Is Everton getting skunked by Arsenal for FA Cup ticket allocations?

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When Everton travels to Emirates Stadium for the March 8th FA Cup quarter-final match with Arsenal, the club will have to make due without 3,814 supporters that would normally be in attendance.

This is because Arsenal’s Safety Advisory Group fears safety issues due to “persistent standing” and the use of smoke bombs/pyrotechnics in the upper tiers of the Emirates stadium.

Per FA Cup rules, visiting fans are typically given 15% of available seats. As the Emirates has an approximate capacity of 60,000 fans, this means 9,000 tickets should have been allocated. As a result of the Advisory Group, that number has been decreased to 5,186.

The decision has infuriated Evertonians and the club has spoke to the FA and Arsenal demanding to know why they have been denied full 15% allocation.

The outrage has now prompted Member of Parliament, Andy Burnham, to intervene in the row. Burnham has written to Greg Dyke urging the FA Chairman to “stand up for Everton” and demanding the club receive the fair number of seats in accordance with rules.

The Merseyside born Burnham, an admitted Everton fan, gave credence to the view of the Advisory Group while maintaining his belief that Arsenal is capable of managing the alleged threat.

“The views of the Ground Safety Advisory Group are important and should not be ignored, but I fail to see how a club with years of experience handling big fixtures, in a purpose built stadium, cannot devise a solution to meet the ticketing rules.”

Joining Burnham is fellow MP and die-hard Liverpool supporter, Steve Rotherham, who also sent a letter demanding evidence from the Football Association as to why it sanctioned Arsenal’s decision to reduce away supporter tickets.

“In the 21st century, with the Emirates stadium the most modern ground in the top flight having only opened in July 2006, it is somewhat perplexing that Arsenal Football Club can have such little confidence in their own stewarding structure that they feel the only course of action is to deny more than 4,000 Evertonians the chance to enjoy the FA Cup quarter final.”

The plausible explanation Arsenal is likely to put forth concerns a survey conducted in December 2013 finding that one-third of fans have been directly affected by pyrotechnics at a stadium in the past and that 86% are concerned for their safety.

The study also showed that Everton, Manchester United and Wigan Athletic are the clubs with the most incidents flares (5) in 2013-14 while Liverpool, Manchester City, Sheffield United have each had four incidents.

Such argument is weakened due to the modern nature of the Emirates stadium and the alternatives at the club’s disposal. Many believe that Arsenal’s decision actually serves as a pretext to infringe upon the support of competing Premier League clubs to gain an unfair advantage. Tottenham and Liverpool were denied the proper allocation during the third and fourth rounds of the FA Cup, while League One side Coventry City was curiously offered greater allocation.

Beyond that, the fear that Premier League fans are more likely to engage in “persistent standing” is nonsense. Are League One fans not prone to standing? Equally questionable is the concept that security at the massively conservative and overly protective Emirates stadium couldn’t control the fans. Anyone who has attended a match there knows the Yellow Jackets are as strict as they come.

If it’s deemed too dangerous for 9,000 away fans to sit together then dividing the group into two or three sections seems a plausible alternative. If seating the fans in the upper tier is a projectile threat than seating in a lower section should resolve the issue.

The alternatives are there. Whether the FA is willing to stand up in the face of Arsenal’s questionable decision making, remains to be seen.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.