I have a flyer in my collection which was written by QPR Secretary, Ron Phillips, who made the following announcement regarding the intention to play the UEFA 4th Round tie against AEK Athens at Wembley:-
‘Due to difficulty in guaranteeing that the Rangers pitch will be in a playable condition, the venue for this Cup Tie will now be Wembley Stadium. We had also found that the demand for tickets for this game was so enormous that only the National Stadium could stage this match. As a result of this change of venue, Rangers now have enough tickets to sell to everyone who wishes to see this game.
Seat Tickets: ALL SPECTATORS WHO HAVE ALREADY PURCHASED SEATS FOR THIS MATCH CAN USE THE SAME TICKETS AT WEMBLEY. No specific seat reservations have been made but all Rangers supporters have been allocated the best seats at Wembley Stadium on either side of the Royal Box. On entry to the Stadium, you will be directed to the North Stand and should then follow the signs which will direct you to your seats. Holders of £3 tickets will be immediately adjacent to the Royal Box and lower priced tickets will find their seats are only a short distance from the Royal Box. Rangers’ Box Office will continue to sell tickets for this match until 5.30pm WEDNESDAY 2ND MARCH at our normal prices. From 10am THURSDAY 3RD MARCH seat tickets will be obtainable from Wembley Stadium Box Office only but it is likely that only £3 seats on the South Side of the Stadium will then be available.
Terrace Spectators: Terrace admission will be at the Rangers normal £1 per person but there will be no half price admission.
Special Note: We hope all Rangers supporters will view this visit to Wembley as a special occasion which will make up for our disappointment in not reaching the Football League Cup Final. Any inconvenience caused to Season Ticket Holders unable to use their normal seats is regretted but we hope they will understand the special reasons for this move. However, if anyone who has purchased a ticket for the game does not wish to use it, he should return it to us not later than Wednesday 2nd March in order that we may make the necessary refund.’
Surprisingly the visitors changed their mind about switching the game. The programme cover still stated that it was a ‘Wembley Souvenir Edition’ and showed a picture of the stadium. In his programme notes, Ron Phillips wrote in great detail about how the confusion had come about:-
‘Observant readers of this programme will note from the front cover that we are under the impression that tonight’s game is being played at Wembley Stadium. As we go to press, however, it has become clear that we do not know where the match will eventually take place. We have no wish to be inhospitable to our guests, AEK Athens, but our bewildered supporters must wonder what on earth has been going on and it is only fair to give them an account of the events of the last week.AEK Athens asked us some weeks ago to switch this fixture from our ground to Wembley Stadium as many thousands of their fans were unable to get tickets for the sell-out game at our ground. We sympathised but were unable to take any action in this respect as we still stood a chance of participating in the Football League Cup Final at Wembley on March 12th and the Football League must veto our obtaining ground advantage by an earlier game at Wembley Stadium.
On Wednesday 23rd February, however, we were knocked out of the Football League Cup and were able to re-consider AEK Athens’ proposition. We were then faced with the fact that, after weeks of non-stop rain, the Loftus Road pitch could not be guaranteed to be playable on the proposed UEFA Cup Quarter Final date of Wednesday 2nd March. We had no wish to surrender ground advantage but, after taking all these factors into consideration, we decided to agree to AEK Athens’ request and switch the venue to Wembley. We discussed this with the General Secretary of AEK Athens on Thursday 24th February and informed him that Wembley could only stage the game on Thursday 3rd March. Would AEK Athens agree to play on this new date ?
After considerable discussion by phone with their Committee, agreement was reached and we sent confirmatory telegrams to them and to UEFA. On Friday 25th February we finalised all administrative arrangements with Wembley Stadium: announced full details to the press and our supporters: and began selling Wembley tickets. On that Friday afternoon we received a telegram from AEK Athens which advised us that they no longer wished to play at Wembley on Thursday 3rd March. A dispute between our two clubs accordingly existed and had to be placed before UEFA for adjudication. As you read this, you will know what the decision has been. If we are required to play at Loftus Road, pray for perfect weather everyone !’
As for the match, Rangers won it 3-0. Gerry Francis scored twice from the penalty spot and the other goal came from Stan Bowles. All the goals were scored in the 1st half and interestingly the official attendance was 23,009. The R’s lined-up as follows:-
Parkes, Hollins, Gillard, McLintock, Webb, Thomas, Kelly, Francis, Masson, Bowles, Givens.
Harry Miller wrote for ‘Mirror Sport’….’On The Spot – Gerry’s Double Puts Rangers In Command’ – Gerry Francis was spot on last night as the UEFA Cup surrender sign went up from AEK of Athens. The England captain scored twice from the penalty spot to put Rangers on the way to a three-goal first-leg lead and a golden chance of a semi-final place. It was impossible not to feel a certain sympathy for the skilful Greeks. The first penalty after six minutes saw Stan Bowles fall flat after a challenge from Tsamis, AEK showed remarkable self-restraint in their protests before Francis scored from the spot. There could be no arguing about the second penalty – awarded by Danish referee Ole Amundsen after Don Givens had been pulled down in full flight by Nikolaou. Francis stepped up once more and scored with a shot low to keeper Stergioudus’s left hand. A minute from half time – on a pitch that was playing surprisingly well – Rangers went three up when Bowles scored with a simple shot for his eleventh European goal of the season.’
There was to be more drama in Athens for the 2nd Leg but that’s another story !