Fulham and Chelsea sent to Villa Park

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The Independent Football

Chelsea and Fulham will meet the Football Association today to discuss arrangements for their FA Cup semi-final, which has been moved out of the capital to Villa Park on police advice.

The meeting will attempt to ensure not only the best segregation plans for the two sets of fans but also to ease their travel routes to and from Birmingham for a 7pm kick-off on Sunday 14 April.

Fulham were in favour of Villa Park, arguing that the extra capacity would allow more fans to watch their biggest game in 27 years – even if they did not take up their entire allocation for the quarter-final against West Bromwich at The Hawthorns.

But while both sides should get 19,000 tickets each, Chelsea wanted the tie to be played at Highbury to minimise the travelling time for their supporters.

The Chelsea captain, Marcel Desailly, insisted before the final decision was announced that the venue should "undoubtedly" be at Highbury, "considering the two teams are from London".

However, the game clashes with the London Marathon, causing potential transport and police staffing problems, while the Metropolitan Police have been against 7pm Sunday kick-offs in the capital, in any case because of the opportunity fans have to drink all day.

The Chelsea managing director, Colin Hutchinson, who had also been in favour of Highbury, said: "The FA have made their choice and we are delighted to be in the semi-final.

"We will be meeting the FA at Villa Park to sort out all the arrangements. Obviously travelling arrangements will be on that agenda."

Middlesbrough's semi-final against either Arsenal or Newcastle will, meanwhile, take place at Old Trafford at 4pm on the same day and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports.

The possibility of hosting a potential Middlesbrough against Newcastle tie at Sunderland's Stadium of Light was looked into by the FA.

However, Sunderland have an early evening home game against Liverpool the day before and Old Trafford offers a bigger capacity, with plans now able to be made for the game no matter which teams are taking part.

Whatever the result of the replay, which takes place on 23 March, Arsenal will play at Old Trafford at some stage that weekend as they are already scheduled to face United in the league on the Saturday.

If Arsenal win their replay, their league game against United would be postponed, thereby adding to their growing fixture pile-up.

Football's new watchdog, the Independent Football Commission, is expected to play a leading role in reshaping the rules which govern the game. It is understood a sweeping review of the regulations will be launched later this year which will usher in changes to the way the sport is governed.

No boundaries have yet been laid down for any review, but rules could be brought in to make it impossible for clubs to pay more in player wages than they receive in income in any year.

The IFC was launched at West Ham's Upton Park ground yesterday and will have the power to name and shame clubs and authorities who rip off or mistreat fans, though with no other powers to punish misbehaviour. The body will also be consulted on changes to the rules governing clubs and leagues.

The IFC will also report on the performance of clubs and football's three governing bodies, the FA, the Football League and the Premier League, and their first task will be to look at ticketing and merchandising to ensure fairness.

Based in Middlesbrough, the IFC has been set up to be completely independent of football's authorities and with no official fans' group represented either. However, unhappy fans will not be allowed to complain directly to the IFC. They must first exhaust the complaints process with clubs, leagues and the FA, and the IFC will act as a final appeal body.

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