FA Cup final: David Bernstein defends teatime kick-off

 

David Bernstein, the Football Association chairman, has defended the decision to show today's FA Cup final at teatime.

The FA has been fiercely criticised for the 5.15pm kick-off, given that both sets of fans are from the North-west of England. Bernstein insisted that he was a "great traditionalist" but said the Cup must bring in money.

"To be able to broadcast a Cup final to a much wider audience, when families are done with what they are doing in the day – we had an 11 million audience last year – is crucially important in this 21st century.

"I do sympathise with fans needing time to travel back and I don't take that lightly, but we cannot be all things to all people. We have to make those difficult decisions. I think it was the right decision in the modern age to work for a maximum TV audience. All the money from the FA Cup goes to football. We are not a profit-making organisation, we distribute everything we get. So I am not ashamed of saying we are working for good commercial deals because that money is desperately needed."

Bernstein reasserted his opposition to disposing of FA Cup replays for the sake of the calendar. "They are absolutely an intrinsic part of the competition. There are all sorts of pressures on the calendar. I don't want to see the FA Cup as the weakest link and having to lose out."

Bernstein, a life-long Manchester City fan, is delighted to see his team face Wigan Athletic in today's final. Bernstein was City chairman when they beat Wigan in the Second Division play-off semi-final in 1999, as they made their way back from the third tier to the top. "The City v Wigan match I will never forget was 1999, which City just won by a hair's breadth," Bernstein said.

"To see, emerging from that, the way both clubs have come on, City doing what they have done, and for Wigan to get to the Premier League and stay there, is really something."

The first leg at Springfield Park was a 1-1 draw before City won 1-0 at Maine Road in the second leg, taking them to Wembley, where they beat Gillingham on penalties.

Bernstein said it was "quite extraordinary as a boyhood City fan" to see City's second Cup final in three years. He said he had "very, very, very clear" memories of the 1956 FA Cup final. "It is the only team I could tell you straight off what the team was, but I won't show off."

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