Attendance falls to its lowest for eight years

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The Independent Online

Yesterday's FA Community Shield crowd was just 59,293 - the lowest for the season's annual curtain-raiser for eight years.

Supporters of the Premiership champions, Manchester United, packed the southern half of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff but there were significant gaps in the Arsenal section at the northern end of the 74,500-capacity ground.

Arsenal, the FA Cup holders who were 1-0 winners against Liverpool in the Community Shield at the same venue 12 months ago, sold only 16,000 of their 24,000 ticket allocation for yesterday's game, which they eventually lost 4-3 on penalties after normal time had ended with the score 1-1.

The attendance was the lowest since the 1995 Charity Shield, when 40,149 fans watched Everton beat Blackburn Rovers 1-0 at Wembley.

Highbury officials were quick to point out that their sales were affected by delays in making tickets available and also by a Football Association ruling that they could only sell seats to fans who were in their membership scheme.

A spokesman for the club said after yesterday's game: "We weren't able to put our tickets on general sale for a period of time because there was a feeling Man United fans might be able to buy the tickets.

"So we had to restrict ourselves to club members only. And Manchester United have a bigger club membership [to sell tickets to] than Arsenal.

"In addition to that, we've been to Cardiff five times in the last three seasons. And we've played pre-season friendlies in both England and Scotland. Some of our fans have chosen to go to those games instead."

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