Football / FA Cup: Sheffield fans step up protest: Threat of legal moves to change FA Cup semi-final venue

WRITS and boycott threats were aimed last night at the Football Association as public protests supported the refusal by Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday to play their FA Cup semi-final at Elland Road, Leeds.

The clubs and their fans want parity with Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, whose semi-final will be played at Wembley on Sunday, 4 April. Graham Kelly, the FA chief executive, said there were no reasons why the Sheffield derby, a fixture unique in the competition's history, should be re-located. United and Wednesday objected to Elland Road when the semi-final venues were first announced, but the clubs' rebellion was made public only after replays this week confirmed them as opponents.

A consensus in Sheffield fears the potential for crowd disorder would be maximised by playing the semi-final in Leeds. Many want the city's centenary celebrations enhanced by playing the Cup derby at Wembley. Roy Hattersley, the former deputy Labour leader, said Sheffield could fill Wembley 'easily'; other South Yorkshire MPs and councils said they would ask Peter Brooke, secretary of State for National Heritage, to intervene.

Wembley management said they would be 'delighted' to accommodate both matches, ideally with the Sheffield fixture on Sunday afternoon and the London derby the following night. The BBC and BSkyB said they had no objections to both games taking place at Wembley.

United and Wednesday are privately angry that the FA has ignored their warnings. 'We are not prepared to accept Elland Road as a suitable venue,' Paul Woolhouse, United's chief executive, said yesterday. 'We are prepared to play at the national stadium at any date and time suitable to the FA - Wednesday have expressed similar views.'

Protesters, many of whom said the semi-final should be boycotted unless it is played at Wembley, claim FA rules may break the law. An ad hoc campaign committee said preliminary legal advice was encouraging. 'If necessary, we are prepared to seek an injunction,' a committee spokesman said.

Elland Road would provide Sheffield fans with about 32,000 places, less than half anticipated demand. There is only one major road leading to the ground. Local police and emergency services have little experience of semi-finals, and Sheffield supporters are not familiar with the ground - Leeds have angered supporters' groups by the small allocation of places for visiting fans.

The Elland Road pitch, regularly used for rugby league, has been criticised by visiting players and managers, and Sheffield supporters resent Leeds for what they see as the extravagant and biased attention they receive from regional TV, which is based in Leeds. Police football intelligence sources confirmed that a significant number of Sheffield supporters would travel to Leeds for a Saturday night and Sunday afternoon of alcohol-fuelled mutual confrontation. Leeds supporters could be drawn in. Alternative venues, particularly with larger capacities, would reduce the potential.

The FA said it had received protests from Sheffield, but no decision had been taken to re-locate the fixture from Elland Road.

Chelsea yesterday unveiled a scheme enabling supporters to buy a share of their Stamford Bridge ground. A new company, Chelsea Pitch Owners plc, has been set up to raise the pounds 5m the club will need to buy the freehold of Stamford Bridge.

Mick Harford, the Chelsea striker who was turned down by Sunderland as a youngster, returned to his native Wearside yesterday and joined the Roker Park club for pounds 250,000.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Project Manager

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Developer - Java

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning digital publishing solution...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: NON-CONTENTIOUS (0-2 PQE) - A rare opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Financial Analyst

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Financial Analyst is required to join...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness