Football: Wenger cries foul at midweek FA Cup final

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The Independent Online
ARSENE WENGER will not be a happy man if the FA Cup final is moved to a midweek slot.

The Football Association says that the date of next year's final is still under review, as it seeks to give the England coach Sven Goran Eriksson four weeks to prepare his players ahead of any appearance in the 2006 World Cup finals.

One solution being considered is understood to be moving the FA Cup final - the first to be held at the new Wembley - from its normal slot as the final game of the season to a midweek evening before the end of the Premiership campaign.

A statement on the FA's website said: "The FA board has agreed in principle for the domestic season to conclude on May 14, therefore allowing the England team the full four weeks' preparation that Fifa has granted to every nation.

"Key individuals are exploring several proposals that have been tabled to determine when the FA Cup final will be played. To re-emphasise, at this time, no decision has been taken."

Wenger, who has won the Cup three times with Arsenal, said it would be a shame to switch the final from a Saturday.

"It would completely be against the tradition," Wenger said. "I would feel sorry to play it on a Wednesday night. It's a special weekend. You never forget the colours of a real cup game when you have the two colours on a Saturday afternoon - or a Sunday afternoon, I don't mind.

"But Wednesday? It would take something out of it. It is a special weekend for people."

The FA Cup final, which the FA originally planned to host on 20 May, 2006, must nevertheless be moved if Eriksson is to get his wish for enough preparation time with his players ahead of the World Cup, which starts on 9 June. However, this has caused a major rescheduling problem.

The most obvious solution would seem to be for the Premiership campaign to begin and finish a week earlier but leading clubs are understood to be opposed to this, worrying that it could interfere with contractual requirements and may overlap with pre-season tours, while attendances in August tend to suffer because fans are still away on holiday.

The Football League, meanwhile, is opposed to the two-legged Carling Cup semi-finals being altered to a one-off fixture as this is one of the cornerstones of its TV agreement.

The FA has therefore been left to consider a number of alternatives, including scrapping a February international date, although other countries would still have a call on their Premiership players. The FA Cup has also been looked at and, while moving the final to a midweek date seems one potential solution, scrapping FA Cup sixth-round replays is another.

Both scenarios would be likely to antagonise traditionalists, while supporters may have a problem in travelling to an evening midweek kick- off in London and the police could also raise objections.

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