With the capacity of Premier League stadiums ranging from as low as 12,000 to as high as 75,000, there is very little in the way of uniformity when it comes to ticketing. Some clubs have larger fanbases than others, of course, so how is the away team ticket allocation decided? Once upon a time, the home team effectively had control over how many tickets were sold to away fans, but there is generally now some hard-and-fast rules on how this quantity is decided.
The 10% Rule
In the days when the rules were rather more free form, home clubs could minimise the amount of support that the away team receives on matchday by simply reducing the ticket allocation available to travelling fans. However, that changed during the 2010s in the Premier League with EPL chiefs implementing a series of black-and-white rules on away day ticket allocations.
Today, a home club must give 10% of their stadium’s capacity over to away fans when the total number of seats available exceeds 30,000 – that is the case for 15 of the 20 clubs that make up the 2023/24 Premier League campaign. Where the capacity is lower than 30,000, the away team is handed a fixed 10% of all tickets – whatever that number turns out to be.
Rule changes instigated by the Premier League in time for the 2017/18 season also saw changes to how away fans must be housed. Since then, all away supporters must be seated together – rather than split up across multiple sections of a ground – and at least one block of seats at pitchside must be given to travelling fans; a bid to improve the atmosphere and balance at matches.
There are, however, some outliers to the rule. Where police and other authorities have concerns over the behaviour of supporters, they can advise that the away ticket allocation is reduced – as has been the case for Liverpool fans when their side takes on Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. As for the FA Cup, the rules for away ticket allocation see the number rise to 15% of the stadium’s capacity. However, this is again subject to the prior approval of the Safety Advisory Group (SAG), a panel made up of representatives from the local council, police, fire service and other relevant parties.
Ultimately, this SAG group can lower the allocation if they believe there could be safety issues – Everton were handed tickets amounting to just 9% of the Emirates Stadium’s capacity when they took on Arsenal in the competition. And, if you thought away day ticket allocations were stingy in English football, just wait until you find out what they are in UEFA’s Europa League and Conference Leagues: just 5% of the stadium capacity! That said, there is at least a cap on ticket prices of €25 (around £22).
How Is the Ticket Allocation Decided at Cup Finals?
In theory, it should be an absolute breeze to allocate tickets to a cup final: simply give each team 50% of the stadium! Of course, it’s not as simple as that, with various variables for the competition’s organiser – who ultimately have the final say – to consider. The first is the relative fanbases of the teams involved in the cup final, while increasingly a section of seats is reserved to dignitaries and ‘partners’ that the FA, UEFA and other governing bodies want to schmooze accordingly.
For example, there was outrage at the Scottish League Cup final of 2023 when Aberdeen were allocated 19,500 tickets for the game at Hampden Park – whereas Rangers were handed 25,000… at a stadium that holds around 51,000 people. Scottish football chiefs replied by citing a series of mitigating circumstances:
We take a range of factors into consideration, including the number of tickets each club sells in the semi-finals, as well as their historic ticket sales in any previous League Cup finals and semi-finals.
At the Carabao Cup final in 2023, Newcastle United – one of the best supported clubs in England – received 32,761 tickets for a game held at Wembley Stadium; barely a third of the venue’s 90,000 capacity. Why? Because tens of thousands of tickets were committed to ‘corporate and sponsorship partners’.
How Is the Away Ticket Price Decided in Football?
For years, the home team would decide how much they would charge away fans – balancing the need to fill as many of their allocated seats as possible with making as much money as they could. The Premier League stepped in back in 2016 to provide more protection to away supporters, and so they introduced a £30 price cap on tickets. Home clubs can charge less if they want to, but not a penny more than the £30 ceiling imposed by the EPL.
The cap was initially temporary in nature, but after being lauded as a success by supporters’ groups, the scheme was extended in 2022 to carry fans through until the 2025/26 season at the earliest. However, that was solely a Premier League initiative. Lower down the English football pyramid, home teams are still in charge of setting prices – which has led to the rather ridiculous scenario of away fans in the Championship paying more to watch their team than those spectating classic EPL fixtures like Liverpool vs Manchester United.
In the FA Cup, the home team also decided the away fan ticket prices – a change from the old system, where the two clubs would mutually agree a price, with the Football Association acting as an arbiter if they could not agree. As per the FA’s Rule 20, the home club will make a decision on away ticket pricing immediately after the draw has paired the two teams together, with a minimum price of £10 charged – albeit with exceptions for concessions. There is, at least, a ceiling of sorts on how much can be charged. The away fans will pay the same price, or less, than home supporters – unless a higher rate is mutually agreed by the two clubs.