Liverpool and Man City are to meet in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley over the Easter weekend, but with significant train disruptions cutting off the north from the south, calls have been to move the tie.
The two teams are to meet on either April 16 or 17, when no direct trains to London from either city are available due to engineering works, which the FA will have known in advance.
The mayors of Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region in addition to supporters’ groups from both clubs have urged for a change in venue to rightly recognise the fans in all of this.
The impracticality of travel is another nod to the treatment of fans, with the FA having had enough time to identify solutions in the eventuality that a team from the north made it to the final four, which was far from an unexpected outcome.
Works over the Easter weekend had been planned for two years, Network Rail had advised the FA of last year – make of that what you will.
The FA has made no suggestion that a shift from Wembley could be on the horizon, as they look to work with both clubs and transport authorities to find an alternative.
The Wembley semi-final
The FA Cup semi-final at Wembley has become a tradition since the new national stadium was finished in 2008, with the change from neutral venues announced back in 2003.
It was confirmed then that the new Wembley would host all FA Cup semi-finals as well as the final, with the FA making a 30-year agreement to host additional games to guarantee the funding for its construction.
It was not a popular decision then nor is it now, with the gloss taken off the occasion with a trip to Wembley one round earlier than it ought to be.
But it is significant in why Liverpool’s semi-final with Man City is unlikely to move, with the FA spokesperson, Nick Barron, in 2003 saying it was a “financial necessity in order to pay for the new stadium.”
It was a decision based on money and not the fans and it remains the case to this very day.
Fans can certainly talk with their feet but, unfortunately, the FA will know that the majority of tickets will be snapped up in any eventuality.
In addition to the FA’s stance over Wembley for this fixture, there are also sponsors that they will consider with serious repercussions for a change, one would expect.
Broadcasters will be in a similar boat and the short notice of a change will see most stadiums within reach of Liverpool and City fans be unavailable for use.
You can see the common denominator. Money most certainly talks.
With a myriad of other arrangements in place, including for fans who have pre-booked travel and accommodation, the easy, and right, decision on the surface has many layers to it.
It would certainly be a win for the fans if Wembley did not play host and a venue that can be reached by public transport was opted for, as it could have been avoided in the first place had governance simply thought of the fans in the first place.