Virgin Trains statement delivers final insult to FA Cup final fans

Late kick-off for Wembley showpiece between Wigan and Manchester City has been criticised

For fans of Manchester City and Wigan already smarting over the FA's decision to set a late kick-off time for the FA Cup final, today's statement from Virgin Trains will have felt like the final insult.

With the majority of supporters of both clubs travelling to the capital from the Greater Manchester area, those who travel by train face a potential nightmare trying to make their way home from the 5.15pm kick-off match.

The last train from London Euston to Wigan North Western leaves at 8.31pm, while the last departure to Manchester Piccadilly is at 9pm. Today, Virgin spelt out what that means for supporters.

"The cup presentation ceremony and celebrations, together with the possibility of extra time and a penalty shoot out, all mean that by the time supporters reach London Euston following a journey from Wembley last trains will have departed," read a statement on Virgin's website.

Under the text "We love keeping everyone informed at all times", Virgin confirm that "there are no suitable services returning to the North West that take into account the uncertainty of when the match will actually end."

There had been some hope that extra services would be scheduled, however Virgin explain: "The unpredictability of exactly when the match will end coupled with the earlier close down on Saturdays of the West Coast Main Line for essential maintenance and inspection mean that the planning of any additional services to the North West is extremely difficult given the high numbers of supporters that would attempt to travel that evening. Virgin Trains would much rather everyone understands the position well in advance so that they can make their plans accordingly."

Virgin have announced that an additional train on the morning of next month's final will run from Wigan North Western to London Euston.

Virgin conclude their statement by making fans aware that "The Football Association, with whom there has been a regular dialogue, fully understands the position of the train operators while they in turn acknowledge the commercial and footballing considerations of the FA."

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has attacked the late kick-off.

"When the FA makes a decision of that magnitude, there must be a reason behind it and I would like to know what that is," said Martinez. "It cannot be a decision they would take lightly because the lack of trains from London was a problem for the semi-final.

"I hope they would look at it in a different way considering we have two clubs from Greater Manchester playing in the final. I am sure the FA are well aware of the importance of getting the fans down and then back up."

The FA have defended their choice of kick-off time, claiming: “In terms of transportation, a small percentage of Cup Final fans use the method of train travel,” as well as informing disgruntled supporters that “5.15pm is a regular kick-off time in the football calendar” and that “this time was agreed with major stakeholders and broadcasters.” A late kick-off is better for TV audiences.

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