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Football: `We won't sell out fans over Wales World Cup tickets' FAW pledge ticketing review after Euro 2004 seats snapped up by database members.

Byline: Paul Abbandonato

WELSH soccer chiefs plan to review their Millennium Stadium ticketing policy following the hoo-hah surrounding the `Sold Out' signs over their remaining Euro 2004 qualifiers. The Western Mail revealed last week that the majority of the 74,000 tickets for the autumn games with Finland and Serbia-Montenegro had already been snapped up - without even going on sale to the gen-eral public. And after complaints from disappointed Welsh soccer fans who won't get the chance to cheer on Mark Hughes' men, the FA of Wales admit they will have to look at the whole issue again for the next World Cup qualifying campaign.

The tickets for the Finnish and Serbia matches - which could see Hughes' side book their dream ticket to Portugal - have gone to FAW database members. The FAW rightly point out that those members, Wales' most loyal fans, have always been given first crack at Millennium Stadium tickets, and that will continue to be the case.

But they acknowledge that for future international fixtures they might have to limit the number of tickets that each person can apply for, to cope with the growing boom in Welsh football. For the autumn qualifying games, database members were entitled to apply for 20 tickets apiece. With 17,000 FAW members currently on the database, that meant the Euro 2004 tickets were snapped up before anyone could queue up for them in time-honoured tradition.

FAW secretary David Collins said, ``Perhaps this is something we need to address in time for the next round of World Cup qualifying matches.

``But I want to stress that for these two coming matches, we are not doing anything different to normal.

``We always write to database members first to invite applications. It is just that on this occasion, the demand to see the Finland and SerbiaMontenegro matches is so great that the majority of the tickets have gone.''

The FAW's 27-man ruling council, who make the decision on how tickets will be sold, meet this week.

Ticketing policy is not formally on the agenda, but it will inevitably be discussed after the disappointment expressed by members of the public.

FAW President Des Shanklin said, ``We have always felt that what we are doing is the fairest method of selling tickets.

``The database members, remember, are our most loyal fans who come to watch us in just about every game.

``That said, we are always open to suggestions on how wemight improve things. ``And we certainly don't want to alienate any Welsh supporters because they are the most important people.

``They are the bread and butter - without them, there is no game.

``What this whole issue shows, though, is the enormous success Wales have had under Mark Hughes and how our game is booming.

``In the 127-year history of Welsh football, I've certainly never heard of tickets going so quickly for a game three or four months before the match is actually played.

``The tickets for Finland in March 2000 and Brazil two months after that, our first matches at the Millennium Stadium, went very quickly. But you could queue and buy them.

``The demand for these coming games is even greater.

``We will have 74,000 sell-outs - and I have not the slightest doubt that we could easily have sold a further 40,000 tickets, such is the demand for the games.

``Perhaps in the light of that, we need to have a look at things again and discuss whether there is a fairer way of distributing the tickets. The numbers on the database are getting bigger and bigger. ``But I will say one thing - namely that it's marvellous we are even having this discussion. ``Just four years ago, when we played Switzerland in a European Championship match, we had an attendance of just 5,000!

``That, more than anything, highlights the enormous stri-des that Welsh football has made since we moved to the Millennium Stadium, cut our ticket prices and since Mark Hughes became manager.

``I just hope we can go that extra step and actually win the games against Finland and Serbia to qualify for Portugal. That really would make the matches occasions to savour,'' he said.

Wales' move to the Millennium Stadium has seen un-precedented attendances at Welsh international matches. The games against Finland (March 2000), Brazil (May 2000), Italy (Oct 2002) and Azerbaijan (March 2003) were each sell-outs.

But tickets for every one of those matches also went on sale to the public at large - in other words, you could get hold of them - after FAW database members had taken their quota.


FULL HOUSE: A sell-out crowd savour Wales' win over Italy, one of the results that has made the remaining Euro 2004 qualifiers even more popular; GONE WITH THE WINS: The Western Mail revealed on; Friday how Wales' success had already sold every ticket
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUW
Date:Jun 16, 2003
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