CUP fever hit Wigan yesterday as Warriors fans queued around the DW Stadium from as early as 4.30am to get their Challenge Cup semi-final tickets.
Wigan will meet arch rivals St Helens next Saturday, August 7, at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington, with the winner advancing to the showpiece final at Wembley.
The club received an initial allocation of 5,000 tickets before a further batch arrived from the RFL yesterday afternoon.
Tickets went on sale to season ticket holders, who arrived in their numbers to ensure they got their ticket, at 9am yesterday.
Around 800 tickets were sold within the first hour with superfan Gary Bennett, of Birkett Bank, first in line.
He said: “I got here at 4.30am so had a long wait but I’m delighted to get my hands on the tickets, I just can’t wait for the game now!”
The Halliwell Jones has a capacity of 13,000 which means a chunk of Warriors season ticket holders could miss out.
The RFL’s choice of venue has received plenty of criticism from some of the Wigan faithful, with Bolton’s Reebok Stadium, which has hosted international RL games in the past, being the preferred choice.
Michael McNally, from Hindley, said: “We got here at 8.50am and the queue was already round the West Stand.
“Some supporters are worried about getting tickets because the Halliwell Jones is so small so we needed to get here early.
“I can’t wait for the game, it is going to be a classic – I just wish it was at a different ground.”
Pal Jordan Kenyon, from Ince, added: “I think the Reebok Stadium would have been the better option.
“It has a really good capacity and is big enough for the game, I don’t think Warrington’s ground is.
“Wigan v St Helens is a massive derby match and needs a stadium which will hold all the fans who want to go.”
However, Bolton’s ground will be in use the night before when the Wanderers host Spanish side Levante in a friendly and with the Premier League season a week later, another ground had to be found.
Huddersfield’s Galpharm Stadium was also ruled out as the football club, who ground-share with the Giants, kick off their season there that day.
Long term fan Brian Eden was still adamant other grounds could have been used.
He said: “There are plenty of other bigger stadiums in the North West which could have been used so I don’t know why they’ve still gone ahead with the Halliwell Jones.
“It’s such a massive game and with the team doing so well recently, I expect we’ll easily sell out, with some season ticket holders missing out.”
Mick Murphy, from Wigan, joked: “I have a theory with the RFL, they always draw us with a tough side in the quarters so they can use our ground for the semis!
“It’s a shame because having lots of Wiganers there would have been great but the way it is now, some will miss out.”
One of those fans expecting to miss out on a ticket is Andrew Connolly. The 21-year-old has had a season ticket in the past but hasn’t purchased one this year as he couldn’t guarantee he’d make every single game.
“I haven’t got a season ticket so I probably won’t get a semi final ticket,” he said.
“I’ll have to try on Friday but I doubt I’ll get one with us only having so many tickets to sell.
“I think the ground is too small for a semi final with the calibre of Wigan v Saints, I can’t understand why they’re playing there.”
Ticket sales today will extend to Ancient & Loyal members as well as season ticket holders, during this period tickets will be limited to one per season ticket holder.
Any remaining tickets will go on general sale tomorrow at 9am.
Coach travel is also available from the club priced at £9.50 for adults and £8.50 for season ticket holders, members and concessions.
Coaches depart at 2.15pm from the DW Stadium and 2.30pm from The Wheel in Wigan town centre.