FA Cup semi-final tickets stolen in Manchester
Police face more problems after 900 tickets for the Wembley showdown are snatched in a raid
Around 900 tickets to the FA Cup semi-final between Manchester City and Manchester United at Wembley have been stolen in a raid on a Royal Mail van, police have revealed - and the theft could lead to even more logistical problems for police on the day of the game.
The theft happened near City's Eastlands ground on Friday after a delivery van collected hundreds of tickets from the club that were being sent out to supporters. It is now feared that the tickets will be sold on the black market, even though the barcodes have been cancelled, rendering the them useless.
The fans whose tickets have been stolen will be contacted by Manchester City over the next few days, said the club. It has been reported that the club and police are in talks about whether to try and reissue the tickets or simply to give the fans refunds and leave the seats empty.
Whatever happens, the prospect of several hundred fans making the trek to Wembley thinking they will be allowed into the game presents police and organisers with yet another headache. They already have their work cut out shepherding both sets of fans to London from Manchester and back again.
Last week Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson has predicted "absolute chaos" over semi-final weekend. The Manchester derby is on Saturday evening and the following day two other teams from the north-west - Stoke and Bolton - will face each other in the second semi, also at Wembley. That afternoon Liverpool play at Arsenal, and just to complicate matters even more the London Marathon also takes place on the 17th.
The United manager said: "It's going to be absolute chaos - but there's nothing that can be done about it.
"Think of the amount of people driving down. You've got Villa Park and Anfield on your doorstep... There will be 60,000 people coming down from Manchester - think about how much petrol is used for that.
"Stoke fans, Bolton fans, City fans, United fans - and on the same weekend Liverpool fans are travelling down. And you've also got people coming down to see the London Marathon.
"I don't think the cost of people travelling down to Wembley is considered."
Since the theft on Friday evening, police have raided the homes of two Royal Mail employees.