It’s around this time of the football season when the decision to play both FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley is annually derided by pundits, writers and supporters alike. This blog will be no different, because quite frankly, the decision is ridiculous.
Forget that playing the semi finals at the same venue as the competition’s finale ultimately makes the final less prestigious, which it does, because more importantly, it makes no sense logistically. A point further emphasised by the fact that three of the four teams are from the north (insert joke about Manchester United fans being from London here).
The prospect of 80,000 Mancunians travelling to and from London on the same trains isn’t a particularly pleasant one, especially if the match is a fractious encounter. Similarly, I’m sure Bolton and Stoke fans, whose match will probably take place on the Sunday, will not be looking forward to notoriously unreliable and sporadic Sunday train travel, especially when most will be working early the following Monday morning. Throw in the London Marathon and Arsenal’s home game into the bargain and the situation becomes even more problematic.
Now, if the semis were being contested between two or three London clubs, while lacking charm, playing them at Wembley would make sense, providing both a neutral venue and a cheeky bit of revenue for the Football Association. But, as we’ve already established, they aren’t, and truthfully, there’s no real reason, other than losing out financially, why the FA shouldn’t decide the venues once the teams involved have been established.
It’d be great, both in terms of practicality and public relations, if the FA moved the fixtures to more traditional neutral venues, such as Old Trafford (Stoke v Bolton) and Villa Park or Hillsborough (City v United).
U2 are touring again, aren’t they? A couple of Wembley headline slots from Bono and co in the summer should cover the lost income, while the world’s oldest cup competition would enjoy a blast from its glorious past.
But sadly there’s more chance of me attending the said hypothetical U2 concert than there is the FA making a decision based on football, not finance.
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