This is how the FA repays Chelsea for taking flagship event seriously
Fan's Eye View: Most European football bodies do everything to help their clubs in the Champions League
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Saturday 31 March 2012
In a season that has raised serious fears that English football's strength in Europe is waning, the Football Association has reacted by giving the one domestic club fighting for the Champions League a hefty shove towards the tournament's trapdoor.
The fixtures are coming thick and fast and inevitably teams will have to play several big games within a week. The general understanding among most European football bodies is to do everything to help their domestic clubs' preparation for the Champions League. In an extraordinary break from this tradition, the FA has done the exact opposite.
Should my team finish the job against Benfica in the quarter-finals, our two biggest games of the season – the FA Cup semi-final against Spurs and the first leg of the semi-final – come in the space of just over 70 hours and my fellow fans are rightly outraged. One pointed out that, unlike some other clubs, we have always taken the FA Cup seriously. At a time when we have been struggling, the fans have a right to feel hard done by.
The obstinacy of the governing body, with its mealy-mouthed explanations about the dates being set at the start of the competition, could contribute heavily to Chelsea crashing out of Europe. And it deserves all the vitriol pouring out from the social networks, and no doubt the stands, for a problem that cannot have been too hard to solve.
The FA should also worry about the devaluation of its own tournament following its eccentric scheduling, as there is no doubt which trophy we want to win more. With players flagging, such timing would demand Roberto Di Matteo put out an under-strength side in the FA Cup and instead focus on the tie with either Barcelona or Milan
In one deft move the English governing body has shot its own prestige tournament in the foot and can prepare for a showpiece game with one team fielding a second-string side in what may well descend into a second-string game.
Then there is the policing of the event and the duty to the fans. Beyond the annoyance of a Cup semi-final at a bizarre time on a Sunday night, there is no getting around that the authorities are playing with fire putting a late kick-off – with all that Sunday drinking time – between clubs whose fans, to put it mildly, do not get on.
The FA will have a few weeks to consider whether it could have done more in its role to support English football. And whether sticking to its guns is really worth another season without any of its teams competing in the final of the biggest club tournament in the world.
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