There seems to be very something very odd going on in the Reading FC ticket office, if the recent announcements of changing criteria for purchasing Wembley tickets are anything to go by. For the past couple of days, re-jigs and re-alignments of the amount of royalty points needed to get a seat in the Royals' side of HA9 has begged the question, are we struggling to sell-out?
This is just an insinuation; at last count the club confirmed about half of the 31,500 allocated had been sold after three days of sales. That's not bad, given how the club supposedly have 100,000 members and by day three only the upper tiers of this bloc had been allowed to buy in. But, no number has been given since then and a figure has been quietly removed from the club website.
Understandably, this has raised doubts. Today it was announced that season ticket holders can buy an extra seat on their card. This was a policy from day one of the play-off final, to good effect, but adding such a policy so late in the day smacks of desperation after past arrogance that we could sell out regardless. In fact, it may even be futile.
In addition, those with 10+ points can buy tickets, and in principle it's great that all tiers of Royals fandom can get a seat for a cup semi-final against one of England's greatest clubs (not that Arsenal agree, mystifyingly). What is interesting, however, is that said points must be gained from past matches. What does this mean? Arsenal fans can't buy a cheap ticket to Cardiff next weekend to jump the queue, with the Premier League side's end understandably going to fill easily, with excess demand.
That is the big worry, of both the club and the fans: a Reading end occupied by a few hundred - or even thousand - Gooners. It is inevitable one or two will slip in, claiming joint-allegiances or otherwise, but it feels like an inevitability unless Reading can shift thousands of tickets before accepting a 'general sale' mantra to guarantee sales.
While Reading had hoped to sell-out after less than a week of sales, there was no reason to expect this. Home gates are at a decade-low, tickets are hardly cheap, and some fans have to wait until pay-day (as an example) before committing to a day out that could easily cost £100 per person. Remember, while we sold out the play-off final against Swansea, that took a fair amount of time on general bums on seats.
The difference is that Swansea were in the same position, so one side was never going to spill over into the other's support. But, Arsenal? That's a different kettle of fish. I don't think we'll get as far as empty seats, or not selling out, but it may be impossible to keep out some opposition fans - and the club knows it.