What’s The Beef?

Days before the first Football Association Cup final at the new Wembley Stadium, Manchester United and Chelsea fans were up in arms over their ticket allocation and how much the venue is charging for refreshments.

Both finalists’ supporters are unhappy about only getting 25,000 tickets each – out of a 90,000 capacity – but the cost of catering has caused so much trouble that a campaign group is urging the crowd to boycott it.

Fans are expected to pay £3.90 for a hotdog, £4.50 for a pie and £5 for a burger. A mineral water will set them back £1.80.

BBC and the Harrow Times, the Wembley region’s local paper, both carried stories saying some of the burgers will cost as much as £8.

"We are talking about an Aberdeen Angus pure beef burger with cheddar cheese," Wembley managing director Alex Horne told the Sun.

"Fans should bring sandwiches," was Steve Powell of the Football Supporters’ Federation’s response.

"At least 21,000 supporters from each club will have been forced to pay a minimum of £60 for their tickets – don’t let those running the FA and Wembley take another penny from you," an unnamed fan told the U.K. tabloid.

"It is clear that those responsible for recouping the huge overspend in the Wembley budget are hoping to claw back as much as they can from those attending football matches at the stadium," a spokesman for the hastily formed Wembley Boycott Campaign told Manchester Evening News.

When Manchester United, which has already won the Premiership, and second place Chelsea played their last home matches of the league season May 12, members of the new pressure group handed out more than 20,000 flyers to each set of supporters.

The leaflet urged fans not to shell out for the in-house catering and also attacked the price of merchandising, particularly the £10 being charged for an official souvenir match program.

The fans’ other major complaints are ticket allocation and the vexed question of secondary touts.

"The arrangements for the final are absolutely ridiculous. I’ve been on the Internet and there are hundreds of sites making a fortune by selling tickets that should have gone to United or Chelsea fans at way over the face value," Mark Longden, chairman of the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association, told the Sun.

"After the final we will ask all who paid over face value for tickets to give us details of where they got them from," he added. "We will then pass those to the FA and demand the sellers never receive tickets for future finals and tickets saved as a result should be given to the ordinary fan."

U.K. soccer fans are keen students of stadium catering. Colman’s, which is a major manufacturer of English mustard, conducts surveys where researchers visit all 92 league clubs in England and Wales and Wembley.

In 1998, the last time the old national stadium figured in the guide, it was rated 89th of the 93 grounds.

Best value was at Cambridge United, where a bacon butty (with two rashers) then cost less than £2.

Colman’s is based in Norwich, where the local team’s chaired by premier chef and famous cookery writer Delia Smith. It came 61st.