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By ESPN Staff

Wembley blast back in play-off ticket farce

Wembley Stadium chiefs have responded to criticism over ticketing for Monday's Coca-Cola Championship play-off final by revealing the Football League had the chance to secure extra seats.

It emerged more than half of the 17,000 Club Wembley seats - purchased on a 10-year debenture - could be empty at the 90,000 capacity stadium for the crucial clash between West Brom and Derby.

Albion and the Rams both sold out their allocation of 33,000 but hopes of extra seats becoming available were quashed yesterday after talks between the clubs and Wembley officials ended unsuccessfully because of concerns over crowd safety.

A statement from Wembley Stadium has revealed empty Club Wembley seats could have been sold through the clubs but an agreement with the Football League could not be reached.

The statement read: 'We have always been concerned about the possibility of having empty seats and so last month we attempted to reach an agreement with The Football League which would have allowed unsold Club Wembley seats to be sold through the clubs.

'This agreement would have allowed us enough time to work with the local authorities and police to provide segregation to this otherwise unsegregated area.

'We were not able to reach an agreement with The Football League however, and unfortunately this means that there will be a number of empty Club Wembley seats at this weekend's games.

'The Football League has been fully aware of this situation for some time.'

Managing director Alex Horne added: 'We offered the Football League an equal share in any revenue from the sale of the available Club Wembley seats in order to fill the stadium.

'It is unfortunate that The Football League was not satisfied with the generous offer as it would have maximised the number of fans that could have attended this weekend's games.

'We have listened and will continue to listen to feedback from the clubs and from Club Wembley and will take this on board when planning for next year's matches.'

Football League chief operating officer Andy Williamson had earlier expressed his frustration with the outcome and called on Wembley to ensure a repeat scenario is avoided in the future.

He said: 'We are hugely disappointed that Wembley has been unable to find a solution to this problem in the time available and that these seats cannot be sold to genuine fans that have not been able to get tickets.

'Nevertheless, we will continue to press Wembley to put plans in place to address this issue for all future Football League events.'

West Brom chairman Jeremy Pearce echoed Williamson's comments, saying: 'We appreciate that the new Wembley is on a learning curve with its ticket distribution systems and that crowd safety issues must always be taken into consideration.

'Nevertheless, it is disappointing there will be thousands of empty seats on Monday when there is such a demand for tickets among both Albion and Derby fans.

A spokesman for Derby confirmed the club would have been in a position to sell extra tickets to fans.

He told PA Sport: 'We could have sold thousands more tickets, there are thousands of disappointed Derby County fans.

'We had a situation where we were given 33,500 tickets but demand exceeded supply.'