Published: 13:00, 29 September 2020
| Updated: 14:09, 29 September 2020
The Football Association have thrown ticket sales for this weekend's FA Cup matches into chaos.
Games in the Second Qualifying Round are being played between teams at different levels of the football pyramid but the FA are only allowing those supporters of lower league teams to watch the games.
The new rules have effectively split fans between 'elite' and 'non-elite' depending on which level their team plays. Teams playing in National League South (Ebbsfleet, Dartford, Maidstone, Welling and Tonbridge Angels) are classed as elite. Levels below, from the Isthmian League down, are deemed non-elite and fans of the likes of Chatham Town and Sheppey United are free to watch their team - if they can get hold of a ticket.
Non-elite clubs are also split over how many fans can attend. Step three clubs (the likes of Folkestone Invicta playing in the Isthmian League) can have up to 600 fans in attendance. Those playing in the Southern Counties East, such as Chatham Town, can only have 300 supporters at a game.
The newly-announced ruling means fans of Maidstone United - who play in National League South which is classed as elite level football - can no longer purchase tickets to watch their game at Southern League side Hendon.
The Hendon website was until recently selling tickets to allcomers. These are now unavailable. They had sold just over half of their 600 available tickets - the maximum they can admit to their ground as a step three club.
Maidstone’s web page that was directing fans to ticketing information is now unavailable. The Stones say they are liaising with Hendon about tickets which have been purchased since sales began on Sunday afternoon.
Chatham Town have been maxing their ground out at 300 this season but travel to Folkestone Invicta this Saturday and are allowed 90 away fans at the game. Clubs have to set aside 15% of their capacity for away fan allocation.
Welling United were hoping to have 45 of their fans at Sheppey United for their match, which had already been sold out under the ‘home fan’ section of the website. They too were informed today that won’t be allowed.
Welling have said: “The club has this morning received an update from the FA stating that as we are classed as an 'elite' club and we are playing a 'non-elite' opponent, no fans of the 'elite' club should attend. This means that we are unable to sell tickets to our fans for Saturday’s tie at Sheppey.
“Unfortunately, there will be no Welling allocation for the match and we ask that supporters do not attend on the day as there will be no cash sales.”
Tonbridge Angels fans will now also not be able to attend their match at Southern League side Farnborough, even though ticket sales have been made available from the home club’s website. There were no restrictions when attempting to purchase at 1pm on Tuesday, creating a big problem for clubs.
A tweet from Tonbridge Angels said they were "speechless" and issued the following statement: "It is with regret that we have heard from The Football Association (FA) within the last half hour (12:00 Tuesday 29th September) that where a Step 2 club (Angels) is being hosted by a Step 3 club (Farnborough) then the supporters of the away club are not allowed to attend.
"The club must ask our supporters not to purchase on line tickets for this game or to travel to Farnborough for this fixture.
"For the avoidance of doubt, this has been stipulated by the FA."
Elite-level side Ebbsfleet United, of the National League, are unable to have any fans inside their Kuflink Stadium, even though their ground is bigger than most in the lower-leagues. It will be a shut-out for all fans when they take on Hastings. It’s the same for Dartford’s game against Slough.
The FA have released a statement, saying that where a match is played at a non-elite club’s ground, spectators of the home club only shall be permitted to attend and that "both clubs shall ensure that spectators of the visiting Club are not in attendance at the match."
Clubs in Steps 1 and 2 of The FA National League System are considered to be Elite Clubs and Clubs in Step 3 and below of The FA National League System (which covers Kent teams playing in the Isthmian League and below) are considered to be “Non-Elite Clubs”.
The FA added: "This position shall apply for matches in The Emirates FA Cup Second Round Qualifying and will be reviewed prior to the Third Round Qualifying."
Here's who can attend where;