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Wembley travel chaos

Wembley travel chaos

Manchester City and Liverpool fans are unable to travel by train to Wembley for their FA Cup semi-final because of planned engineering works. What is the FA doing about it?

“Wembley beckons for the Emirates FA Cup semi-finals. One match still to come, so five names are in the hat…all believing that maybe this could be their year. What will fate decree?” 

“Number four, Manchester City…number four Manchester City…against…number two…Nottingham Forest or Liverpool. So the winners here will play Manchester City.”

Emirates FA Cup

When the FA Cup semi-final draw took place before Liverpool’s match with Nottingham Forest, ex-Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler exchanged a look with fellow pundit Roy Keane. 

They knew that if Liverpool got through, it would mean a mouthwatering semi-final between the two best teams in England this season.

And that’s exactly what we’re going to get, because there would be no repeat of Forest’s giant-killing exploits that saw them dispatch Arsenal and Leicester on the way to their tie with Liverpool. 

Jurgen Klopp’s side won 1-0 to set up that meeting with rivals Manchester City.

And that would mean a trip to Wembley. Since 2008, the FA Cup semi-finals – as well as the final – have been played at the home of English football. 

But there’s a problem.

“Supporters travelling from the North face a challenge to get to Wembley. There are no trains running between Euston and Milton Keynes, meaning fans can’t get a direct train into London from neither Liverpool nor Manchester and both sets of supporters have urged for the venue to be changed.”

Sky Sports News

The lack of trains is due to planned engineering works over the Easter weekend, and according to the Independent, the FA have known that these works would coincide with the semi-finals since November 2019. 

In the past, they have been held at neutral venues, like Villa Park. 

So with 50 to 60 thousand fans due to head to a stadium, why not move the fixture?

The answer, as you might expect, comes down to money.

“We are working with national highways to ensure the road networks are running as efficiently as possible for the semi-final weekend, says one FA source. The revenue generated by the semi-finals being at Wembley stadium are incredibly important for English football, as the FA is a not for profit organisation and ensures that it is reinvested back into the game, say the FA.”

Blood Red: Liverpool FC

The FA have also put on 100 free coaches for fans of both clubs, but that will only solve the problem for up to 5,000 fans.

Robbie Fowler – the man who  did the semi-final draw – called the handling of the problem a “shambles.”

He wasn’t alone.

“They must’ve known that there were no trains available to us in the North West, so where was the FA’s forward planning, but where was the conversation with fans about this? So what we’re asking for really is to open up dialogue with us, to see if there are other viable alternatives. Just sums up really the lack of engagement at a national level.” 

Sky Sports Premier League

That was Joe Blott, chairman of the Spirit of Shankly Liverpool supporters group. 

Manchester and Liverpool mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram issued a joint statement, urging the FA to reconsider moving the match.

They said: “We have heard the slogan ‘football without fans is nothing’ many times over the last year. If this decision is left to stand, and people are either priced out of this game or unable to attend for other reasons, those words will be meaningless to many.”

And the Football Supporters Association also posed a question to the rail companies, asking why the works were scheduled on a semi-final day in the first place, given one team from the North West has made the semi-final every year since 2011.

The debate even made it to parliament. 

“What influence will the government use to get the FA to sort this problem out, ideally to move the semi-final to another venue…and isn’t this just further evidence that we need the voice of fans in football decision making?”

Jeff Smith

The response? 

That the government is working with the Department for Transport on the issue. But ultimately, that it was an FA decision.

A lot of people seem to want the game to be moved.

But Wembley stadium hasn’t been paid for yet, so the FA needs the ticket sales. It won’t finish paying the debt on the cost of building the venue until at least 2024. And in the 12 months ending in July 2020, Wembley had an operating loss of £27.7 million. 

Maybe that’s why  the FA has resisted so far.

Robbie Fowler says fans are being paid lip service and put last. 

Today’s story was written by Chloe Beresford and mixed by Hannah Varrall.