In light of the recent draw for the semi-finals of this season’s FA Cup, I was interested to see the scheduling for those two matches that are being played at Wembley. The match between Chelsea and Arsenal or Hull City will be played on the Saturday of the semi-finals weekend, while the match between Everton and Manchester United will be played on the Sunday. I have to admit, I’m baffled by the logic behind this decision by the FA.
If the FA had an ounce of common sense to share amongst them, someone would surely have thought it through and decided to hold the Everton-United match on the Saturday. The reason being that the fans of those two clubs are invariably going to be travelling from Liverpool and Manchester, both northern cities, and so it would have been far kinder on them to then have the Sunday on which to make their way back home before returning to work on the Monday.
As it is however, the fans of these northern clubs must travel down to Wembley on either the Saturday or the Sunday morning, watch the game on the Sunday afternoon and then travel back to the north that same evening. Given that the match will be a four o’clock kick off, fans will not realistically leave the ground until 6pm, then they’ll have to escape the absolute traffic nightmare that is London which could take another hour (or even longer) before making the long journey back home.
Google Maps clocks the journey from Wembley to Goodison Park at 208miles, and estimates a rather optimistic journey time of 3hours and 37minutes. When you allow plenty of time to get out of London, and then a more realistic journey time, most Everton fans cannot expect to get home from the game until at least ten or eleven o’clock, and even then that is if they leave the ground straight away and proceed straight home without stopping for food or toilet breaks.
United fans have a slightly shorter journey ahead of them, about 195miles, but they can still look forward to an exhausting afternoon and probably a worse-than-usual Monday morning the next day. I think that it would simply have been a nice touch of common sense if they were to have scheduled the games with a bit of thought. It might have shown that they actually give a shit about the fans of the game, because after all, without us, they would be completely redundant.
Instead though, we will see the match between Chelsea and either Hull or Arsenal on Saturday, and let’s face it, it’ll probably be Arsenal. This means that the fans leaving on the Saturday night will have a far shorter journey home. Most fans of Arsenal and Chelsea will live in the greater London region, perhaps just a train ride away. So why could the FA not use their heads a little and decide that really, it’d be easier for all involved to have the matches the other way around.
Indeed, the decision to use Wembley as the venue for the semi-final matches is questionable indeed. Especially given that both semi-finals will probably (again, I’m not saying Hull won’t win, but I’m dealing in probabilities here) see two teams from similar regions face up against each other. And given that United and Everton could easily have played at either the City of Manchester Stadium or Anfield, and Chelsea and Arsenal could quite happily have travelled to Upton Park or White Hart Lane, it does make you wonder why there is the need to send the hard-working football fans gallivanting halfway across the country unnecessarily.
But sadly, gone are the days when the FA would arrange neutral venues to suit the clubs involved. It is less important for the FA to suit the convenience of around 80,000 travelling Everton and United fans who pour their money and support into the game than for them to use this as an excuse to claw back a bit of money to pay off some of the Wembley debt which is a result of their own damned cock-up in the first place.
We know and accept that, though we will always resent that. We deserve more respect and consideration that we are given by the people who run our game, but for some time noe it has been clear that when it comes down to it, money talks. What I didn’t expect was for the FA to be so blind, so stupid or just so damn inconsiderate to schedule these two games as they have. Just think of all the trouble that the supporters of Everton and United will go to to be at the match, and think how easily it could have been avoided, at no consequence to the other sets of supporters (unless Hull make it, in which case, they won’t give a shit!).
It seems though, that there is no place in football for common sense anymore. There is no place for the considerations of the ordinary folk, the fans, who are the lifeblood of the game. Football has gotten too big for its boots, it’s off chasing the big bucks and is leaving it’s roots badly neglected. This is just one more reminder of that fact, and the sad thing is, there are no signs that things will be changing anytime soon.
Having said all that, if Everton reach the final, I would gladly travel over eleven thousand miles to be at Wembley if I could afford the flights. I figure if I live on budget noodles for about six years I should be able to manage it… donations are welcome!
[PS. Two posts today! Prolific or what?!]