Coventry City supporters attending Sunday’s EFL Trophy final against Oxford United have been asked to temper their protests at Wembley.
Upset City fans have staged a series of organised shows of anger at the club’s owners Sisu this season.
But the 42,500 army of City fans who have bought tickets are being urged to help sell the club to potential buyers.
“We deliberately decided that Wembley should not be about protesting,” said Sky Blues supporters David Johnson.
“Demonstrating, yes – demonstrating what huge potential the club has got,” added Johnson, who is a spokesperson for one fans group, the Jimmy Hill Way Campaign.
“It is a great occasion to advertise to maybe potential owners that could come in and rescue us.”
When the teams run onto the pitch, another City fans group Preservation Sky Blues are calling on supporters to hold up signs with the simple message: ‘potential’.
Coventry’s first trip to the rebuilt Wembley is seen more as a way of commemorating 30 years since the Sky Blues won the FA Cup under John Sillett and George Curtis – and also the 50th anniversary of Jimmy Hill leading the club into the top flight of English football in 1967.
The fact that reaching Wembley comes at a time when City are bottom of League One and looking highly likely to drop to the fourth tier for the first time since 1959 gives Sunday’s final an added twist.
“It’s almost like a little fairytale in a bubble,” said Johnson. “It is something we didn’t imagine we would be doing, particularly in a season that has been as bad as this.
“It’s going to be bittersweet. We will have a whale of time win or lose but, when it is all over and done with, we will come away still facing relegation to League Two and the very real prospect that we won’t have a club much longer because of what Sisu have done to it.
“We still recognise that it has been devalued as a trophy. On the other hand, it is a day out at Wembley and when is that going to come around again? Probably never, is the answer in our case.”
Wembley flags to be scrutinised
A joint statement released by the EFL and Wembley Stadium on Tuesday outlined to fans of both Coventry and Oxford that flags and banners should not “contain advertising and commercial messages, or contain abusive or defamatory language” and that any infringement of those rules could lead to them being confiscated.
Flags should not exceed 100cm in size at the widest or longest point, except by prior permission (up until 17:00 BST on Thursday 30 March), in which case they could go up to 250cm.
Jan Mokrzycki, from the Sky Blue Trust, said the flag checks “could be potentially creating an unnecessarily confrontational atmosphere” and “on what should be a fun and happy occasion, stewards will be tasked with confiscating ‘oversized’ flags, leading to arguments and ill-feeling.”
But he has urged all City fans to “behave peaceably” and obey the rules, adding: “If you want to take a flag larger than 100cm, follow the guidelines set out by Wembley.
“To date, the Trust has not heard of any flags being turned down.”