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EXCLUSIVE: Dundee United chief claims ticket office staff ‘abused’ by Raith fans over allocation row

Tannadice chief executive Luigi Capuano has spoken out after Raith Rovers counterpart Andy Barrowman criticised the Tangerines.

Luigi Capuano, Dundee United chief executive, pictured at Tannadice
Luigi Capuano is unhappy with Raith Rovers' response to their ticket allocation at Tannadice. Image: DCT / Kim Cessford

Dundee United chief Luigi Capuano has hit back at Raith Rovers’ “unprofessional” response to their ticket allocation for next Saturday’s high-stakes Championship clash.

He also alleges Tannadice ticket office staff have received verbal abuse from fans of the Kirkcaldy side in the aftermath of the row.

Rovers were informed on Wednesday that 1,342 briefs for the contest had been reserved in Tannadice’s western ‘Shed’ end for their supporters, a reduction of 608 from the 1950 on sale when the teams met in Dundee in December.

They immediately released a statement branding the reduction “disappointing and frustrating”.

But in the days since, Stark’s Park manager Ian Murray and chief executive Andy Barrowman have reacted further, with the latter describing discussions between the clubs as a “car crash” and United’s reasoning as an “excuse” that “doesn’t really carry much weight”.

Those comments have now produced a response from Barrowman’s United counterpart.

Luigi Capuano discusses Dundee United at Tannadice Park
Capuano says United had to reduce Raith’s allocation for reasons related to stadium operation. Image: DCT / Kim Cessford

A bemused Capuano told The Courier: “We have got a stadium operational plan that is set out at the start of the season.

“This season, working with all key stakeholders, we set that operational plan because we knew that, in an ordinary Championship season, most clubs average support is significantly less than the Premiership average.

“We played them in December, the demand was there from them and at that point, operationally, we were in a position to give them what we gave them in the West Stand [Shed] and that was fine.

“In the lead-up to this game, operationally, that has changed for us.

Raith Rovers fans in the Shed at Tannadice when the teams met in December. Image: SNS

“We’ve spoken to all the relevant stakeholders involved trying to find solutions. There weren’t any. So we had to make a difficult operational decision to slightly reduce their allocation.

“We communicated that to Raith Rovers and out of professional courtesy that was followed by a phone call to explain the operational challenges faced on this occasion.

“Unfortunately, that professional courtesy has now been returned in the form of various statements which, to my mind, have been moving in an unprofessional direction.”

Capuano has been frustrated in particular by Barrowman’s description of United’s explanation for cutting away ticket numbers as an “excuse”.

The Tannadice chief sees within that statement an implied questioning of the integrity of club staff; a scenario he rejects in the strongest possible terms.

And he is further concerned by the potential for the rising temperature around ticketing to heat up the atmosphere around the match in a negative way.

Raith Rovers CEO Andy Barrowman.
Raith Rovers chief executive Andy Barrowman. Image: SNS.

“The most important thing for football clubs is to get as many people as possible in the stadium, in this case to ensure there’s a great atmosphere at one of the biggest games of the season,” Capuano said.

“But alongside that, we have to do it within the confines of it being safe and operationally viable.

“The way Raith Rovers have responded to this, it’s actually starting to stoke hysteria between people and that has resulted in members of our ticket office staff being verbally abused by Rovers supporters.

“This is unacceptable and one of the reasons why I feel strongly that such discussions should be kept behind closed doors and conducted professionally.

“In my opinion, as football clubs, we have an obligation to get fans in the stadium, yes, but also to act in a responsible manner.

“I can only speak for myself as chief executive of Dundee United Football Club and if any club, whether it’s last season, this season or next season, makes a decision on a ticket allocation for our fans, then has the courtesy to explain that decision, at that point I would show professional respect to accept the decision even if it disappoints us.”

He added: “Our current focus remains on Saturday’s fixture at home to Inverness and a difficult opponent.

“Once we have faced that challenge, our focus will turn to the Raith game and we will endeavour to promote all that’s good about the Championship and Scottish football in a positive manner, and we look forward to seeing in excess of 10,000 Dundee United fans in attendance.”