before a 5-1 away win in the replay - attracted just 16,444 fans to St Andrew's, 5,518 down on their Championship average gate of 21,962.

As a consequence, Birmingham have slashed prices by up to 30 per cent for today's fourth round against Reading. The cheapest seats were available for £5 in advance and the walk-up price today will be £20.

"I believe prices have to come down to fill our stadiums," Gold told The Independent. "Otherwise we risk devaluing this amazing tournament.

"We have to find a way to change the rules if necessary to allow home clubs to reduce prices, even if the away team disagree. Perhaps the FA could mediate.

"As an industry, we've been taking from fans for as long as I can remember. It's time we gave something back."

The biggest clubs are expected to attract huge crowds this weekend, regardless of prices. Arsenal's game with Bolton tomorrow is a sellout, as is Chelsea's against Nottingham Forest. Manchester United will not fill Old Trafford for Portsmouth's visit today, but despite the game being live on TV, and Portsmouth buying only 2,000 tickets, they will probably still draw the weekend's biggest live crowd.