Sir Richard Branson, head of Virgin, has explained how the Football Association ignored the advice of Network Rail and Virgin Trains when moving the traditional kick-off time for the FA Cup Final.
The FA moved the kick-off from it’s usual 3pm slot to 5:15pm, on a Bank Holiday weekend – when planned engineering works are often scheduled to take place.
The change in kick-off time means Liverpool fans will not be able to get a train back to Merseyside until the Monday. Had it been 3pm, they would have been able to travel back that evening.
Such is the greed of the FA though, and their failure to take into consideration the supporters, they have insisted upon the later kick-off – which will see larger viewing figures around the world. In a letter to the Liverpool Echo, Branson says the kick-off change is due to commercial reasons.
“The decision by the FA to schedule the Cup Final on a Bank Holiday weekend and start at 5.15pm rather than the traditional 3pm has been made for the FA’s commercial reasons at the expense of the travelling football fan.
“As is now customary on Bank Holiday weekends, the line is partly closed for improvement work.
“This is Network Rail’s massive renewal programme, scheduled more than two years ago, which will improve reliability on the line.
“The FA were told of these plans and of the impacts of a late kick off, but chose to ignore the advice of Virgin Trains and Network Rail.
“If the FA had engaged with the industry we could have worked out a range of options well ahead of time and timed the match to minimise the disruption.
“I agree with Transport Secretary Justine Greening who said in the Commons today that the timing of the match is the underlying problem.”
“Virgin Trains carries around 100,000 people every day and our customers have changed plans to accommodate these closures. If the works are cancelled on May 5th, it will have serious knock on effects and we will have to disrupt thousands of our customers’ journeys again.”
The FA – putting supporters last, once again.