Late kick-off for FA Cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool
Monday 16 April 2012
The Football Association's decision to schedule the FA Cup final for an early-evening start has been described as an "absolute joke" by a Liverpool fans' group.
With a number of Premier League matches being played on May 5, and television companies to consider, the encounter between the Reds and Chelsea will kick-off at 5.15pm on May 5.
It is the first time the final has been moved away from its traditional 3pm slot since the new Wembley opened its doors in 2007.
On Saturday supporters from both Liverpool and Everton had to make the trip south for a 12.30pm kick-off in their semi-final - with some on Merseyside getting up at 3am to start their journey - and the FA have now been accused of ignoring the concerns of the paying public.
"The FA running the game in this country is an absolute joke," a spokesman for the Merseyside branch of the Liverpool FC Official Supporters Club told Press Association Sport.
"Once again the FA Cup has been totally and utterly devalued. It should have kicked off at 3pm and the other league games moved to the Sunday.
"The final should kick-off at 3pm and everything else should work around that fixture.
"It is just another example of the FA devaluing their own competition.
"The last people who are thought of by the FA are the fans. Football fans don't matter to anyone.
"We are seen as a money-making machine who will do anything to follow their clubs.
"The fact you love your football club means you keep on going.
"And the fact Chelsea fans can spend all day drinking in London as they don't have any travel problems means there is then the potential for trouble."
Fans travelling from Merseyside will have further problems to contend with as they face considerable disruption on the rail network.
Engineering works mean few London-bound trains will be leaving Liverpool's Lime Street station on May 5 and fans are likely to have to make their way to Crewe, Chester or Manchester to catch an alternative train.
"This is long-standing work planned by Network Rail on the May Day bank holiday weekend," a spokesman for Virgin Trains told the Liverpool Echo.
There are further works planned for the following day at Milton Keynes which could cause even more disruption.
A Virgin Trains spokesman said: "We always try and help football fans get to and from matches on our network, and did this very successfully for Everton and Liverpool supporters travelling to the semi-final.
"However, on this occasion, as we explained to the FA, the choice of both a 5.15pm kick-off and the staging of the FA Cup final on a Bank Holiday weekend when Network Rail had already planned essential route improvement works means we cannot offer fans the level of train service they have come to expect."
A Network Rail spokesman said: "Improvement works on the railway are planned around 18 months in advance, ahead of any scheduling of sporting events and knowing which teams will compete in the final.
"Fewer people travel on the network at weekends and so essential works are planned for when they will be least disruptive.
"Unfortunately on this occasion, with the FA Cup final earlier in the month than usual and with the FA choosing a later kick-off time, it has resulted in Liverpool fans unable to return by train.
"Delaying the works to improve the line would mean further delays to more passengers at a later date."
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